Growing up queer in a very religious household, Julien Baker found herself assimilating, accommodating, and trying to get a handle on the heteronormative world around her.
“That was basically all I was shown, trying to graph that onto my life, and I think I, for so long, had the same attitude that I did about being a musician who is a woman,” says Baker in a recent interview on Record Bin Radio with Kelly McCartney. “I didn’t want my queerness to be remarkable, but that came from an immature place where I wasn’t ready to recognize how you can suppose a better reality all you want, but you still exist in the reality where being in a marginalized community. Being a queer person growing up in Memphis, Tennessee does have negative impacts on your life and on your emotional health.”
On Baker’s latest album Little Oblivions, a follow up to her second release, Turn Out the Lights in 2017, she reveals her emotional flux, from the self-destructive to the self-aware, all intertwined in self-hatred.
“The self-hatred is so tied up in how I was reevaluating my relationship to religion, because I had been this artist who spoke very openly about Christianity, and yet I was starting to find that my own belief in original sin and flawed-ness and a human inability to ever be good was informing my opinion of myself,” says Baker. “It was reinforcing this idea that all I could ever be, hard as I might try, was bad. Then, it’s almost this mental manifestation of learned helplessness and having the idea stuck in my brain that I will fail no matter what I do and I will always fall short.”
Struggling with addiction in her teens, Baker says was a darker moment as she was constantly battling with her mental demons. “Addiction is crafty,” she says. “So if it can find something to hang onto in your brain, to make you believe that you might as well keep using, it’ll find whatever it needs to find until you decide that you want to live.”
Reflecting on boygenius, which she co-founded in 2018, along with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, the trio happened organically since all three of them had played shows together in years prior. “I’ve known them both for a long time,” says Baker. “I’ve valued them so much as friends. When this tour got booked, we initially thought that we were just going to team up and do like a single or something fun—maybe have like a 45 to sell at the merge table—and then we made six songs and a band.”
Baker adds, “It’s honestly, one of my most cherished musical accomplishments, to have put out that record and to be in a band with them. I think they are brilliant. I don’t know how to convey as genuinely as I mean it, that I am awed by the art they create.”
The full interview with Julien Baker is available on-demand on Apple Music Country at apple.co/_RecordBinRadio.