All Eyes on Chris Baron

Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your musical journey and background?

My name is Chris Baron, I have lived in Oregon since 1991 when I turned 10 years old, and became a real musician when I quit my day job (after 11 years!) in November 2018 to tour full time. I started composing music at the age of 12, and got a chance to record my first album of original songs in 1998 at age 17. In 2024 I counted back to thirty-seven recording projects (albums, EPs), sixteen bands, five solo albums, four genres. Anonymous #10 is that fifth solo album and features my touring ensemble @ChrisBaronAndTwoSecrets on three of the tracks.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and how have they shaped your sound and style?

Can you share a specific artist or album that has had a significant impact on your music?

I started out studying The Beatles, then as a young listener got into Smashing Pumpkins, Alice In Chains, Dave Matthews, 311, Incubus…Avett Brothers and Punch Brothers most recently as an adult. These are just the “deep dives”. I enjoy fusion music; anyone who mixes genres and brings out the personalities of the individual players involved attracts my attention. My favorite live bands to date, impossible to rate in any order, would be RHCP, Avetts, DMB, Punch Brothers, Roland Roberts Band. I have fronted two tribute bands: an Avett Brothers tribute we called “The Avett Others” (@TheAvettOthersAO) from 2018-2021 and an Incubus tribute band we called “Idiot Science” from 2008-2012. The rock and funk metal fusion bands of the 90s and 2000s shaped my foundation; but today I prove that you can Rock just as hard acoustically as all-plugged-in-and-loud. All about attitude. As a folk artist today, I look up to narcissism-free performers like John Craigie and Steve Poltz, and many others in that periphery, too many to list. The level of musicianship and composition in today’s music world is insanely advanced. Discovery of it and access to it is limited only by time and attention possible to pay.

What’s your creative process like when you’re composing or writing a new song?

My songs come to me as a flash package, a paired hook of lyrical melody + phrase + chord structure, brief or long varies; most importantly related and flowing together. I imagine it all in advance, then when I get a chance I grab an instrument and teach myself how to play it. “It” always starts as a composed catchy unit by itself, and is built out from there. In times of writers block, which exists even though it’s silly and makes no sense, I crank out poetry or random musical “riffs” and put it aside to rest; set to put in the work anytime in the future I happen to rediscover it.

Among all the songs you’ve created, do you have a personal favorite? If so, what makes it special to you? Can you share the story or inspiration behind that particular song?

A sentimental favorite song of mine is “Sing To The Roses”, from my 2018 album Habits. The band will close a set with this song often. When performing it at a gig the whole room sometimes falls totally silent, even if I’m just “background music” in a noisy pub. It was written first thing in the morning, after a particularly vivid dream, in late 2017. In my dream I was walking through a redwood forest, following the sound of a beautiful singing voice (think Snow White) that I was unable to see, but could dreamily hear. I noticed small collectives of strangers were also moving through the woods, trying to solve this mystery…you could hear her, but you couldn’t see her. Except. The breath of her singing voice was loosening rose petals into the air, and they fluttered around…that was how I was tracking her. It was so vivid that when I awoke I scratched everything down. It was immediately titled “Anonymous #2”. Once the band rehearsed it, it got its Title. The song is special to me because it really gets inside your soul and lingers in that unique magical way.

Let’s talk about your latest song. What’s the title, and what’s the story or message behind it?

“Anonymous #10” was born in a campground on the 4th of July on the Oregon coast, Summer 2023. The song process with this one was slightly different than my normal, by happenstance. I had a totally unrelated musical thing (just music, no words) that I especially liked and wanted to “work on”, but had no idea what lyrics to sing over it. Stumped. It was in a strange time signature but very pretty. I fumbled with it for maybe 20 minutes just sitting on the campsite bench but was getting nothing that I could really latch onto. I took a 30 second break, did 3 jumping jacks, then sat down and for no particular rhyme or reason at all, suddenly played the chords and sang the first line that you hear now for the song…this music and lyrics was in no way related to what I was working on prior (a minute ago)…it was a fresh thing that was inspired out of the muck. From that point on, I abandoned that other riff and composed the rest of “Anonymous #10”, to the point where you hear it today. No title came to me while I was working on it, so I did what I always do in that situation: checked my notebook to see where I was at, noted that the last piece that I wrote down without a clear working title was “Anonymous #9”, and added this new one to the list. While I was on tour with the band over the rest of Summer and into Fall 2023, we asked the audience to suggest titles for it, then performed the song. People listened carefully! and wrote down possible titles on napkins, receipts, cigarette boxes, scraps of paper, dropped them into the tip jar. They typed out ideas on their phones, and DM’d the band later on. I gathered up all of these, and made an image we could project behind me for the music video shoot…all the best suggestions (many people thought of the same kind of titles!) are part of the official music video in a grandly striking scene in the second verse.

Share a memorable or unique experience from one of your live performances.

I competed in the Tucson Folk Festival performance competition in April 2022. There were 155 applicants that year for 10 slots. Each of the 10 finalists got to play 3 songs on a Friday night in the desert. It was my first night ever in Tucson Arizona. I won first place. One of the prizes was to play four songs on the main stage the next night, Saturday, right before the headliner. I was nervous, but had 3 weeks of solo touring under my belt, so I planned out my bang and ended with dramatic high energy flourish. I got a standing ovation. The emcee came out and asked the crowd if they “wanted more Chris Baron.” They stayed standing and hooting and it sounded deafening to me. I played another song. Same reaction. I ended up doing eight total songs that evening, that’s a FOUR SONG ENCORE, unprecedented in this festival’s 37-year history. I didn’t expect to win in the first place, and that was the biggest stage I had ever played on at that point. It led to more.

Beyond music, do you have any hobbies or interests that you’re passionate about? How do they influence your music?

I love Sports. Live sports, TV sports, competition. Basketball and American football. Athletes and musicians are so similar. I watch my favorite athletes deal with winning and losing. Playoffs, and disappointment, and triumph sometimes. Injury. Coming back from injury. Dealing with media and fan criticism. Dealing with personal life and then “playing a game” to earn their way forward, a hugely important game, but a “game” nonetheless. Everybody doing what they Love, and satisfied with the simple act of existing, knowing that they are doing what they Love. When it gets “hard”…you are not alone. You are not invisible.

Is there a dream collaboration you’d like to pursue in the future?

I would like to sit down with The Avett Brothers, anyone in the band. I’ve met Scott and Seth’s parents and I’ve seen the band live many times. I’d like to sit down with any member of The Punch Brothers: Gabe Witcher, the fiddler, is a personal friend of Derek Vanderhorst, who produced this latest album of mine, and Gabe plays on one of the tracks…this is a dream come true. I’d like to sit down with Steve Poltz, or Matt The Electrician. I’d like to sit down again with Victor Wooten. I’d like to sit down with Dave Mattews. I’d like to jam with Incubus or 311. I’d like to play a song with Paul McCartney.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are just starting their journey in the music industry?

Do what you love, even if it causes great harm to yourself, and everyone around you. Don’t quit, reinvent as needed. Find the people that you should, keep them close as long as it all feels good.

Can you give us a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or new music you have in the works? What can your fans and listeners look forward to from you in the near future?

My great friend Glyndon and I intend to finish and release “The Glyndon Sessions” at some point this year. It’s a collaborative project we’ve been working on since 2020, in bits and pieces, remotely or together in the same room, reimagining ourselves and the Chris Baron songs that fit the Glyndon mold. My side project Maryspeak has a TON of potential but apathy fighting with self-indulgence fighting with inconsistency are rampant. If we could just release one song, it would be very validating. My main performance ensemble is called Chris Baron And Two Secrets. I tour Solo, or with iterations of that lineup. You can see us live in 2024: This is my most favorite band I’ve ever played with…I only wish our drummer Midnight Leo could tour with us more often. In the meantime the String Trio has a new EP out as of March 2024 and we are hitting The Road.