A Memphis, Tennessee-based singer/songwriter with a knack for finding the shaky ground between heart-wrenching and cathartic, Julien Baker’s stark and soulful music evokes names like Bon Iver, Daughter, and Natalie Prass. Noted for its personal lyrics and vulnerable delivery, her first album, Sprained Ankle, was released in 2015. She continued to draw critical acclaim as one-third of Boygenius, a group she formed with Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers in 2018. In the meantime, her solo material gradually expanded arrangements from spare piano and guitar to add keyboards, a rhythm section, and more by her third album, 2021′s Little Oblivions and 2022 EP B-Sides.
Baker honed her music skills while playing in her high school band, Forrister, with whom she continued to perform while attending college. After writing a batch of songs that didn’t seem to fit the group’s more rock-oriented vibe, Baker headed to Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb Studios in Richmond, Virginia to begin recording what would eventually become her solo debut, 2015′s Sprained Ankle. Issued by 6131 Records, it reached number 23 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart and led to an invitation to join the Matador Records roster. With a more expansive sound and equally intimate lyrics, the self-produced follow-up, 2017′s Turn Out the Lights, was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis. It landed on the Billboard 200, peaking at number 78.
She then joined fellow indie singer/songwriters Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus in the trio Boygenius. Together they issued their eponymous EP in late 2018, also on Matador. Bridgers and Dacus appeared on a track, “Favor,” from Baker’s third solo set, 2021′s Little Oblivions. Self-produced and recorded in Memphis, it further expanded instrumentation, with Baker covering most of the performances herself. The album cracked the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 and reached number six on the Top Independent Albums chart. A companion EP, B-Sides, arrived in July 2022 and featured the single “Guthrie.” ~ James Christopher Monger