Hayden Baker Kicks Off 2023 with a Slate of Music Set for Release

Too much is never enough when it comes to rock solid country tunes, and for fans of Hayden Baker’s Brad Paisley meets Brooks & Dunn style, there will be plenty of new tunes spread throughout the year to satisfy that craving.

With a new EP, Growing Pains, set for release in the spring, Baker already has plans to enter the studio to record a full-length album, set for release in the fall. With over 100 unreleased songs in his back pocket, Baker has a host of songs to sift through as he looks to keep his listeners’ appetites well fed in 2023.

We chatted with Baker all about his upcoming releases, his newest single, “Just Talkin’,” his guitar playing roots and more!

Pro Country: Your bio mentions receiving a guitar at three-years old as a gift. How quickly did you gravitate to it and begin to play seriously?

Hayden Baker: I didn’t gravitate towards playing as early as I wish I did, especially now that I do it for a living. I always loved the guitar; I was always watching CMT music videos and paying attention to the guitars that were being played. When I was listening to music as a kid, I would go crazy when the guitar solos came on. My mom would be driving, and I would be in the back seat headbanging when a guitar solo would come on. I didn’t start actually playing guitar until I was about 15. My whole childhood revolved around baseball, and then football after that. I was 16 when I saw Brad Paisley at the Houston Rodeo, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do and how I wanted to play. I went home and learned all of his stuff, and now Brad Paisley’s chicken pickin’ stuff is kind of the baseline of my style. I’ve been honored to become friends with him and get to jam with him a little bit too.

PC: Once you started playing in your early teens, was it an immediate realization that you wanted to pursue music as a career or was there a buffer period in between?

HB: It was some time after that. I picked up the guitar fairly quickly. I started playing at 15, and a couple years into it, I was playing Paisley solos. I was playing baseball at junior college in east Texas, and my first pitch of the fall season, I tore my UCL and had to have Tommy John Surgery. I had a whole year to do whatever I wanted, and I decided to get really good at the guitar. I figured if I wanted to make money in the business, I might as well try to sing and write songs too, so it was around my freshman year of college when it turned into some sort of budding career.

PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music for the first time with your Born in the Wrong Generation album?

HB: I was excited to know that you could put out music as an independent artist. That was when Spotify was really starting to take hold. I remember being up in Lufkin when I decided to write, and I met this guy on the internet named Carter Smith. We decided to sit down and write, and we came up with “How It Used To Be,” which was the first song we put out. Throughout my sophomore season, I was gathering the songs for Born in the Wrong Generation; that’s when I wrote “How Many Beers,” “Let Me In” and some of those other songs. I went into that with blind optimism. I had never written a song before, but I had a concept for an EP and decided to give it a shot. My fans still love some of those songs and I still play some of them live, which is super cool.

PC: The songs on your 2020 album, Against the Grain, have earned well over 200,000 streams combined on Spotify alone, with “Waitin’ on Love” landing on the Texas Country Music Chart’s Top 200 in both 2020 and 2021. What kind of momentum did you feel surrounding that release as those things were happening for you?

HB: It was interesting. I was recording that record from December of 2019 to around March of 2020, so we finished it right when the pandemic hit. I was at Texas A&M and had just played a big show opening for Parker McCollum, and momentum was really starting to carry us a bit before everything got shut down. We decided to keep putting stuff out, and we put out “Waitin’ on Love” and “A Dream: The Baseball Song” in June of that year. It didn’t take hold right away because the industry was so weird at that time. We put out “Your Perfume” in July, and that one got noticed a little bit on Spotify. We had “Waitin’ on Love” out at radio, and it cracked the top 20 on the Texas charts. That record was kind of a slow burn, and it didn’t get as noticed as I would’ve liked it to, but I’m still super proud of it. That was the record where I learned how to work in the studio as a guitarist and vocalist. That was when I met my producer, Travis Bishop, who plays keys for Neal McCoy on the road. We blended well together on that record, and we still do today.

PC: Your 2022 single, “At Least I’m Here,” was the first release in your new stretch of releases, and has already earned nearly 60,000 streams on Spotify alone. What do you think it was about the song that allowed it to come out of the gates strong and earn that response?

HB: I was in Nashville writing with two guys I love writing with, Tom Perkins and Timothy Baker, who are two ol’ country boys who love writing honky tonk music. When we sat down to write that song, it came together fairly quickly. The guitar lick came quick and it all felt right. I loved it right away. I went into the studio ready and excited for that one, and it came out exactly like I wanted it to. I think there was a lot of hype surrounding it because I hadn’t put anything out in a couple years, and we built it up pretty well. It’s done well on Spotify, and it just hit over 100,000 plays on Apple Music too, so it’s been doing really well.

PC: You shared a teaser of your new single, “Just Talkin’,” on TikTok a few weeks prior to the song’s release which earned over 300,000 views and nearly 90,000 likes. What was it like to see the song having that response in the lead up to release day?

HB: You can’t ask for better [laughs]. It was unbelievable. I was heading off to do a podcast and a show here in Austin, and I was at a red light and decided to do a video hyping the new song. I thought “these never work, but let’s do it.” I remember waking up the next morning and seeing it was at about 20,000 views. Everybody was asking when it came out because they loved it. I said to myself “dammit! I didn’t say the release date in that video!” [laughs]. I responded to all of the comments with the release date and that the pre-save link was in my bio. We got over 1,500 pre-saves, and my distributor was asking what I did; they thought I paid for an ad. They thought it was amazing. It lead to us having a really good first day and first week. This is the most streams I’ve gotten on Spotify in the first week by a long shot. It’s up over 15,000 now.

PC: You mentioned on social media that “Just Talkin’” had that successful start without the assistance of major playlisting. How encouraging has the response to the song been out of the gate and have that life on its own?

HB: Very encouraging. We were a little disappointed on the lack of playlisting, but at the same time, all these streams that we were getting were 90% or more from my listeners’ playlists and my followers. My Spotify followers just about doubled from that TikTok video. We’re hoping to land on something that can help us boost it even further, but Release Radar and Discover Weekly have been helping. We’ll see what happens, but I’m super encouraged and excited, and there’s plenty more coming out on the horizon too.

PC: You wrote “Just Talkin’” with Ariel Boetel and Dakota Striplin. Can you take us in the room and talk about how the song came together?

HB: I started writing that song in the spring of 2021. I was still in college and hadn’t signed a publishing deal yet. That idea: “She’s got a heart by my name in her phone. Sure ain’t been sleeping alone, but she’s everyone we’re just talkin’,” was weird at first. I wrote it from the perspective of being on the same page with the girl. I remember sending it to Ronnie Dunn, who was in the process of getting me signed to his publishing company, and he said he didn’t know what “Just Talkin’” meant, but he thought it was a pretty good song. I explained it to him and he said it was great. I pocketed the song for a year. In 2022, I was writing up there with that song in mind. Dakota and Ariel are pop-minded and have a great sense for melody, and I knew I wanted a woman’s perspective on it because I had the idea to flip it to where the guy is head over heels for the girl but she was keeping it at arm’s length. That sounded more like a country song. I showed them what I had and the main thing I remember is that third verse of him meeting her friends and them saying they’d never seen her smile that way, that was Ariel. I’m very proud of how it came out. When we took it in the studio, everybody was super excited about it.

PC: You mentioned earlier that there’s more new music on the horizon. What information, if any, can you give about any new music? What can people expect to hear?

HB: We are in the process of putting out a five-song EP. It’s going to have the three songs that have already come out, “At Least I’m Here,” “Miss Your Lovin’” and “Just Talkin’.” I’m still on the fence of the order and how I want to do it, but the EP will be titled Growing Pains. All of these songs were written in a season of life where I was finding out how to be a songwriter, artist and adult. I was figuring out who I am and who I want to be. Every song has a different point of view on growing up. You have “At Least I’m Here,” which is a fun, honky tonk song, but the theme is realizing that while life might suck, it can always be worse. “Miss Your Lovin’” is about being on the road and missing your woman, but as far as growing pains go, that one was me realizing I could tap into a blues-rock gritty sound whenever I wanted. “Just Talkin’” is about getting stuck in the talking stage and dating in your 20s, which I went through. There’s going to be a song for my grandpa that passed away last February that me and Trent Willmon wrote two or three days before he passed called “If I Get There Before You,” which is about what I think he would’ve said to my grandma before he passed away. It’s a very special song. The last one is called “Midnight Drive,” that essentially encapsulates the idea of growing paints as a whole. It’s the first song on the EP, and that one will be out soon. It’s about times when I can’t figure out what the hell is going on in my life, usually at midnight for whatever reason, my gut reaction is to get in the truck, drive and figure it out. Probably before Growing Pains even comes out, we’ll be back in the studio working on a full record to come out this fall.

PC: You also mentioned that you were signed to Ronnie Dunn’s publishing company, Perfect Pitch Publishing. What did it mean to you to have the belief from someone who has had Ronnie’s level of success, and what is it like to share a songwriting room with him?

HB: Unbelievable. It doesn’t make any sense [laughs]. He heard the Against the Grain record the week it came out, and he was looking for young artists to sign, at that time, to a record deal. We’ve known Ronnie for a long time through the Houston Rodeo, and he knew that I was singing, but he never said “oh man, this kid’s got what it takes,” it was always “tell him to stick to baseball, don’t get into this business.” [laughs]. He heard that record and liked something about it, so he called and wanted to get me writing with some guys up there. We’ve written three songs together, and there might be one that we wrote together that you might hear on his new record that comes out this year, which is pretty cool. We were actually text-songwriting the other day working on the last line of it. It’s just unbelievable; he’s one of my heroes. I grew up on Brooks & Dunn. If you play one second of any Brooks & Dunn or Brad Paisley song, I could tell you which one it is. That’s how much I love those two artists [laughs].

PC: You’ve had the opportunity to open for several big name artists, but in 2018, you opened for Willie Nelson in Sugar Land, Texas. What was it like to open for and share a stage with a legend of Willie’s caliber, especially being so close to your home town?

HB: It was crazy. Looking back, I have no idea how the hell I pulled that off. That was almost five years ago, and if I played that show now, I’d be nervous [laughs]. It was cool; we got to play a 30-minute set for 6,000 people. It was the first time I played a set of all original music. Born in the Wrong Generation wasn’t even out yet, that’s how early it was. I had nothing out, and I was opening for Willie Nelson [laughs].

PC: Speaking of touring, your website shows a busy tour schedule through the spring. How much are you looking forward to staying that active on the road and bringing your music to so many stages?

HB: Very much so! We found a booking agent out of Houston who works on what we’re wanting to do. It’s been an interesting season because myself and my dad have been booking all of my shows for the past five years, and before we signed, we had already booked 25 shows for the spring. When we brought my new agent in, we just had him fill in the gaps. We’re super excited to go out to New Mexico with Randall King in April, and then we’ll have Roger Creager in Midland. We’re headlining the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo for the second year in a row next month, which is a super fun show. This weekend we’ll be opening for The Bellamy Brothers in one of the tents at the Houston Rodeo. We’re super excited to get our music out there, especially with new stuff in the setlist. And this is the first time I’ve had a consistent band. I’ve been with these guys with me for about two years now, and we’re really starting to mesh well together on stage.

PC: Along with Growing Pains and your tour schedule, what do you have planned for 2023?

HB: The EP will be coming out before summertime; May at the latest. We’ve got some more content for “Just Talkin’” coming; there’s a lyric video on the horizon and a music video, where I’ll make my acting debut [laughs]. Once the EP gets out, we’ll already be back in the studio recording more songs, because I wrote a ton while I was signed to Ronnie’s publishing company. I’ll be going back to Nashville next week to write even more. I’ve got over 100 songs in the tank, and I’m thinking about the ones that need to be out and songs I forgot about. I was playing an acoustic show last weekend, and there were some super fans there that ask about songs I totally forgot about. I sang 20 unreleased originals for them, and we were all in agreement about doing a double album [laughs]. We’ll have a summer party single and a full record in the fall. We’ve got too much music in the tank; I’m still young and I’ve gotta take advantage of that [laughs].

*Hayden’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*


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