Rachel Baiman discusses her latest EP, Thanksgiving

by Will Houk

Photo credit - Gina Brinkley

Carson City – On November 2, Rachel Baiman released a self-produced four song EP titled Thanksgiving. The recording features Baiman’s trio and includes guest artists Molly Tuttle and Josh Oliver.  Nevada Capital News arts reporter Will Houk spoke with Rachel Baiman by phone about Thanksgiving and produced the following mix of words and music … listen …

The first song on the Thanksgiving EP is titled Tent City.  What inspired Baiman to tell the story of a homeless man?

“I actually was just driving by that intersection I mention in the first line, where the 65 meets the 24, those are kind of two major highways that go through Nashville, and I was driving under this underpass there’s this giant tent city under there that I hadn’t noticed before, and I don’t know if if that it was just that I was taking a new route or that tent city had just kind of grown in size to be pretty significant, but I was kind of like wow,” Baiman said.  “I was just kind of struck by that image.”

For Baiman, gentrification in Nashville also inspired Tent City, and more, the influx of people and money magnifies the lopsided distribution of wealth in America.

“Tons of people are moving to town.  We have a lot of new businesses and a lot of new wealth coming into the city and a lot of higher-end housing going up.  A lot of neighborhoods flipping, so it’s interesting see the way that that affects different populations in the city,” said Baiman.  “You know there is a lot of anger about the way wealth is being distributed to the residents or not being distributed throughout the different residential populations and people having to move further and further out of town, and so that was kind of the inspiration behind that song.”

Matters of conscience run deep in Baiman, and a sense of social justice inspired the EP title song, Thanksgiving.  In this song Baiman juxtaposes Native American protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Thanksgiving holiday.  She completed the song while attending a songwriter retreat at the Stetson Kennedy Center in Florida.

“Social justices issues are big  part of my songwriting, and it’s not really something that I necessarily aim for, it’s just kind of something that happens because those issues hit me on a really emotional level, and that tends to kind of fuel the songwriting process,” Baiman said.  “That song (Thanksgiving) I think I started it, I guess it was two years ago now around Thanksgiving when I was reading about the Dakota Access Pipeline fight, and this was kind of before Obama eventually called off the military, and he put a stop to the construction, which of course was overturned as soon as Trump took office, but at that time he still hadn’t done that, and I was reading this story.  I was in Chicago at home with my family for Thanksgiving reading this story going ‘this is so ridiculously wrong,’ that on this holiday when we’re supposed to celebrating this supposed friendship, I don’t know how realistic that is, but that we can’t even look at this issue as a society and go like, this is wrong. You know these people have rights, and we don’t need to put capitalist greed, especially greed that’s also really also harming the planet, and so clearly a short-term fix for a long-term problem in terms of the energy crisis.”

Rachel Baiman began as an instrumentalist and gradually developed her singing and songwriting skills.

“I grew up as a fiddle player so I got really deep into a lot of different fiddle styles, old-time bluegrass, Scottish music, Canadian style, stuff like that, and then, when I moved to Nashville, I kind of started to fall in love with song writing,” Baiman said.  “I was already playing some old-time songs and traditional songs, so I sort of made that transition from just sort of playing fiddle and being an instrumentalist to having more of a focus on songwriting, so now I kind of do that in combination, so my music is really song driven and also incorporates a lot of traditional instrumental elements.”

To hear excerpts and commentary on the remaining two songs on the EP Thanksgiving, listen to the audio interview above …