When you say the word ‘divorce’ people immediately think of a marriage ending which, in essence, it is. It’s the end of an era and the closing of a chapter in someone’s life. What they most often don’t think of is it being a beginning. A rebirth. A way to re-launch yourself into life.
James Lee Baker does.
Storytelling is one of the calling cards of this young folk singer. Though he has been recording for nearly a decade, he’s still considered an emerging artist. Case in point, in 2019 alone, Baker scored a number of honors from several prestigious competitions including being named a finalist in The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s Emerging Artists Contest and a semi-finalist for the Unsigned Only songwriting contest. He also qualified as a 2019 Official Showcase Artist at the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance (SWRFA). Touring extensively over the past two years, Baker has played throughout the Southwest while opening for singer/songwriters Ellis Paul and Vance Gilbert.
As great as all that is, the time for emerging is over. Baker pulled out all the stops for his new album 100 Summers, slotted in for a September 4th release. He enlisted an All Star group of collaborators including, Chris Bell (the man behind the boards for the Eagles, Don Henley and Christopher Cross), Doug Pettibone (John Mayer, Jewel, Lucinda Williams), Roscoe Beck (Leonard Cohen, Eric Johnson), Paul Simon’s Grammy winning accompanist Joel Guzman, Americana Songwriter of the Year nominee Mark Erelli, and Laurie MacAllister from the famed folk group Red Molly
Premiering his new single “Santa Barbara” right here with American Songwriter, Baker took a moment to talk about the tune and how his own personal experiences were the birthplace for the song.
“The first time I flew to the West coast was for a work trip to Santa Barbara,” he remembers. “I remember feeling the balmy, humid, salty air on my face when the glass sliding doors of the airport opened up. I remember the palm trees dancing like a steady luau welcoming me. In the years that followed my visit to SB, I relocated to the Bay Area for work and spent nearly three years as a resident of California. In the turmoil of a decaying long-term relationship, I pulled in my own experiences and tied this song together.”
In a bold move, Baker unabashedly lays out that decaying long-term relationship in a little more detail than most artists are usually comfortable with. The first verse puts it all out there blatantly letting the listener know she got the house; he got the car and away he went with San Francisco taking up residence in his rear-view mirror. Anyone that has driven away from a house and an ex knows whether you wanted it or not, that final drive away is never easy.
“In a way, the second verse is a kind of double entendre. While I’m talking about the city and its hay days and eventual struggles, I’m really talking to myself and trying to give a needed pep talk — ‘you were a treasure chest of the gold rush, once a dangerous and lawless place.”
Photo credit goes to Delaney Gibson