Under The Radar – John Edward Baumann Share
Like a handful of his similarly compelling peers, John Edward Baumann has the gift of writing smart songs about folks making dumb decisions, and of tempering his youthful gusto with a well-traveled eye for detail, dignity, and world-weariness. His voice isn’t huge in range or volume, but there’s a lend-me-your-ears earnestness in it that makes it even easier to enjoy provocative numbers about stormy-skulled loners who aren’t sure if they got sucker-punched in the parking lot or just hit the ground due to their own bad habits (“Potter County”). On his debut EP, he can wax pessimistic about his ex’s marital prospects (“Congratulations”), poke fun at the small-town fundamentalists (“Bible Belt”) or even lampoon his own wish for good luck to fall in his lap (“TV On The Floor”) without sounding vindictive, smug or even pessimistic. It’s a short record, but it’s no small feat. I was able to catch up with Baumann and ask him the usual questions about his career, as expected he had a lot to say and said it well.
In your own words, describe your sound.
It is a narrative driven, country and/or Americana sound, with plenty of room to grow. But it is the lyrics that come first for me. I don’t claim to be a great guitar player or singer, but I love writing the song and believe that if the lyrics can stand alone, the music will only make the story better.
Where are you based out of?
Austin, Texas. And I love it here. I’m from Amarillo, grew up in San Antonio and went to college in Fort Worth; but, Austin is home now and I hope and plan to be here for a good while.
What are some of your favorite and/or most frequently played venues?
I am pretty young in my songwriting career and still have quite a list of venues that I would like to play, but as for those I have played and enjoyed: The Saxon Pub, The Monument Café Biergarten in Georgetown, The Woodshed Smokehouse in Fort Worth, and the Auslander Biergarten in Fredericksburg.
Name a couple of career highlights, so far.
1) When I was a kid, I distinctly remember listening to Robert Earl Keen’s No. 2 Live Dinner Album. I’ll never forget when he introduces his band members during the taping. I remembered all of their names. So, the highlight: some ten years later, here I am in the studio with all of REK’s band, tracking my own songs. It was a “pinch me” moment.
2) Getting radio play in Fort Worth and Austin. Fort Worth, because that was the station I listened to in college (95.9 The Ranch), and I never thought I’d be on that station, though I dreamt of it plenty. And in Austin, getting a song on the Roadhouse on KVET (98.1) has been surreal. I am very thankful for these highlights.
What music do you have out already, and what’s coming in the near future?
I have a 5 song EP out now, called West Texas Vernacular. But it’s time to move on to the next thing! In the spring of 2013, Mayans be damned, I plan to record a full-length record here in Austin. I’m currently in the brainstorming phase of that project, but really looking forward to it!
If someone’s only gonna buy one song of yours … where to start?
I’d have to go with “Midland.” It isn’t about the city.
Name some of your main influences as a songwriter/musician.
James McMurtry, Robert Earl Keen and Adam Carroll have laid the foundation for me as far as songwriters go. But Lyle Lovett is my north star these days. I do not think there are many others like him.
Who have you played more song swaps or co-bill with that anyone else?
I have played many shows and song swaps with my lifelong friend, Garrett T. Capps, who also plays mandolin for me. He’s working on some exciting stuff coming out next year. But, I have been very lucky to meet and play a show here and there with Grady Spencer and Courtney Patton.
If a fan’s buying you a drink … what’ll it be?
The Yellow Belly Banquet Beer: Coors Original. Or a whiskey and water. Contingency plans if all else fails: Shiner or Lone Star.
Name a couple of people you’d like to publicly thank for helping you in your career.
I couldn’t do a thing without my family. They have been supportive and encouraging from the get go. And my longtime girlfriend, Alyssa, who always lets me ramble about my songs or how the show went.
What’s one of the strangest gigs you’ve ever played?
I played a motorcycle show at the Travis County Expo Center once in this big arena. The place was essentially empty, but they had me up in the announcer’s area playing country songs across the entire arena. None of it made sense. I was very glad when it was over.
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