We catch up with singer and songwriter, BabyJake, about his debut EP ‘Don’t give me problems, give me wine’.
The best ideas often start out as jokes. If you’re 6 ft 6 tall & rock a burly beard, calling yourself “Baby Jake” might be the most ironically badass thing you could possibly ever do.
BabyJake debuted back in 2019 with his viral single “Cigarettes on Patios”, which has accumulated over 35 million streams to date. The piano-led anthem is accented by subtle snaps and booming drums that follows a night of party-hopping, but with a slightly dark edge. This theme of partying and coming down, of love and regret, of anger and frustration, is a crucial part of his music. BabyJake’s perceptiveness is what makes him a good songwriter and is a common theme throughout his music.
Toward the end of 2019, BabyJake was named one of VEVO DSCVR’s Artists To Watch 2020, and has now released his debut EP, ‘Don’t give me problems, give me wine’ – a seven-song collection that jumps from exuberant pop to moody sunset-slicked folk, and even includes a psychedelic digression on substance abuse.
BabyJake has a complicated relationship with music. Growing up in Fort Meyers, Florida, Baby Jake first picked up the guitar when he was eight years old.
“My dad actually played guitar, he used to sing in the Navy band and taught me ‘Smoke on the Water’ on guitar, and from there I just picked it up on YouTube and started playing” BabyJake explains.
Like a lot of other kids his age, BabyJake ’s interest in music happened to coincide with the release and subsequent ubiquitous popularity of the Guitar Hero video game, which emphasized guitar theatrics over quieter playing.
“I was listening to AC/DC…you know, all the classic records that you would hear on rock radio. I didn’t even want to be a singer. I just wanted to play guitar.”
For solace, BabyJake says he turned to his dad’s folk records, favouring the low-key contemplative sounds that resonated with the sense of alienation that he was feeling.
“When I was in a mood; when I would feel anger or sadness, I’d go to the guitar,”.
Though he maybe wasn’t conscious of it at the time, BabyJake was priming himself to be a sort of musical chameleon. Well versed in the building blocks of rock music, the intimacy of folk, and with an innate understanding of the rap and pop music he grew up around, he was constructing a well of disparate influences to draw from when he eventually made a serious go at a music career, it just took him a second to get there.
Before too long, he had his first official body of work: ‘The Little Mess’, which evolved into a multifaceted career that currently involves his own music as “BabyJake,” a record label called DAYCARE with an added merch/streetwear line, and a budding career penning and producing songs with artists like Dillon Francis. BabyJake and Francis’ collaborations- the club-ready “Touch” and poolside dance gem “You Do You” – both have more than five million streams combined to date.
His latest EP opens with “Blue Cellophane,” as he meditates on loneliness, addiction, and the pitfalls of giving yourself over to another human over a warm guitar stomp that evokes dimly lit blues halls, and a country swing that is present in so much of the music of the ’70s that he loves. Elsewhere, on “MadHappySad,” BabyJake combines disparate influences—think Kanye circa 808s and Heartbreaks by way of vintage Police—to create a modern, tense reggae inflected breakup jam.
While on the bouncy, jangly “Head in the Clouds,” he explores the hidden weight of emotional escape, juxtaposing bright guitar work against moody lyrics about self-defeat and the pitfalls of depression and avoidance. “Confidant,” (over 3.5 million Spotify streams to date), on the other hand, is about navigating the knotty feeling of bitterness that comes from being jerked around in a relationship. On the last final two tracks —the one-two punch of “Bread and Butter” and the choir assisted “Anywhere”—BabyJake steps away from the party, slows down, draws on the warmth of lush ’70s southern rock, and the moody crawl of the folk music he grew to love to create a mature, horn-drenched suite that feels like the result of an artist older than his years, someone who has lived recklessly and loved hard and is ready to put it all on record.
We caught up with to BabyJake and discussed everything from his taste and influence in music to his writing process and inspiration whilst creating.
This EP puts you in the pocket with alt-pop peers like Rex Orange County, Wallows, Dominic Fike, etc. whilst also nodding to the classics like Petty, CSNY, Hendrix and so on. Did you have any particularly strong influences when working on the project? And what can you say about your upcoming projects?
The biggest influence for this EP project was “Just What I Needed” by the Cars. I don’t think I nailed it, but hopefully, I’ll get there one day. As far as future projects go, I’ll most likely pull from some of the same classic influences.
‘‘Don’t give me problems, give me wine’ your seven-song collection is a very apt title. How did that come about when penning “Confidant” and what made it the perfect name for your EP?
“Don’t give me problems, give me wine” is a phrase that struck feeling inside of me the moment I wrote it. If I had a life motto, that would be it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process and inspiration whilst developing your music?
As a kid, I always dreamt of being a Rockstar, but I never knew that that entailed recording as a full, live band. Moving forward I’d like to record most of my music that way and develop the writing on the spot.
The bouncy, jangly focus track “Head in the Clouds,” sees you explore the hidden weight of emotional escape whilst living life as a dreamer. The outro features spoken monologue seemly based on society’s consumption/addiction to media. I’m starting to think it’s an underlying message in your music. Would you say that’s a fair assumption?
I believe that all mainstream media is biased, and because of that most people’s opinions are skewed based on what they’re given or what they’re told (consumption).(Addiction) highlights the feeling of consistently being fed information and becoming addicted to that information, much of the time not knowing if any of it is true.
“Bread & Butter” is clearly a love song, whilst “Anywhere” the grand finale ballad showcases your folk/rock influences. Which is your favourite track of the two if you could compare?
They’re both love songs, and it’d be wrong of me to compare. But if I had to choose, I’d choose “Anywhere” solely because I like the Joe Cocker resemblance.
There seems to be a reoccurring theme of partying and coming down, of love and regret, of anger and frustration, in your music. How crucial does this play when creating it?
I went through a lot while writing the EP. Good and bad. And because I write about real experiences, they play a huge part.
You’ve claimed to have a complicated relationship with music growing up. If you could tell your younger self something, a message about how to do things differently, what would you say?
I don’t think I would do things differently. However, If I could give my younger self one piece of advice it would be to “stay true to yourself, and don’t’ run in circles”.
Describe your sound in three words.
Nostalgic. Emotional. Bi-polar.
What was the filming process like for the visuals for the new tracks?
Shooting the visuals with Alex felt natural. He’s one of my best friends, so the chemistry is great. I’m excited to see how people react.
You’ve collaborated numerous times with Dillion Francis most recently on the club-ready “Touch” and poolside dance gem “You Do You”. Do you have specific criteria when working with someone?
No, I prefer to hear where their brain is at. I’m kind of a chameleon when it comes to songwriting within different genres, so I like to keep the playing field open.
You launched your debut in the midst of a global pandemic. Did you find your motivation to create challenged by the unexpected shutdown of the world?
No, my motivation to create was enhanced. I realised how much I missed being at home, working in my own studio, and diving into my own brain. Also, it gave me the opportunity to get into cooking
It’s clear you’ve poured your heart and soul into each and every track, do you feel this EP is a true statement of who “BabyJake” is?
I would consider “Don’t give me problems, give me wine” to be the first chapter of who BabyJake is. I can’t tell you what chapter 2 will look like, but I’m excited to find out.
What’s next in the pipeline following this release? And any upcoming collaborations we should be looking out for?
I have some exciting things in the works, but my manager will kill me if I speak on them right now. BUT… we’re making an album!