Tim Baker: Reconnecting the elements
Hey Rosetta’s former leader looks back on the tour that took his new songs straight to those who would love them the most.
Tim Baker is one day off the road, after a summer of festivals and 14 US dates with Half Moon Run that began in California and ended in Massachusetts. Soon there will be a small run of central Canada, a pair of holiday shows in St. John’s, and Christmas in Portugal, but for today there is nothing.
When Baker wound down his enormously popular seven-piece Hey Rosetta! in 2017, he found himself facing a future partly defined by his past. So he didn’t just take his new songs on the road—in the winter of 2018, he partnered with Side Door and created a tour that stripped away all artifice and took the music directly into the houses of fans, with a microphone, guitar, banjo, and occasional piano taking the places of bandmates.
“I wanted to get back into performing and not be some pale imitation of what Hey Rosetta! was, I wanted it to be very different,” he says. “It felt like a good way to reconnect to the very elemental act of performing to people. No production, no tricks, just a very real thing.”
Baker is famously from Newfoundland—though he lives in Toronto now, his cell still runs on a St. John’s area code—but didn’t grow up in the kitchen party mainlanders imagine the place to be. “I never had that growing up and I really liked the safety of the fourth wall,” he says of the larger-scale shows Hey Rosetta! was used to playing. “This seemed like a good thing to scare the shit out of me and make me feel a thing I’m not used to feeling.”
For the west coast leg of the tour, Baker was joined by filmmaker Marianna Margaret to capture the intimacy of the shows, which varied significantly in scope from day to day. “It ran the gamut. One day you’re in a retired doctor’s mansion and the next day in you’re in a tiny living room of a dental hygienist,” he says. “Every day was completely different.”
In the interstitials between the five songs of The Side Door Sessions (watch it here), Margaret captures Baker pushing upright pianos around, driving between towns, hiding in the van practically in plain sight of lined-up attendees, and meeting fans.
“You’re in charge of leading the conversation,” he says of the meet-and-greet process. “Imagine being in charge of an awkward conversation for 25 minutes with people that really value you. But it helped me get better with that. And it helped me speak better on stage. It’s hard to connect and have even a one-sided conversation with a room of throbbing, yelling drunk people. As a solo artist it is a valuable thing to be able to tell a story about a song.”
In April, Baker released his solo debut, Forever Overhead, to the acclaim and big spaces he’s used to. He looks back on the Side Door tour fondly.
“It was a very exciting transition in my creative life. It was filled with a lot of uncertainty,” he says. “The actual shows—there was a lot of support there. People were just really happy that it was happening. I felt so welcomed into everyone’s house. There was this feeling of excitement from everybody.”
Written by Tara Thorne
Tara Thorne is a writer, editor, and pop culture critic in Halifax.