Chance encounter leads Bastian Baker to opening gig on Shania Twain tour
By Kari Kenner
July 25, 2018
If You Go
What: Global superstar Shania Twain presents her "NOW Tour" with special guest Bastian Baker
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, 301 S. Temple in Salt Lake City
When: Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Cost: Tickets starting at $26.95
Info: vivintarena.com/events/369, bastianbaker.com
For Bastian Baker, a Swiss singer and songwriter now on tour with Shania Twain, music has always been more than just a hobby or something to do to fill the time.
“Music is the one thing I needed to do,” Baker said in an interview with the Daily Herald prior to his upcoming concert with Shania Twain at Vivint Arena on Saturday. “It’s hard to explain, but it’s a need. Growing up, I was listening to Queen. I was listening to ‘The Show Must Go On,’ and I thought, ‘Man, I want to do something like that.’ So I transitioned from professional hockey to music in 2011 and have been traveling the world ever since.”
Baker is quite the mixed bag when it comes to talent. Following in his father’s footsteps, he pursued a professional hockey career with the Swiss National League, but his love for music stayed with him, and he eventually went on to win Swiss Oscars and MTV Europe Music Awards, with appearances on “The Voice” in Belgium and “Dancing With the Stars” in France.
He’s shared the stage with Bryan Adams, Elton John, Boy George and more, but considers his friendship with Twain one of the most influential of his career.
“It’s a fun story,” Baker said of how the pair first met. “It happened at the Montreux Jazz Festival, which is a legendary festival they have in Switzerland. The guy who founded it, the guy who founded it, (Claude Nobs), was the guy who discovered me playing a bar the first week after I dropped my first album.”
Nobs invited Baker to play not at the festival particularly, but outdoors surrounding it, which is where Twain first heard him play. According to Baker, it was right after that Twain sought him out.
“They told me, ‘There’s a Canadian singer here to meet you,’ ” Baker said. “I knew Shania Twain, and knew all her songs, but I didn’t know what an icon she is. I was a little younger and didn’t grow up listening to her music, only what I heard on the radio. I didn’t know about the hundreds and millions of records sold and the Grammys, so we’ve always been on the same level. … She’s easy to be friends with because she’s at the most humble, down-to-earth level.”
Baker was just 18 when he first met Twain, and now, six years later, she invited him to join her on her “Now Tour.” Though Baker’s music has already reached a high level of success on the international stage, with the help of Twain, he’s working to move toward finding an American audience as well.
Baker is now currently working on an album in Nashville, but said that will in no way influence his music to just be country, as the city is largely known for.
“Honestly, when I first came to Nashville, I talked to some production companies and they said, ‘If you’d come here five years ago, I’d say it’s not the right place for you, but now it’s opening up.’ I like that there’s less genre. I don’t really fit in any of the boxes, so it’s awesome that everything is opening — there’s pop, folk, rock, country and indie artists. I do a lot of things — I like to write fun melodies and songs where people can sing along. One day I’ll write a super pop catchy song and the next day a depressing folk ballad.”
According to Baker, one of the things he’s most proud of and grateful for it the support his career has received from artists in his home country, where music is considered less of a viable career.
“In Switzerland, it’s not a dream that’s very accessible, because there are not many possibilities to become an artist. It’s the only job where you don’t get paid certain amounts a month to make a good living, so it’s a risky choice.”
But it’s one that has paid off and led Baker to traveling the world and pursuing his passion in front of millions.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, and now more than ever,” he said. “That’s where the American dream really does inspire me. There are so many inspiring stories.”
With more time hopefully opening up in the future, Baker said his key goal will be to share that passion with others, especially in his home country.
“I want to start a school and teach songwriting to kids,” he said. “I want to have them dream about being a songwriter.”
Twain has definitely done what she can to support Baker’s dreams as an artist, at least according to Baker, who actually performs with Twain during her concerts.
“The best part of performing is how she’s introducing me every night, calling me her favorite songwriter and an amazing entertainer and human being,” Baker said. “And I’m on the side of the stage blushing. … It’s awesome that they know the main act hand-picked me and it’s her choice.”
The pair perform “Party For Two” and “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed,” in a part of the show that Baker said is just straight-up fun.
“Definitely we have the most honest, fun, cool relationship, and I love it,” he said. “Her husband also is one of my best friends now, and the great thing on tour is that after the show we can just hang out and talk until 6 a.m. — it’s pretty rare nowadays to find someone you can talk to until six in the morning. … They’re such amazing, genuine people.”
Though Baker rocks the stage when he’s performing with Twain, his unique style during his opening is a little more stripped back, meaning just his voice and an acoustic guitar.
“I’m an honest person, and I’m the same in my songwriting and when I’m performing — I am who I am,” he said. “It’s the perfect set up for me to come on stage on my own.”
Though during his own European tours, Baker played with an eight-piece band, he said, “It’s always funny to find myself alone in front of thousands of people. … I’m having a blast playing North American arenas for the first time in my life, and I hope in a couple years we can make those arenas with our own shows.”
Baker will hit the stage of Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, and said he’s looking forward to an incredible show in a new location.
“I wish the world was a concert venue,” he said. “I love how all kinds of backgrounds of people come together in one place and just enjoy music. My goal every night is just to make sure everyone leaves with a smile on their face and can just be happy.”