Hailing from Nottingham, singer-songwriter Joel Baker released his breathtaking debut album 'Hush Now My Fears' back in November 2022. Creating music for over 10 years, this debut album means more than words can explain to Joel.
Dedicated to his late mother and close friend, it's loaded full of raw emotions as Joel unleashes his pent-up emotions. We caught up with Joel the day before the release to discuss the project and everything leading up to this point.
So for those who don’t know you, give a brief introduction to who you are?
My name is Joel, I’m from Nottingham, I grew up in Nottingham, I moved to Leeds for a bit, then down to London, and I guess that’s where the musical journey started. I never really thought music was something you could pursue or chase, I never saw it as a possibility. When in London I ended up meeting producers and artists and I was like “wow this is something I’d love to do”, so for the best part of 10 years I’ve been chasing from various different corners of my soul which is mad, but essentially that’s who I am.
So you’ve been making music for over 10 years now, what made you go it’s time for my debut album?
You know what, in a strange way it was almost like it took everything to fall apart for me to be like, I just need to do this. There is no such thing as a perfect time, no perfect moment, like what am I waiting for? Everything up to that point had always been like put out this project, then it’ll be right, or put out this single and you’ll get to work with this label, so music became this hopscotch game that I was playing instead of just being about music. Once nobody else was interested in working with me or doing anything with me, it allowed me to do what I wanted. Yeah, it might not be as polished, the budget won’t be mad, and there weren’t any big studios, but it’s going to be real, it’s something I made. I had a lot to say, I think there were certain times in my 20s when I had a little less to say and I got repetitive, whereas this I felt like I’ve got stories I want to tell people. I finally had something I wanted to put down on paper.
So this project is a tribute to both your friend and mother who unfortunately are no longer with us, did this make the project harder to write, or was it more of a form of therapy in a way of releasing your emotions?
Oh 100%, I feel like 90% of it was just some form of therapy allowing me to get it all out. Music has been like a million different things to me but if one thing has been consistent it’s been like being able to process things that I don’t know how to process in the moment. I’m no good in the moment, I need to take time and get pen to paper. I feel lighter after it all, I almost feel like pregnant when I’ve not written in so long like I feel so heavy and I’ve got all this stuff I want to get off.
I don’t think In many ways it wasn’t hard to write, but it was needed, and it was emotional. That’s when I know I’m onto something I need to sing about cause it gets me in the gut a little. What I’m searching for is those feelings
Do you think all the emotions behind the project it’s made it harder to release?
You know what, it’s made me kinda nervous to release certain tracks. The thing I’ve been nervous about mainly is my pain, is my pain, that’s calm, but also the people I’m singing about have a family too. My mate who unfortunately passed away has two sisters who I’m really close with, so I was nervous because I didn’t want to upset them or hurt them, so I was sensitive around that and made sure I paid my respects. I had that in my mind a lot, like what would he want from this.
At a point, I nearly put a voice note of his on the album but I was like, no I can’t do that. I ended up swapping it out with one of his friends saying a prayer in Amharic which is an Ethiopian language, which for me was a beautiful moment.
On the album, you mixed in spoken word tracks, what was the whole idea around that?
You know what, it was kinda an accident. I’d just cut from my management and I was just doing whatever I wanted. Honestly, for about 5 years I was being told what I’m meant to sound like, what a chorus is meant to sound like, so I was reacting to that and getting my own back on that and being like but what do you like?
At the time I was listening to a lot of Kate Tempest, and their album was one of the most influential things for me when making this album. I love storytelling so much but sometimes I feel when I’m writing songs it can be restricting. With the spoken word style, I have no restrictions.
On the album, you span across an array of sounds, which all interlock with each other making almost a signature sound which we’ve only had slight tastes of on previous projects. So when people listen to the project what are you wanting them to take away from it all? Do you want them to focus on certain things, or do you want them to hear how you’re feeling and hope it helps them?
100%, I think the thing that means the most to me is just getting those messages from a few people that are like, that really helped me. I know for me personally when I was going through it all and hurting, it was music that helped me out as I was able to escape and work through things. I guess I just want to do the same with my music, that would be a success for me. Getting some random dude from Czech to message me and say it helped them and it’d be like the job is done.
So with the features on the project, how did these all come around?
Every song I would like to write over guitar or beats, and I’d try and take it as far as I could and then think yeah I would love this person on it. The only person I knew I wanted on the project was Jordy.
Oh what an insane artist he is though.
Oh yeah, he’s so incredible, I love working with other artists, it makes it for me, the whole collaboration element makes it for me. I wanted the people to be people I listened to, I wanted to be excited by having this person on the tune. Jordy is someone I’ve known for time, I used to live with cousins and he would come around when he was like 15/16 and we were all like he’s incredible and that’s when he was that young. I'm just super proud of him, he keeps getting better and better. Loads of people can rap but he just makes incredible projects and I truly think he is one of the best artists in the UK right now. I really appreciate him being on the project. Everybody felt like a friend and it was so organic, but people like Maddison I’ve never met.
I love her music so I just shoot my shot and be like ‘I know you don’t know me and you live in Nashville and I would love you to be on my project’, I felt like DJ Khaled waiting for the drake vocals when I waiting for Maddison’s verse, every night I was sat waiting for the Wetransfer. I think that was one of the most rewarding elements of the project was all the collaborations.
What’s the standout track from the project for you?
Ahh, that’s hard, but if I was to play one on guitar it would be ‘Hope Sweet Hope’. It just sums up everything, and from a songwriting point of view, I broke into something where I just told the truth a little bit more. Not being poetic, not skirting around the edges, nothing too flowery. If I had to pick a recording, it would be ‘Magic 8 Ball’, I just love it's a bit weird, and the structure is all over the place. It’s the one I got the most exciting recording and wanted to show people like I’ve got this crazy track. It’s storytelling, it's got strings, and it got a little flip in it.
Photos by Matt Miller