Earlier this year, Rayland Baxter released Wide Awake, a new studio album that follows his 2015 LP Imaginary Man.
Recorded in an abandoned rubber band factory in Franklin, Kentucky, the album broadens Baxter’s musical horizons, bringing a greater rock influence and a dose of social consciousness to the trippy, melodic grooves for which the Nashville songwriter has come to be known. Lead single “Casanova,” which tackles the issue of consumer debt with humor and hooks, has been something of a breakout for Baxter, charting well on AAA radio.
In August, Baxter sat down as part of YouTube’s Nashville Pop-Up Sessions to perform Wide Awake‘s closing track “Let It All Go, Man.” Joined by another guitarist, vocalist, and a pedal steel player, Baxter offers a stripped-down take on the song.
Watch the video for “Let It All Go, Man” and read a short Q&A with Baxter below.
1. How did you write the song “Let It All Go, Man,” and how does it fit into the broader context of the record?
I started that song in Isla De Rosario, a small town in Colombia, South america. I bought a small gut-string guitar in Baranquilla, the neighboring town. I walked by it one night and picked it up, started playing whatever came to mind at the time and then opened my mouth and blurted out some melodic gibberish. Minutes later I was singing, “Let it all go man,” over and over and recorded the short window of song. When I got to Kentucky for the winter, I finished the song. It was based on some advice my dad gave me a decade ago.
Regarding how it fits into the scope of the record, it seemed like a good song to end the record. I was thinking it summed it all up and served as a punctual period for the album.
2. Your live shows are always dynamic experiences. When you write songs, do you write with the stage in mind?
The longer I tread the songwriter’s sea, I do think about the stage more often when I’m writing. I like playing with other musicians and I enjoy turning up the volume but I want any song I wrote to stand alone as well as with an infinite amount of musicians serving that song. Whether I’m singing a song by myself or with the band I want it to be heard properly.
3. “Casanova” has been a big success for you. What do you think it is about that song that people are connecting with?
I think people connect with that song because it’s simple and groovin’. As a listener, one can entertain an assortment of desires inside that song — dance and bop and sing along and think about how much money they owe the bank.
4. How do you feel you evolved as a musician and as a writer between this album and your last, Imaginary Man?
Hmmm, well, I don’t know, but I do know that my perception on the reality I live and love inside of has become more clear over the last four years. I enjoy seeing the world work.
5. You spent a lot time alone while writing this album. How did that creative isolation affect the final songs?
I think solitude is wonderful as long as I have a mission. It was the first time I had the space and time to live alone and write and play music so I did that all day and all night. It was heaven. I smiled often, in and out of daily epiphany. I was giddy from the excitement of finishing a song that thrilled me, similar to that feeling when you jump into bed and pull the covers over you and fling your legs around the sheets because you’re so happy to be back in your nest.