Houston Baker Q&A

Houston      Houston Baker is a Harrisburg-based musician who plays at various locations in the Central Pennsylvania area.  His weekly gig on Tuesday’s is with Rhyne McCormick at MoMo’s BBQ & Grill, located in downtown Harrisburg. He also is playing at Arooga’s each Thursday until the end of the month.

       I met Houston while hanging out with Rhyne, who’s a friend of mine, and he introduced me to Houston. After listening to him a few times, and most recently, hearing his rendition of a popular song that I love, by the Beatles, I knew I wanted to interview him for this series.

Q: I’ve heard you sing a few times, at MoMo’s and also at Arooga’s when you had a set there a few weeks ago. I have enjoyed listening to your musical style. How would you describe your sound?

A:  “I am mainly solo acoustic, folk, rock and blues, but I do a lot of blues rock, and alternative pop. While in college, I was influenced a lot by John Mayer.”

Q: How long have you been preforming? Where did you start?

A: “For about three years. The first gig I ever did was at ‘The Hut’ in Mansfield, with a trio. We used to do a lot of blues rock, and jazz fusion . I am in a few bands, one is called ‘HB and the Double D’s.”

Q: Do you like performing and playing with others or alone?

A: “I prefer to play with others. I enjoy a band setting with a base player, and a drummer. It’s so much easer to feed off of each other and make a better show. I think playing in a band bumps up the energy and we can throw ideas off of each other, it helps a lot.” 

Q: How did you meet Rhyne? You are both playing each Tuesday at MoMo’s, how is that working?

A: “I met him through mutual friend, who’s recording the album I am working on right now. We have been talking about doing a show together for a while. I think it has been going really well. Rhyne invited me out to do some gigs in the area. I was making the trip back and fourth but since I saw the potential in Harrisburg, I decided to move here and we decided to work together. We are still finding our way through and haven’t come up with a band name yet. At MoMo’s we have a good crowd, that’s our place that we really feel comfortable playing with each other and taking turns playing and singing. Working with Rhyne there’s a ‘feel good’ blues rock sound to our show.”

Q: So you are working on an album, you have written songs? What are your songs about? Can you describe the sound?

A: “Yeah, I’ve written about 20 songs. They are a combination of pop, blues, rock.”

“I use writing as a cooping mechanism and to help me with closure. Usually the work is about my relationships with women.  Recently, I’ve been thinking about it and looking at it; the stuff I write is emotional. I am figuring out what really happened in a situation.”

Q: What bands or musicians inspire you?

A: “I have lot of influences.  Before college and when I was in high school, I started by singing metal kinds of songs and picked up a guitar. I focused on jazz and contemporary music. I could name so many; Mayer; Sinatra; The Black Keys;  Jack White; and so many others. It’s also something I’ve always done, looking back through time to see who inspires me, and find out who inspired those musicians, and so on. Also Hendrix, Clapton,  and BB King –  who I’m going to see in concert at the Bryce Jordan Center in October.” 

Q: I heard your rendition of the well-known song “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and instead of playing it upbeat, you had a differet take on it. Tell me how you came up with that rendition?

[Click here to listen to Houston’s version.]

A: “I have always been a Beatles fan and I thought the song would sound better as a love song than pop/upbeat. I’ve watched ‘Across the Universe’ and it helped me to get to that version. I started by slowing it down and finger picking more until I made sure that it was right first, every time I play it, I make sure I’m in right mood to play it.” 

Q: What do you usually do, more cover songs or originals? Do you like playing and singing at the same time? Is that challenging or just natural for you?

A: “I do a mixture of both covers and originals but it really depends on the show.  I’ve done a full cover set and a full original set. The electric shows I tend to do more original work.” 

” [Singing and playing] was something that happened naturally for me. I kind of fell in that when I was learning guitar. It just made sense to do both at the same time.” 

Q: Do you do music full time?

A: “Yes, I just recently decided to go for it. I had some job opportunities near home, and I did some DJ work over the summer, and when Rhyne called me in July, I made the trip down here. I played a couple of venues and I thought that I could do well here, that there’s a lot of work to be done here. I decided to move to Harrisburg and do this, because music is what I really want to do.” 

“I did go to college, first for music education, but I learned that it wasn’t the best fit for me, and I left the program. I went to focus on broadcast communications, and learned how to work with video and do my own promotional stuff. I don’t have to have someone else do it .”

Q: What keeps you going? There are so many performers out there, what do you want to do with music?

A: I’ve had success so far. If it is something worth doing, and I do it well enough, I will be happy. I am just enjoying it right now, living in the moment. I feel pretty confident in things working out right now.”

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: “I am doing well with life. I keep really busy and do many things. But I’m not looking too far ahead. I like to be doing more work in the future, maybe touring. I think that would be really cool. I don’t know what might be down the road. I am hoping that by next year I’ll finish up recording and we will have an album to talk about and promote next year.”

Q: What do you want people to take away from your performances?

A: ” I want people to see that they aren’t alone, that they can relate to my lyrics and the music. I want people to know that we are all going through the same things at some time.” 

Q: What do you like most about performing?

A:“I like going from gigs where I play solo acoustic, which is more mellow, then on the weekends, I play with a band and we play more upbeat songs during the electric shows. It’s high-energy, we are moving all over the place, doing a lot musically, and there’s a lot going on when you have a full band. I work better when I’m busy, and I like to express myself in a bunch of pop rock alternative songs back home – from playing party cover bands to being down here, doing folk rock and blues stuff.”

“I like that I get to relax during the week, then when I’ve been calm all week, I can join the band and move like a mad man – then go back to and calm down again. There is a nice beat to the schedule and they balance each other out.”

Thanks to Houston for taking the time to chat with me.

Check out Houston’s website to see more video, photos, and schedule.

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