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Kurt Baker: “Diversity is important in any industry”

It’s more important now than ever to bring back power to working class people… the artists, the teachers, the workers and the people that make this world go round. It’s very disturbing to know that there are a small percentage of very wealthy people that are actually making more and more money during the Corona […]

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It’s more important now than ever to bring back power to working class people… the artists, the teachers, the workers and the people that make this world go round. It’s very disturbing to know that there are a small percentage of very wealthy people that are actually making more and more money during the Corona Virus pandemic, while the majority of people are suffering. There needs to be more wealth equality in our world. When there is wealth equality, we will have social equality and people will be able to pursue and live their dreams regardless of their race, background, religion or where they were born. Yeah, I’m a punk rocker at heart and I don’t really care for the billionaire class.


As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kurt Baker.

What began as raucous noise in a Maine basement is poised to be the soundtrack to many a socially distanced soiree as Kurt Baker gets back to his roots on the rollicking new album ‘After Party.’

“The idea for the Combo was always to be a band that showcased my more Garage/Pub Rock/Punk side, while the U.S. group is firmly rooted in Rock/Pop/Power Pop,” explains Baker. Counting those two albums with the Combo, ‘After Party’ is the artist’s sixth full-length record, in addition to his previous work with Pop/Punk band The Leftovers.

The Combo’s 2018 album ‘Let’s Go Wild!’ was “a high-spirited and thoroughly enjoyable Rock ’n’ Roll record” (Faster And Louder). It built on 2016’s In Orbit, which The Big Takeover called “a fast-paced, high-energy ride.” Both LPs saw heavy airplay on Little Steven’s Underground Garage and inspired endless touring in Europe and the U.S. A pair of standalone singles, “Can’t Go Back” and “(I Can’t Help) Failing In Love,” kept the momentum going through 2019.

In the intervening years, the careers of the American band members exploded to the point where this reunion now amounts to a Power Pop supergroup.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in the city of Portland, Maine. Across the street from my parents apartment was a very nasty old corner store with a lot of used shoes in the window. You couldn’t really see inside the place because the plexiglass was so dirty from the owner smoking non-stop inside. The thing was, this was the only place you could buy cold beer and cigarettes in the neighborhood and it happened to be also right across the street from Gateway Mastering Studio, which was across the street from where I grew up. Apparently one day Kurt Cobain was at the studio with mastering engineer Bob Ludwig and he went across the street to this corner store — Len’s Market — and picked up a pair of used Converse All-Stars that were sitting idle in the window since probably 1985. So, I kinda grew up in this small little corner of a small city with a lot of rock n roll energy. I think that’s one of the reasons I got so obsessed with music as a young kid and wanted to start a band when I was 5 years old. I did spend a lot of time at home, inside, listening to music because at the time before the area got gentrified, it was pretty terrifying for a small child to be playing outside.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I come from a working class family, my dad wanted me to become a dentist, but I come from a family that was all about the arts.. so when I decided to pursue a career in music I had their support which really means a lot. This isn’t really a career that is about getting rich, it’s about doing what you love. It’s all about passion. And yeah, if you are able to live solely by playing music.. that’s making it for me. I still got some work to do in that department, but music has been my drive for life since I was a kid. I think actually music found me and told me “You will play the bass.” Or perhaps it was that time when my uncle popped a tape in of “Rubber Soul” in his mini van on a little family trip. I was 5 years old. I heard the opening notes of “The Word” and something clicked inside my mind. It was like a metamorphosis. I stopped caring about legos and only cared about The Beatles and groups that sounded like them, and then eventually one day maybe starting my own band.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

A lot of interesting things happen to you when you’re living the life as an independent musician touring around the globe, but a few years back I was doing an acoustic show in New York City at a bar called Manitoba’s. After the gig was over I was hanging out at the bar and next thing I knew Jimmy Fallon was standing next to me at the bar. The bartender said “Hey Kurt, I wanna introduce you to Jimmy”. So I said, “Hey Jimmy.. you wanna play some songs?”. So we had a little jam session. I remember we sang some Beatles songs and the Turtles “Happy Together”. That was a pretty fun, wild night. New York City is a great place.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was on tour in the UK and we were playing some big concert venues opening up for a group called Bowling For Soup. We were actually touring on a bus on that tour which was a lot of fun, but if you slept on the bus over night and then you would have to shower at the venue before the gig. So one day I got off the bus and went to take a shower in the backstage of the venue during the drum soundcheck for the headlining group and the rest of my band were still asleep. Well, I went into this little room with a shower and as soon as I closed the door the handle fell off and I was literally locked in this tiny shower room stall. I was banging on the door and screaming and shouting but nobody could hear me because they were sound checking the drums in this huge venue and it was loud. I was in there for what seemed like 2 hours. I was pretty sure I’d be in there all day until the show. I think I almost had a panic attack. Luckily one of the staff at the venue walked by the door and heard my desperate calls for help. I guess the lesson I learned was that you should always tell your bandmates where you’ll be in case of an emergency. Communication is everything.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m very excited about my new album “After Party”, which is going to be out at the end of October on Little Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records. Steven is a legend and it’s an honor to be on his record label and to receive airplay on his Sirius XM radio station The Underground Garage. He’s been supportive of my music for some years now and it really means to much to me to have his support and guidance. He knows what is what, and has rocked with the best of them. The new album is one of the best things I’ve done in quite some time and it was a joy to get back together with my old bandmates to record this, as we haven’t done a record together in almost five years. I hope people will enjoy this record, but most importantly, I’m very proud of it.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Diversity is important in any industry. It doesn’t matter if you are working in the paper industry, the canned sardine industry or the music industry. Diversity is what brings together different cultures, ideas and languages together. We are all together in this world and together we can make a better future by working with people from all walks of life.

We learn and are influenced by diversity. Opening up your mind to different cultures and societies. Finding out about what is important to each persons culture and family background can open up your mind and expand your horizons. Everyday we have the ability to grow and learn and become a better and more understanding of the world around us. Having a close mind is basically putting an expiration date on yourself.

Diversity is fun. Look, it’s boring to be in a group or an industry filled with the same people. The same ideas. The same clothes. The same language. It’s fun to explore all the wonderful thoughts, concepts and traditions we have in this world. Diversity in film, television or music has the power to create new genres, new movements, new sounds. That’s cool in my book.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

“Life isn’t fair” The truth is you’ll see a lot of musicians and groups get things because they are more wealthy, have more resources and just are good a playing the game in their favor. That doesn’t mean they are more qualified for the job. But that’s just the way the world works sometimes. The thing is, life really isn’t a competition. It’s all about focusing on your accomplishments big and small, and focusing on doing the best you can despite the odds. What’s important is that you do the best you can everyday. Give it all you’ve got, and if you are truly passionate about something, it will eventually work out despite all the hurdles you have to overcome.

“Learn a foreign language at a young age”. It’s so important to learn a second or even a third language. Being able to communicate with people in their native language that is not your own, and even if you aren’t fluent, can go a long way.

“Keep your true friends close”. Friends are so important. They are gonna be there for you when you need them, and in return you are there for them. We live in world of total communication but that also means that sometimes we lose touch of the people that mean the most to us because we are so bogged down in the day to day correspondence. Send a postcard to an old friend. Drop a line to somebody you haven’t spoken to in awhile. It means everything.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff”. Things can get complicated. Touring can be stressful. There are always bumps in the road and nothing ever goes as planned. If you get stressed out that things aren’t working out well, you will lose sight of why you are truly doing what you love in the first place. Just appreciate the fact that you are alive on this earth and don’t worry about the small problems that will eventually work out. Usually there is always a solution.

“Don’t take anything for granted”. You’ve got to be thankful for every moment you are able to do what you love. In music, I’m so very fortunate for the musicians, managers, road crew and fans that have been so supportive. These people go out of their way to help you with your music career and that means everything. Saying “Thank You” is huge. I love saying “Thank You” because I’m really thankful for the ability to do what I do.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Take time to relax. You gotta breathe. Have a way to find your creative and comfortable space wherever you may be. Musicians travel a lot, and for this we often have to create and perform under many circumstances, so being patient and being able to go with the flow is key. We should all mediate more, and just practice simple breathing to ground us every now and then. Drink plenty of water and get a good nights sleep at least 2 or 3 nights out of the week — that’s tough when you are rock n roller, but you really gotta do it or else you will go crazy.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It’s more important now than ever to bring back power to working class people… the artists, the teachers, the workers and the people that make this world go round. It’s very disturbing to know that there are a small percentage of very wealthy people that are actually making more and more money during the Corona Virus pandemic, while the majority of people are suffering. There needs to be more wealth equality in our world. When there is wealth equality, we will have social equality and people will be able to pursue and live their dreams regardless of their race, background, religion or where they were born. Yeah, I’m a punk rocker at heart and I don’t really care for the billionaire class.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are many people that have helped me out along the way, and as I mentioned before in the last decade, Steven Van Zandt has been so supportive of my music and helped my career, expanding my fanbase and giving me the tools to really make the best records that I can. I also would like to say that a family friend, named Barry, who let me use his bass guitar when I was just a young kid. He wouldn’t mind if I would borrow his bass for hours on end.. just plucking away. If it wasn’t for him, I’m not sure I really would have thought it were possible to pick up a guitar and start a band.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Mistake”. Look, life is all about trail and error. Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. But the most important thing is that we learn by these mistakes. We can improve and become better after making mistakes. Don’t be bothered if you make a mistake, because you’ll learn from it and take it to another level the next time.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d love to have tea with Angela Lansbury. She seems like somebody who has a treasure trove of great stories. She has longevity and I find that trait very inspiring.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KurtBakerMusic
or Twitter / Instagram @kurtmiltonbaker

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


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