What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
M.E. Baird is a Singer-Songwriter and Visual Artist. For M.E. Baird music and art have been much more than just pursuits. They have been his life force and foundation.
As a Singer-Songwriter and Musician, M.E. Baird yields from the songbook of Folk, Rock and Blues his own original interpretations that are enigmatic and visually rich. Each song is a little cinematic vignette full of drama, humility and deep emotion. His live performances are nothing short of compelling with his lamenting vocal style and singular stage presence. His lyrical approach is part observational and part Romanticism in the spirit of Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, and Nick Cave. Sonically he revels in lush minimalism referencing, The Velvet Underground, The Bad Seeds, David Bowie, Scott Walker and David Sylvian.
Since beginning his career in 1992, M.E. Baird has toured nationally, and internationally. He has under various musical monikers written and recorded four albums and several Ep’s. He has also contributed songs to compilations and soundtracks including original compositions for film and television internationally. Yet, he is practically unknown in his own country of Australia.
After a few early and shamelessly woeful Post -Punk and Pop efforts, M.E. Baird found his true musical feet in Melbourne as part of the inner city Folk and Blues scene. In 1997, he released his first full-length album, Down On The Black Top with his then Folk trio Zen For Head. The timing could not have been worse as Grunge, Indie-Rock, and the new game changer, Triple J’s Unearthed was about to explode in the suburbs and expand like an atomic bomb. There was to be no room for subtle tones, melody, and unfolding storylines. Since those formative early years, M.E. Baird has explored various styles but never deviated from his devotion to the ‘song’ and a half-decent narrative. He has written, recorded, and performed under various band names, alter egos, and musical monikers. His 2010 album, Mysteries of the heart; Vagaries of the mind under the moniker of Lionel Lee’s Curse was runner-up for The Age, Entertainment Guide’s best Folk-Pop album for 2010. In 2016, M.E. Baird released Fall, and for the first time, this saw him begin writing, recording and performing under his own name albeit just his initials. The album received glowing reviews from Rolling Stone, Rhythms Magazine, and The Sydney Morning Herald to name a few. The album was also well received in Europe, Canada, and parts of the US with the first and lead single being licensed to a PBS (US) production.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
At its core the album is a lyrical and sonic journey through age, experience and a testament to the passing of ‘time’. The tracks on TIME individually explore varied sub texts ranging from belonging, coming of age, corruption, migration, fortune, misfortune, contempt, loneliness and the joy of being alone.
All tacks for the album were written in the winter of 2016 and recording of the album began in the following winter. The album was recorded at Wild Mountain Sound Studio, Brisbane located amongst the sublime beauty of Mt Nebo’s Eucalyptus forests. The album was produced by producer/musician, Jamie Trevaskis. Jamie and M.E. Baird had mused for some time about recording a new album together, with Jamie playing a leading and creative role in the co-production of the album. When recording began it became instantly clear that Jamie, as a collaborator was able to transport the songs sonically into a universe far beyond the ordinary.
It was important for the songs narrative to tell Jamie Trevaskis where the song/story needed to go sonically. Where a song needed to be tough, it had to be threatening, where it needed to be honest, it needed to be candid, where there was tenderness, it must be achingly forgiving and where there’s was anger, it’s uncompromised. It was creatively vital that the album not pander to any genre, audience or expectations, of course, there is some hat tipping and influences evident; it would be arrogant to pretend otherwise. Both Jamie and M.E. Baird wanted to show that it is an album born of maturity, rigour, determination, and patience.
With this album, there was a return to how M.E. Baird made records in the past. All tracks were recorded to analogue tape, predominantly live and with very little overdubs. This was done not for nostalgic reasons but for a more ‘authentic’ audio representation. It also places more emphasis on musicianship rather than software know-how and digital trickery. In regards to band members, most notably in the line up is Welsh/Australian songstress Sali Bracewell with her piano/keyboard skills and extraordinary vocal talents. Sali’s vocal dexterity is featured on many of the songs but most clearly on the title track, Time and My Girl. Also, key to the process was longtime collaborator, Hannah Jane who provided her distinctive and haunting string arrangements, violin playing and virtuous vocals. Seconded from Brisbane bands Sacred Shrines and Hillsborough for the rhythm section were new friends, Phil Usher on drums and Robbie Zawada on bass, truly two of Brisbane’s finest musicians. Lastly but certainly not least was notable Brisbane singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Skye Staniford who provided percussion.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
My greatest musical inspirations has changed over time, but one consistent has always been Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Bob Dylan. For me it’s more about their songwriting rather than their musical or sonic signatures. Although I would say that the ‘Bad Seeds’ has had quite a strong influence on me musically. Early in my career early Blues and the period of American Jazz from the 1950’s – 1970’s was a great influence on me as well, especially, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. Aside from music, literature and film have also been a very big influence, especially the work of David Lynch, John Hillcoat, Terrance Malick, Jim Jarmusch and Tarantino.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
In a lot of ways you will recognize clear and obvious musical genres in my music like blues, rock, folk and jazz. However, my mission is always to twist them a little so that they have an awkward slant of my own. I tend to strip things right back to be minimal and direct so nothing gets in the way of the story and it’s essential emotion. With my new album, there was a very conscious effort to not let guitars dominate like my previous releases. We tried very hard to break rules with out reinventing the wheel if that makes sense?
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Well, I don’t really like these types of question for it would almost be impossible for me to decide…except to say probably “How To Survive on Desert Island” book.
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
Like many performers, I definitely prefer live, always!! You have that connection with an audience and a band that can really bring out the true intent and energy behind a song. It can be so hard to capture that emotive power in the studio. I’m very old fashioned about playing live and work as hard as I can to make my live shows as engaging as it can be. My aim is always either solo or with band, big room or small room is to take the audience on a journey away from their everyday life.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
I think the last track on my new album. It's entitled ‘Fighting Crime and Making Love’. It starts off as a slow melodic progressive Jazz styled song that descends into a heavy feed backing intoxicated crashing lament. It was never intended to be recorded like that but my Producer, Jamie Trevaskis had a light bulb moment and we just went with it. I think we did it in about one take after a brief discussion. One of those rare but magic studio moments.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
Yes, for sure…My mission for 2019 is to tour Europe with the new album. Although I’m based in Australia my main audience thanks to the Internet is in Europe. European audiences just seem to get my music and songwriting. I have found European audiences are far more sophisticated and appreciative of well-crafted music generally.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
I never get asked about the future of music making in this new world of rapid technology change and the Internet. For, it is something I am very concerned about.
My answer would be something like this: It is becoming harder and harder to earn an income from music. The Internet has provided a great generally (free for the audience/listener) platform for music makers to have a exposure without a label etc. However, it does raise many concerning questions. For example, how do musicians stand out in the crowd when there is so much music out there? How do musicians secure gigs that pay enough money to cover basic touring, recording and promotional costs? Most gigs just simply don’t pay! How is this sustainable for the future of music making?