On Friday, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Julien Baker will release her second album, Turn Out The Lights, one of the most emotionally overpowering albums of 2017. A native of Memphis, Baker came up in the city’s local punk scene, playing in the band Forrister before she started writing stark, confessional songs about on her own. Baker’s 2015 debut, Sprained Ankle, was a critical favorite, but Turn Out The Lights ought to raise her profile.
While Turn Out The Lights boasts a lush, dreamy sound that gently edges Baker away from folk and toward rock, the focus is kept on Baker’s affecting vocals and plaintive guitar and occasional piano. Imagine a record like Arcade Fire’s Funeral, with its many emotional peaks and valleys, performed by one person intimately communicating her innermost thoughts and fears about God, relationships, mental health and the meaning of existence, and you have an approximation of Turn Out The Lights.
Earlier this month, I invited Baker on my podcast to talk about the record and her career. It was about a week after her 22nd birthday, and yet Baker immediately made it clear that she’s wise beyond her years. Of course, you also get that impression from her deep and insightful songs. But Baker is the rare artist who can smartly analyze her own work, and articulate the thought process behind it. This makes for a great conversation, which also touches on her love of Bruce Springsteen, whether she would consider working with Jack Antonoff, and the secret to making people cry.