Piano pop-punk with a rock pit orchestra is how Zaq Baker sums up his music—and we think that’s pretty accurate! In this interview, we sat down with the Minneapolis creative to discuss his unique style, inspirations, upcoming music, and more.
Hey! Introduce yourself. Where are you from?
I’m from Minneapolis. All my songs come from my vivid imagination, though.
When did you start making music?
I started playing in bands when I was fifteen. I think I started taking piano lessons when I was five. My teacher quit me when I was in seventh grade because I only wanted to play by ear and never practiced. I got very serious as a songwriter at twenty-three.
Who inspires you?
The two biggest influences on my most recent album, This Time It’s Personal, are Regina Spektor and Billy Joel. I see them both as expert storytellers who use the piano as an exciting vehicle to push characters and emotions forward. They also employ delightful leading tones and key changes and use incredible melodies.
How would you describe your music style?
I’ve called it “piano pop-punk with a rock pit orchestra.” I hope the grand piano at the front of guitars, drums, bass, harmonies and a full string ensemble, is rare and invigorating. There is a lot of theater influence. I’ve been told my melodies have that late 90’s / early 00’s pop flavor, which I take as a high compliment.
Who are you listening to now?
At this literal moment, I’m going through Melissa Etheridge’s entire catalog. It’s spectacular. I also rotate Wilco’s discography heavily every winter (never disappoints). I just went through much of Warren Zevon’s peak work, which is a stellar, weird journey, and I’m chipping away at 28+ hours of the songs Kanye produced before/while striking out under his own name. The new documentary is very, very inspiring. I’ve been listening to the new Big Thief and Kim Petras records a lot, too.
What’s your best project or single so far?
I hope my brand-new album is my best work, though I’m quite proud of the two albums that came right beforehand — Cardio (December 2020) and Maddie’s Delivery Service (February 2021). Cardio is 8 songs of “creative nonfiction” and has a confessional flavor when it comes to heartbreak and mental health. Maddie’s Delivery Service is 5 songs, entirely made-up, and really shows my theater influence. Both feature a full rock ensemble and strings and were massive, thoroughly creatively stimulating undertakings.
Any upcoming releases from you to look out for?
I’m working on several big creative projects of varying sizes. For now, since This Time It’s Personal literally just came out, I’m focusing on getting word out about it.
Have any shoutouts?
Longtime producer and engineer Rob Genadek handled grand piano and vocals engineering on This Time It’s Personal, then handled the mix and the master for same. Major shoutout also to Jillian Rae for laying down the full strings ensemble and to Eric Martin for strings engineering. Cardio and Maddie’s Delivery Service feature a cast of incredible musicians: Colin Loynachan (engineering), Andy Kallevig (bass guitar), Sheldon Way (drums), Christian Wheeler (guitars), The Aftergreens (vocal harmonies), Lydia Pelletier (vocal feature, “Down for Whatever”), Allison Payonk (sax solo, “Teammate”) and Jillian and Eric handling strings.
Beyond the music, the circle of people I have to thank for being patient with me throughout the last several tumultuous years of living and writing is way too big to start enumerating here.
Want more from Zaq Baker? Check him out on Spotify or wherever you stream music!