When Rayland Baxter released his latest album Imaginary Man just about a year ago he referred to the effort as “An audible record of my journey down the bright blue river of imagination,” adding that “It is a multi-colored dream of song, a sonic bird bath if you may.” Fans have been very happy to splash around in that bird bath where Baxter’s indeed dreamy alternative country pop songs take form, and they’re flocking to his live performances too; Baxter is playing headlining shows this summer as well as appearing as the opening act on the Lumineers tour.
We chatted with Baxter by email, asking about Imaginary Man, advice he got from his father and jamming with the Lumineers; along the way we also discovered that Rayland has quite a sense of humor. Baxter’s commentary below is given exclusively to AXS.com.
AXS: You recently played a show at the Levitt Shell in Memphis, where Elvis Presley played his first-ever paid show. When you’re playing a venue steeped in history, do you sometimes feel the presence of those who came before you? Can you give an example?
Rayland Baxter: I definitely do. An example of that would be the Capital Theatre in Port Chester, New York. This was Jerry Garcia’s favorite venue, and of course I love that man, so I had a couple conversations with his spirit as the show went on. Maybe even threw in a couple slick Jerry licks on the guitar that night.
AXS: Your latest album Imaginary Man is just about a year old now. Are there any songs from the album that you’re playing on your current tour that have evolved to where they sound a bit different now?
RB: Most definitely. Every single one of them have turned into fiery beasts for the live show. I appreciate the evolution of a song, from bedroom to big stage.
AXS: You have lots of shows on your summer tour where you’re supporting the Lumineers. No doubt there’ll be some impromptu jam sessions on the road, but if you were to play together on stage, which of their songs would you most like to join them on, and which of your songs would you like to have them sit in on?
RB: I would like to sing harmony on "Cleopatra" if the opportunity arose. I really like that song; great melody, exciting arrangements. They are a great, entertaining band and even better human beings. As far as one of my songs, I'd like to have them join in on "Dreamin’.” We could do some really cool vocal arrangements and the cello would sound nice as well.
AXS: Tell us a little about your Jam in the Van experience earlier this year.
RB: Jam in the Van; those guys are so fun. It was at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas and we were the first band to do the Jam in the Van that day. First all six of us crammed in the van, then we jammed hard in the van!
AXS: Your dad Bucky Baxter is also a musician who plays pedal steel on Imaginary Man and who is famed for his long tenure with the Bob Dylan Band. Can you share with us a story or bit of advice that your father gave you when it became clear that you were following in his footsteps?
RB: He told me to just keep bein’ me, and that is gonna be enough to keep it up for a while. Maybe after I'm tired of bein’ me, I'll try to be a woman for a bit. Maybe Tina Turner or Caitlyn Jenner. Oprah sounds pretty cool too.
AXS: It looks like the last festival you’ll play this tour is the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival in Columbia, Missouri where Ben Folds, the Avett Brothers and Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band all play after you. Do you think you might get some BBQ and join the crowd to catch any of these performers?
RB: I am very stoked to see Ben Folds. I have a lot of respect for him.
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