We "sat down" with Julien Baker and got real about the comfort of running errands, the energy of Pants Tour, and acknowledging the total story of another person.
Being queer, believing in God, and calling Tennessee home are not in conflict for Julien Baker. In fact she speaks about all three in her hauntingly honest song lyrics. Her vocals "convert the everyday into the divine" and she "turns concert venues into sacred spaces." High praise that is well deserved.
We are so excited to have Julien Baker performing THIS FRIDAY as part of the Level Ground Nashville Festival. Reserve your spot here and be one of the 125 people to hear her sing and talk with us about faith, gender, and sexuality.
Level Ground: What are you excited about today?
Julien Baker: Today I am excited to do errands! When I come back to Memphis after being away from home for long stretches on tour, I find it so comforting to resume a normal consistent routine as a respite from the craziness, and I love being in the city so much that I am content just to do things like go to the grocery store, drop off recycling, walk to the post office.
LG: What does it mean to be in dialogue with someone and how has that been a part of your life?
Well, to me, being in dialogue with someone means exactly what its definition suggests: a communication between two people, often in an effort to solve a problem. As it is often used in our current social culture, particularly in this context, I think the term could be expanded to mean the negotiation that exists between two or more ongoing narratives.
In the world of social discourse, I think "being in dialogue with someone" means acknowledging the total story of another person--into just the immediate, external rhetoric-- as representative of a certain people group, establishing a relationship with that person that invites trust and mutual sharing, so that two conflicting ideologies can be reconciled or understood.
For instance, as a member of the queer community I am just as much in dialogue with other queer identifying humans as I am with subtly homophobic work acquaintances if they allow me to be. Each have a dialect, a way of speaking that addresses negative behavior and corrects it. It is not unreasonable to say that by being open and vocal about one's identitty as queer, female, a person of color, a victim of abuse, you do the first step in engaing an entire world of possible paricipants in social discourse and are constnatly "in dialogue" with others, and by recognizing the validity of individual narratives, we can be in constant conversation with others about their world, their strife and joy... if we allow ourselves to be.
LG: What is the last book that you read and how would you pitch it to a stranger if you had written it?
JB: Fun Home by Allison Bechdel. This book was so good I read it in one sitting on one of our longer tour drives. It's so brutally honest, but with a casualness that lures you into an undeniable trust-pact with the author. The book is unavoidably dark, yet none of the darkness is macabre is unnecessary, it is all delivered with an anti-dramatic tone of plain honesty. Fun Home's surprisingly heavy subject matter is diffused by a kind of self-aware, tragic humor that is not afraid to recognize irony in the bleakest situations, and uses it not as a salve for potentially uncomfortable themes of shame, psychology of sexuality, and gender politics, but as a tool to analyze difficult topics, dismantle them, remove the stigma attached to those important realities.
LG: Tell us about your profile picture on your favorite social media platform or on your email account.
JB: I recently deleted all of my personal accounts from social media and decided to leave up the artist pages, but I did keep my personal facebook, and the profile picture on my that page is me at a show for a local Veteran punk band, Wicker, singing along. Brian, the singer who is also in the photo, is the main organizer and proprietor of Smith 7, the local all-ages organization in my hometown. It was taken during Pants Tour, a two week event we put on every summer where local bands who may not get to go on tour or have other chances get to play, and all the cover fees go to charity. I love this picture because it is a poignant image that reminds me of the pure energy of shows as a picture of unity and family, and how much I cherish those folks.
LG: What is concerning to you about the future? And what brings you hope about the future, whether personally or more broadly?
JB: What's worrying me about the future is, in shortest terms, everything. I know every generation feels like it is the one witnessing the most upheaval or atrocity of any generation to date, but when I survey the current social and political climate I can't help but feel that we are experiencing an unparalleled amount of hatred, greed, and corruption. The globalization of media and news ensures that we are aware not only of the problems in our city or state, or in isolated accounts of other communities in our nation, but that we have full time access to every heinous act of violence and evil committed across the globe, and that is terrifying.
But that said, we also have access to technology that enables us to reach people with more ease than ever, and can be a tool to expose injustice, promote awareness, unite and empower people. For all the horror I see, and for the response of hatred or dismissal, I see just as many examples of people committed to the proactive shaping of a better future, attempting to make some meaningful contribution to future good.
Level Ground is no exception, I actually think its an apt illustration for the notion that amid hatred and division there are organizations who are optimistic about the potential to improve society, repair broken structures, and have hope as an engine to propel others to action.
Reserve your spot for Julien's show this Friday here.