“Growing Pains” is more than just the title of Hayden Baker’s latest EP: it’s the summation of years of hard work that the Texas native has put in to honing his craft since he debuted himself five years ago. And if streaming numbers are any indication, that work is paying off in spades.
When Baker began releasing singles from Growing Pains last year, the EP’s first release, the Telecaster-laden “At Least I’m Here,” skyrocketed out of the gate. And when the steel-soaked heartbreaker, “Just Talkin’,” kicked off his 2023 by continuing that momentum, Baker all but cemented himself as one of the top rising artists and pickers in the genre ahead of the EP’s release as he brings an admittedly newfound confidence into his artistry.
We caught up with Baker to chat about Growing Pains, as well as his personal growth, more new music and more!
Pro Country: Your new EP, Growing Pains, serves as your first collection of songs you’ve released since your 2020 album, Against the Grain. As release day was approaching, how much were you looking forward to releasing a collection of songs again, especially one that has a consistent theme throughout?
Hayden Baker: I was thrilled. I’ve taken a lot of time to focus on the craft of songwriting the past few years, and I couldn’t wait to start sharing the songs I’ve been working on. As for the theme, it was a blast to come up with and choose songs for. Being in my mid-20s, I’ve had to do a lot of growing up lately, and these five songs perfectly describe different aspects of that. All in all, the theme of the EP to me is in the title of track four. It could always be worse, but “At Least I’m Here!”
PC: When we talked about three months ago, “Just Talkin’” was approaching 15,000 streams on Spotify. As we write this today, it just surpassed 70,000 and is one of your top-streamed songs on the platform. What has it been like to see the life that “Just Talkin’” has had and to see it continue to resonate with people?
HB: That’s been very rewarding to see. I wrote a version of that song by myself three years ago, and then took it to Nashville and changed the story up to make it land a little bit better, and it’s awesome to see it resonating. My goal with that song was to take a concept that is very modern and make it sound like a classic country song. It’s great to see that formula working on some level.
PC: The last single you released before the release of Growing Pains, “If I Get There Before You,” is a song you wrote with Trent Willmon about your grandparents. In the time since the song was written and released, what has the song meant to you and your family?
HB: It means the world to us. That song and the accompanying music video are the most special things I’ve done in my career thus far. From the writing to the production to the video, every aspect of that song came together with the utmost care out of respect for PaPa and his legacy on our family. It’s so poignant and personal, and I couldn’t be more proud of how it turned out.
PC: Brad Paisley shared “If I Get There Before You” to his Instagram story on release day. As someone who named him as a major influence on your music the last time we talked, what has it meant to have his support and to have a relationship with him?
HB: You couldn’t put a price on that. Not many people can say they are friends with their hero, and I do my best to not take that for granted. He’s a truly genuine human being, and has been nothing but kind to me and my family over the last few years. He’s an alright guitar player too.
PC: “Midnight Drive” is the newly released song with the release of Growing Pains. Can you take us in your head and talk about how the song came together?
HB: It took a while! That one was written with Tom Perkins and Timothy Baker, and I remember Timothy playing this nostalgic sounding guitar part in the writers’ room, and it struck a chord with me immediately. We chased that melody for a few hours, slaved over three or four lines, and then had to go home, but I knew I wanted to see this idea through, and I did some leg work on it myself. Then when I came back to Nashville a while later, we finished it and it became this Restless Heart-sounding driving song, and I love it. My favorite line is in the chorus: “I don’t know where I’m going, just hoping I’m getting somewhere.” That, to me, encompasses the theme of the whole EP. I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going, I just hope I’m getting somewhere.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from Growing Pains after listening all the way through?
HB: I hope they see the growth in me in all facets: writing, singing, playing, etc. I’ve worked tirelessly over the past three years to get my abilities to a level I’m proud of, and I hope that comes across. More importantly though, I hope the songs on this EP help folks process feelings of uncertainty, feelings of anxiety and feelings of grief, and give them hope and solace in knowing that we all go through it.
PC: To coincide with the theme of Growing Pains, 2023 will bring the five-year anniversary of your debut album, Born in the Wrong Generation. In the five years since that release, what do you feel has been your biggest area of growth as an artist?
HB: Confidence. I have so much more confidence in my creative choices and abilities now than I did then, and that just comes from work. I put in a lot of time to make sure my craft and my abilities are where they need to be for me to seamlessly express my ideas musically, and I’m finally at a point where I’m not second guessing myself as much.
PC: The last time we talked, you mentioned that you’ve been continuing to stay busy in both writing rooms and in the studio. How important is it for you to stay busy and to have a steady string of music to release for your fans?
HB: In today’s climate, it’s very important to have a consistent stream of content to keep fans engaged. It’s difficult to stay on top of that as an independent artist, but I try! I’ve got a lot of ideas in my head and a lot of songs in the tank, so it’s all about compartmentalizing them and making them make sense out in social media land.
PC: Along with promoting Growing Pains, what do you have planned for the rest of 2023?
HB: A week before Growing Pains released, we broke ground on a 13-song album that is set to release at the beginning of 2024. Singles from it will start releasing this fall. I can’t wait for folks to hear it, it’s my best work yet.
*Hayden’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*
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