Rayland Baxter Shares Insights on Songwriting and Upcoming Music
For singer-songwriter Rayland Baxter, touring and playing on the road has been a constant in his life since his first album, Feathers and Fishhooks came out in 2012. While he hasn’t had much support from the radio, his touring has helped build a strong fan base and draw large crowds to his shows. His incredible songwriting paired with his quirky and genuine personality also makes him a favorite among other musicians like Kacey Musgraves, Grace Potter and Shakey Graves. As big fans of his music, we jumped at the opportunity to speak with him in hopes to soak in some of his wisdom before he took the stage to perform for over two hours in front of a jam-packed crowd at the Rustic. While some of his band mates were playing a game of Settlers of Catan, we sat down backstage with Rayland to talk about life on the road, songwriting, and his upcoming album.
Your first album came out in 2012, how do you feel you and the band have progressed as performers since that time?
I think I can speak for aLL of us that are pLaying together, we’re aLL musicians. You progress easiLy when you are in Line with what you shouLd be doing. I’ve been pLaying with these guys for over a year and a haLf, and that constantLy pushes us at our Live shows. It's been reaLLy enjoyabLe to see the crowd’s reactions and to tour, it's Like throwing Lots of fueL on the fire. My first aLbum was chiLL, Lots of acoustic guitar, but I want to be abLe to do it aLL. PLaying festivaLs feeLs a Lot better when you have a Loud and exciting band. But I stiLL do the soLo stuff when we pLay inside, or even tonight I may drop it down to just myseLf at some point.
Speaking of your band, Mr. Jimmy Matt Rowland is obviously a special part of that. What do you think he brings to this band?
He joined a year before Imaginary Man came out. So my first band tour after Feathers and Fishhooks was with Jimmy and a few other guys who have since moved on, but Jimmy has aLways been around. He pLayed a bunch on Imaginary Man. He brings his own magicaL wizardry energy to every situation that I am in, and he has aLso brought Donnie and his buddy Robbie in to the band. He’s got a nice crew of friends that are super good at music.
One thing we have noticed over the years is how entertaining you are even in your soundchecks and with your onstage banter, is that something you consciously try and work at?
I don’t think about it too much, but I think as an entertainer you have to keep peopLe's attention between songs and not just be a good musician. You have to be a good speaker, share your wisdom whether it’s made up or reaL — perform in between the songs as weLL. You have to be a musician, songwriter, comedian, seeker and owner of wisdom. You can’t just say buLLshit. I Like affecting peopLe's Lives and I Like when my Life is affected either in a good conversation or through a rock and roLL show. It’s Like John Prine at the Ryman Auditorium, taLking about the good oL’ days and then singing a song about it. It’s an entertaining evening.
It has been almost two years since your last album, Imaginary Man was released. When can fans expect new music from you?
I’m going to record a new aLbum this summer. If it gets done this summer than I’LL probabLy reLease it this time next year. It’s a whiLe, but it's gotta be right, gotta be reaL, and with the correct peopLe. But I have written a bunch of songs, more than enough, but I feeL that I need even more.
Do you write songs while you are on the road or do you wait until you are back home and focused?
I come up with ideas on the road, usuaLLy it's a voice memo thing. It's aLways been a different approach per record, you have more and Less Luxuries with time, space and friends. This winter I moved up to my friend’s studio in Kentucky, caLLed Thunder Sound and I Lived there and took over one of the back rooms. For 3 months I wrote a bunch of songs and reaLLy got into it, I've never been abLe to do that. So that's where I am at, I'm going to go write a bunch more and who knows what's going to happen.
Do you feel like you find more inspiration on the road?
It’s a mix. I couLdn’t weigh any one more than the other because I am around a bunch more on the road, but maybe my mind isn't cLicking as fast as if I am caLm and in my own space. Voice memos reaLLy heLp out because meLodies can come and go. At Least 100 times its happened to me where I didn't record it and it's gone. So I do my best to record them, date it and mark the Location so I can bring back that memory. Who knows, maybe there have been more memories captured because of technoLogy, maybe not necessariLy better songs but more meLodies.
With your dad’s musical background, how much did he play a part of the music you listened to growing up and your musical influences?
Everything, absoLuteLy everything. We aLways drove around and did road trips because he wouLd tour and have a month off or something, so we wouLd just go on muLti-day trips. Maybe from NashviLLe to CaLifornia, Montana, Wyoming, Nova Scotia and we wouLd just pLay music. We wouLd go to WaLMart and buy a bunch of CD’s and he wouLd teLL me what was cooL. He knocked me back a coupLe of times. I remember I pLayed him a Hootie and the BLowfish song when I was in 5th Grade and he was Like “No no, RayLand”. Then Later that summer we had driven out to CaLifornia and he got me on everything. Some of his favorites were LLoyd Green & Buddy CharLeton who were pedaL steeL guitar pLayers. But in terms of music: Bob DyLan, NeiL Young, Ray Price, The Osborne Brothers, Lou Reed, Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia and J.J. CaLe.
During your live shows there are a lot of times when you and the band will go off and jam pushing songs a lot longer than they are on the record. Do you have a song you like to jam to the most?
“Dreaming”, I reaLLy Like that one and “Young Man”. We pLay “Vampire BLues” which is a cover song by NeiL Young. ALL of them have moments, but “Dreaming” and “Young Man” are a Lot of fun.
To that same tone, do you have a song you have written that you look back and are the most proud of?
Not yet...not yet. I’ve got mentaL missions, some of the goaLs have been accompLished, but I'm just figuring it out as I go as weLL. Which means hopefuLLy I wiLL figure out a bunch more in the next ten years.
One thing that your fans may have picked up on is your use of capital L’s in all of your social media posts, is there a backstory on why you do that?
My great grandmother is a royaL Russian woman and when she wouLd write Letters to my mother she wouLd sign off with a capitaL L in the middLe of her name. So I started signing my name with a capitaL L and then it turned into aLL L’s capitaLized. Then I went to the Rock & RoLL HaLL of Fame in CLeveLand when the GratefuL Dead exhibit was going on, and I saw some of Jerry Garcia’s setLists. Not aLL of them, but a few of them had capitaL L’s in them. I had aLready started doing it, and I was Like “Ah, I am on the right path!” (Laughs). Things just started to make sense, my chin started to get that warbLe.