One of the most flattering experiences for a writer is someone telling you that they have read some of your writing and enjoyed it. When Meredith Baker wrote to say that she enjoyed my Downtown piece on Rachel Brown, I was flattered, of course. Then after some further e-mailing, it became apparent that I should be doing a story about Meredith as well.
A graduate of both Harvard and Oxford, Meredith is the daughter of astronaut Ellen Baker. She has taught in schools and orphanages in Honduras, Brazil, Nicaragua, Namibia, Mozambique and Kenya. Her humanitarian work has been written about for the BBC, the Harvard Crimson, Global Post, the Queens Courier and the Houston Chronicle. Her latest release is the single “Spanish Sunrise,” which Meredith wrote in Boston about Spain, then filmed a music video for in Honduras, Malta, Cape Verde, and Portugal.
In advance of the Meredith moving from New York to London, she is playing a farewell gig on Nov. 29 at Arlene’s Grocery. Meredith kindly answered some Q&A over e-mail about her past, present and future as a musician, humanitarian and general globetrotter. In the meantime, she can be followed online at www.meredithbakermusic.com.
Why the move to England?
Meredith Baker: I went to Oxford last year for a Master’s in African Studies and while I was there, I started a news program, On The Map, Off The Radar. I also did a lot with my music and I was able to play some of my songs on BBC Introducing and London Live TV. Oxford awarded me an entrepreneur visa to stay in England for an extra year to continue working on my media start-up, so I thought I would take the opportunity to enjoy living in London, learn more of the U.K. music scene, and take advantage of the cheap travel around Europe!
What are you going to miss most about New York in moving to England?
M: I am going to miss the unbeatable energy of New York City and sitting and playing guitar in Washington Square Park. I always take my guitar there at night and play/people-watch/listen to the other musicians. I am also going to miss my sunset runs on the West Side Highway running path a lot as well. I’ll also undoubtedly miss the USD – London / the British pound definitely makes New York feel cheap!
What are you most excited about with your upcoming move?
M: I’m really excited to finally lay roots in London. I’ve made a lot of great friends in England during grad school last year, and I’ve also met some incredible British musicians at various gigs. There is a huge acoustic scene in England and I’m ready to hit the ground running with more shows and collaborations with British musicians. I’ll also be living close to London Bridge area and I’m looking forward to my morning runs along the Thames River!
What should be expected from your farewell show at Arlene’s Grocery?
M: I remember my first time going to watch a band play at Arlene’s when I had just turned 21 a few years ago. I was not very far along in my own music and I made a promise to myself that I’d work hard to perform on the stage there one day. It is extra special to be able to do my last show before my move at Arlene’s Grocery for this reason. I’ll be playing songs from my EP, Maybe I Won’t Come Home Tonight, that I released in February, as well as my singles “Spanish Sunrise” and my bossa nova song “Coisas Inesperadas.” My songs are a collection of my travels, so they kind of dip into a few different genres — bossa nova, reggae, indie. The common thread, however, is always the desire to either explore beyond one’s horizons or find a silver lining after a roadblock.
What’s ahead for you besides this move and the farewell show?
M: I’m working on a new single, “Cruise Control,, which should be ready by early December. I will also be playing my first festival in 2016, Envision Festival in Costa Rica, which I am beyond excited about. Otherwise, I’ll continue to conduct interviews for my media startup, teach yoga and busk in the [London] Underground tube stations during my spare time, and finish the screenplay I am working on with two of my friends.
Do you have a favorite album of 2015?
M: I actually have a tie for my favorite album this year. I have been listening to Ryn Weaver’s album The Fool a ton. Her song “Pierre” has been my “final-stretch-to-the-finish-line” running anthem. I also really love George Ezra’s album Wanted On Voyage. I usually write my songs when I travel, and his whole album was based around his travels through Europe. Coincidentally, I discovered his album when I was traveling around the Cape Verdean islands by myself for my dissertation research, so Wanted On Voyage has extra ‘nomad’ significance to me.
Finally, Meredith, any last words for the kids?
M: I just got back from a week in the Peruvian Amazon. I was in an area of the jungle for a week without wifi or my phone and it really helped me “reset” before moving on to the next chapter of my life. I am especially prone to technology and social media and going without it – or “disconnecting to reconnect,” as I like to say — really gave me so much more mind space to not only create more music, but also to re-think what it means to be fully present and in tune with my surroundings. I’m going to try to have a day each week where I go “off the radar” to maintain this re-set, and I really can’t recommend it enough to others. I’ve found that even just having a few designated hours of no screens can be so freeing!
-by Darren Paltrowitz