Darwin’s Caiti Baker has musical roots that run deeper than most singers, and she’s learned her lessons from some of the greatest female jazz and blues vocalists of all time. Add to that her own powerful voice, serious soul-pop songcraft and a love of studio production, and you have an exceptional artist on the verge of a career take-off.
Words: Taylor Fox Smith
It’s not easy to pin down the musical style of Northern Territory singer-songwriter Caiti Baker. “Vintage dusty blues meets future hip-hop soul?” she suggests, offering a glimpse of the rich sonic landscape her songs inhabit. Baker’s releases slip seamlessly from soul to big band, from roots and blues to smoky R&B-inflected pop, all delivered with her beguiling, shapeshifting vocals. In the last two years she’s released her debut album, featured on tracks with Briggs and A.B. Original, supported the likes of Dan Sultan, Guy Sebastian and US legend Booker T, and won three NT Song of the Year Awards in 2017 – including the overall Song of the Year (for the track ‘Make Your Own Mistakes’).
Her success is all the more impressive when you realise that Baker hasn’t shifted to the music-making hubs of Sydney or Melbourne but lives and works in her hometown of Darwin, where the “tyranny of distance” makes itself felt. “It’s cheaper to fly to Asia than to Sydney!” she laments, but finds it easy to list the benefits of creating music outside of the concrete jungle. Darwin could do with a few more music venues, she admits, but there are artistic upsides. “There’s a distinct advantage of interest, of having an edge,” she says. “You have this whole other story of where you’re from.” Plus, she explains, the music she makes is shaped by the mindset that comes with her surroundings: she calls her home a “paradise” that offers her mental and physical stability, and describes a laidback, creative local community where emerging and old-school artists collide.