Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m.
Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Tickets $25 (limited number available), at Callaghan’s
The Imaginary Man is returning to Callaghan’s for another evening of alt. country jams. As the son of seasoned pedal steel player Bucky Baxter (R.E.M., Steve Earle), singer-songwriter RayLand Baxter chose to follow his father’s career path. He compiled a dozen songs to create his 2012 debut album “feathers & fishHooks,” which quickly earned comparisons to Paul Simon. In 2015, his sophomore effort, “The Imaginary Man,” showcased Baxter going through an artistic metamorphosis. In a departure from his debut the new album is filled with instrumentation, but his trademark voice and poetic lyrics remain. Last week, Baxter took time to provide Lagniappe readers with his thoughts on the new album as well as his headlining tour.
Stephen Centanni: You recently opened several dates for Jason Isbell, and you’re about to embark on a headlining tour, your biggest yet. How does it feel to be staying so busy?
RayLand Baxter: You know, that’s the way I like it. I’m not too good with idle time. [Staying busy] means everything is going well and going as it should. This is how I function. I like staying super busy and moving onward and upward, and it’s cool to get to play our own shows now. We’ve got a whole month and a half of them. When we go out there and play, the 45-minute set is nice. We get to play to a bunch of people who don’t know who you really are, for the most part. They’re somebody else’s fans. Now, we’re playing a couple of hours every night. People who have come to our shows and seen a little bit get to see more of our color palette, you know what I mean?
C: Touring has been very inspirational to your songwriting. Have any recent experiences inspired any songs?
B: Yes. Last night I went to a strip club in Miami until 6 a.m. with some friends. We kept looking at each other and saying, “What a weird Monday!”
C: Doesn’t sound like a bad Monday, though.
B: No, it was definitely just weird. It was one of those strip clubs that’s kind of circusy.
C: A lot of people like to compare you to Paul Simon. What do you think about that comparison?
B: I’m fine with that. I came into his style in an organic way. I didn’t listen to too much Paul Simon. We have the same kind of vocal tone and lyric delivery. His phrasing and mine are similar. He’s one of the greats, and I appreciate the comparison. I think we rock out a little harder than he did. When we play with the band, maybe it’s a Paul Simon/Neil Young thing. Simon’s sensitive moments are precious. It’s a great comparison.
C: Your father has had an extensive music career. When you decided to go professional, what kind of lessons did you learn from watching him?
B: I think how he always keeps his cool on stage. He had the luxury of being able to sit down his entire career and hide behind the cowboy hat. I don’t really have that liberty. He’s always had a good stage vibe. Really, what I learned from him was not by watching him but by listening to him. I listened to his melodies and how [when] he worked with other musicians on stage during a show or in the studio he knew when to play and when not to play. I’m still learning. He’s given me a couple of tidbits of advice over the years. I also used to sit down a lot when I played live. He encouraged me to stand up here and there, and not write too many songs in a minor key, and to look at the audience when you’re singing. It was pro advice.
C: Your audience has definitely witnessed the evolution between your debut and “Imaginary Man.” Did you set out to make “Imaginary Man” a different album?
B: I did not. Well, we kind of did. In the studio, the first song that we recorded for “Imaginary Man” was “Mr. Rodriguez.” That song set the tone, and we went with it. The producers Eric Massey and Adam Landry and I, we all got together beforehand. We said that we just wanted to make something that people could move to at Bonnaroo. We could play it live and translate it live and play it to a festival full of people. Our reference was just looking out at a sea of people at Bonnaroo. It had to have tempo, and it had to have groove. It had to be up and down, and it had to translate live in a completely fresh way. That’s what happened. The songs may not sound like they do on the album when we play them live. I might play a solo. It might be a quiet song on the album, and we pump it up live. It might be in a different time signature. A song has life. We wanted to make an album that had a bunch of songs with a bunch of life in them.
C: A majority of people love this album. I like both, but I definitely noticed your growth as an artist. You always have these fans and critics that just don’t like change. People are like, “He sounds different and looks different. I don’t like it.” What kind of response do you have for people like that?
B: You know, they’re entitled to that. Nobody can please everybody. Talking about albums and the evolution of an artist, you’re going to see a bunch of colors. You might not like some. Maybe, they like the quieter stuff, and that’s fine. I aim to please, of course, but I aim to please myself, first and foremost. I wonder if I’ll ever get the opportunity to step out of my own bubble and see it from the outside. You win some, and you lose some. How ‘bout that?
C: We’re a few days into 2016. What are your plans for the next year?
B: I just want to keep moving forward. I’d like to have a big collection of really melodic, beautifully poetic songs for album three. I’d like to become a better guitar player. I’d like to become a more professional singer. I’d like to be loved and love people. It’s a great question, because I could go on for hours. I’d like to add another pair of pants to my wardrobe, literally. I’d like to get a nice suit and a nice hat. I’d really like to continue to play awesome shows and rock out softly and hard as well. I’d to expand my horizon as an artist.