Fort Myers, Florida-raised and Nashville-based artist BabyJake is fresh off his “A Lady Dressed In Red Tour” and back to working as an independent artist. You may be familiar with his song “Cigarettes On Patios” which rose to success in 2019 and currently sits at over 100 million streams on Spotify. This hit was followed by many other notable tracks such as “Head In The Clouds” and “Touch” with Dillon Francis.
After coming off this recent tour BabyJake is ready for a fresh start, I got a chance to sit down with him and discuss his musical journey so far. We also gain insight into his plans for the future and the new direction he’s looking to take in his music.
How did you begin your musical journey?
Started playing guitar at like 8 years old, and by the time I was 12, I was trying to fiddle around with anything I could get my hands on a recorder, piano, drums. I remember we had this tiny drum kit at my house I think it was for my brother but I would fiddle with anything I could. I gradually just got into it. I only just started learning music theory, I really wasn’t taught any instruments it just happened gradually. Music was an outlet for me and it still is, it’s one of the best and healthiest outlets for me. I was really interested in the space and originally I just wanted to be a guitar player because it looked cool.
As I went on I realized I was songwriting before I was singing, I always loved writing stories as a kid and then I started singing them in my head. Around 14 or 15 I really started to just do it, I just wanted to write, and the best way I knew how was with a guitar. I’m definitely a writer first, I value myself and what I care about right now is to be respected as a songwriter. I’m not precious with the music anymore I’m just a vessel for the art, and the art lives on its own. I enjoy writing and I’ve been reading books again, I’m trying to get into journaling, I’m sure I’ve forgotten amazing shows and tour memories. If you don’t document it how can you look back on these things?
Who are some of the artists you admire?
It’s like everybody, of course, everyone around me listened to 50-Cent, Kanye West, Eminem, Lil Wayne so I was listening to a lot of hip-hop. My dad grew up in the 60’s so I also listened to Joni Mitchell, The Rolling Stones, James Taylor, and Bob Dylan. I had such an eclectic taste in music and at that age, I don’t think I realized it was influencing me. I was just listening to music as a consumer and listening to stuff I enjoyed. I was starting to song write, but at the time I didn’t recognize it was influencing me.
What influences me the most today is The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and a band I recently found called Parcels. That’s kind of the vibe that I’m on now, more rock and alternative leaning.
I find it interesting that so many genres have influenced you without focusing too much on one, I feel like this reflects in your music being quite genreless.
I mean you’re right, that’s changing more with time as I’m finding myself more. Who knows maybe when I’m 55 I’ll do a jazz record, you know? For now, I’ve really found my footing in the live instrumentation space. Whether it’s reggae, rock, jazz, or pop I just really like live instruments and recording with a live band in the studio. Having the process be as organic as possible feels the most real to me. I’ve kind of found my footing but it’ll still be genreless. I think I was more genreless because I didn’t know what I wanted. Now I’m starting to figure out who I am and what suits me the best.
How would you personally describe your music to readers who’ve never listened?
I have no idea. I don’t really listen to my own music. It’s all really different if you put on a record like “Touch” that I did with Dillon Francis or “Cigarettes On Patios” they’re very different vibes. Maybe eclectic I guess or crazy I don’t know. I work on the music so much listening to it thousands of times in the process of creating it. I can’t remember the last time I looked up a song like “Head In The Clouds” on Spotify but when I get to perform it’s so fun because it feels fresh.
Can you tell me a bit about your hometown and how it influenced/inspired your music?
Fort Myers is a beach town there’s a lot of Reggae, Slightly Stoopid, Sublime, and all of that stuff mixed into all the other genres I listened to so I can’t really pinpoint what influenced me.
There’s a tiny music community in Fort Myers, but there are some really talented people that came up there. Artists like Dominic Fike, Nate Traveller, this kid Sebastian, and some producers out of there. There are some really talented guys that I respect doing it but fan base wise I don’t know. I’m sure there are high schoolers and college kids in Fort Myers that know “Cigarettes on Patios”. It’s just not that big.
I love it now, I think at the time I just wanted to get out, I feel like a lot of people feel like that but I love it now. There’s just no music scene there in order to do what I had to do it was better to leave. It’s a lot harder as an artist, now a day it’s easier, but you’re traveling so much to tour it’s hard to have a hub in Fort Myers. That’s part of the reason I moved to Nashville it’s so central for touring.
You’ve grown so much over your career, what have been some key benchmarks and moments?
Honestly, I don’t think I appreciated the moments enough. I remember signing my publishing deal at a young age and I wasn’t even happy because I was in a fight with my girlfriend. There was so much going on around me that I didn’t really celebrate, I had so much pressure on myself in my head.
I think right now I’ve worked on myself a lot and focused on figuring out who I really am and I feel like I’m the most appreciative of what I’ve done now, looking back at it I think I’m so blessed, and thankful to be here. I never had a recollection or a moment even with “Cigarettes On Patios”. I didn’t recognize what was happening because I wasn’t in the right head space.
The last year has been the time of my life, I realized not to be so tough on myself and not speed through life. A huge benchmark for me has been getting out of my record deal, I didn’t feel like I was in the right place. Now I’m thankful to start new and start over. I have a fan base but I feel like I’m starting over because I really am, exploring who I am.
For any smaller artists reading, what advice might you give to a young inexperienced BabyJake?
It’s a tough question to answer, I don’t regret anything and I’m thankful I learned everything I did, especially at an early age. To any new artist or artist that needs to hear something, everything is different for everybody. My advice is to be thorough, don’t rush into things, and always trust your gut. There is no reason to rush, just enjoy the process.
Could you describe one of your very first live performances?
My first proper live performance as BabyJake I did this backyard in Venice Beach with like 100 people, Saturdays at Seven an amazing little thing that’s going on there the girl who runs it is fantastic shoutout to Saturdays at Seven. The show was like 100 people and probably half of them were friends. Besides that my real first show was BottleRock in Napa Valley in front of 3,000 people so I just jumped in like get ready because you’re going to be in front of a ton of people. We has some technical difficulties and chaos but it turned out great for the first performance.
How would this experience compare to the recent shows from the “A Lady Dressed In Red” tour?
My last tour was a half-shit show and half-great. We played a lot of secondary cities I loved playing in Cincinnati and Columbus but they’re just not that big. There was a lot going on with the band and I think I needed to express more authority. My friend said there’s a fine line between rock and roll and chaos and that struck me to T.
It was the funnest thing ever because everyone was going wild, but I’m reaching a point in my career where it needs to be a little more professional. I don’t see myself being able to drink alcohol and take drugs every night a week on tour, this is a job. As a consumer, you don’t realize you’re going to a show and that’s the artist’s job. Anybody who takes it seriously isn’t messing around doing stuff like that I’ve been sober recently and plan to stay that way. My tour life, recording life, and writing life go the best when I’m sober-headed, working out, staying healthy, and engaging in relationships with people who are genuine.
How was your tour overall, any favorite cities, or stories?
It was a memory I’ll never forget, you’ll never forget going into a room with one hundred people and blowing their faces off that’s a magical moment. There’s something to be said about playing Lollapalooza in front of six thousand people and rocking the stage. But there’s also something to be said about playing a club with fifty people in front of you but they’re raging and they come up to you afterward and they say you’re amazing and it’s the best show they’ve been to and they’re buying merch. In a crowd of six thousand, you start to lose that connection with people I think the magic number is anywhere from one to three thousand people. If you’re the one person not dancing in a group of a thousand people it’s gonna feel weird.
Touring has its ups and downs I think the upside is you’re getting praised for doing something you love every single night. I think the downside is people don’t realize it’s a job.
Philly was wild, I met some really good people there. There were like one hundred maybe two hundred people they pushed it over capacity. It had a vintage 70’s vibe. Denver was great that crowd was fucking wild. It’s funny when you go to New York, LA, and major cities “Cigarettes On Patios” is always the main song but you go to places like Denver and they’re also screaming ”Head In The Clouds” or “Confidant”. It’s so interesting to see which city knows which records and stuff. New York is always great they love live music out there.
What can we expect from you in the future, is there anything you’re working on now you’d like to mention?
The cover of “Beast Of Burden” is out on Friday the 17th. I think it’s a great way to get the ball rolling it’s my favorite Stones song and I think we did a really great job with it. I’m planning on having some more stuff out around March and I just want to keep them running. I want to keep the singles going and maybe put a whole project out.
Who are you “counting in”?
I don’t know if Parcels is up and coming but they’re fucking dope. There’s a guy named Neal Francis I really like him. Of course the Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Florida local Nate Traveller. He has a song he just did with a DJ out right now doing millions of streams, I’m so happy for him. Sun Room is a band out of San Diego those guys are great. There’s a girl named Lou Ridley out of Nashville who has a phenomenal voice and I’ve been working with her.