INTERVIEW: Flash Baker – an all-round entertainer!

INTERVIEW: Flash Baker – an all-round entertainer!

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Flash Baker out of Atlanta, Georgia is a Singer, Songwriter, Rapper, Dancer, Actor, Performing Artist who studied at the legendary Pebblebrook High School in Atlanta, and Point Park University. He is also an Educator & Choreographer. Flash spent the past 5 years working as a performer on Disney Cruise Ships. Flash Baker is an artist who provides the courage for anyone to embrace and harness their own superpower. Creating uplifting and encouraging music, and entertainment for listeners to champion their own unique capabilities. Ripe with motivational tales and an unflinching ambition, Flash Baker is nothing short of a superhero.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?

Flash Baker: Music has always been a cornerstone of my life. Growing up, it was just my mom and brother. We bounced around a lot so we didn’t have a TV in the house growing up.

It was music from the moment I woke up to the second I fell asleep. Jazz, R&B, reggae, gospel… just melodies. I would sing along with everything, even up to the point where I had memorized ad-libs and background embellishments.

Singing in church and school choirs became a great outlet for a while until I got bored and made up my own melodies (laughs.) It wasn’t until I was introduced to musicals in high school, seeing my love for music become married with dance… it inspired me. Seeing my passions work together so seamlessly made artists like Usher and Michael Jackson even greater role models in my eyes.

But there was still a part of my artistry that I felt was unfulfilled. With all the training and techniques I had learned through church and school, I was able to continue training in Pittsburgh where I awoke the emcee within me. That’s where my partner in crime Torrey Kristopher, and I, first I crossed paths. We would link up after class (if we weren’t already skipping) or through late nights just writing and experimenting with different flows and melodies. He really showed me that it was possible for us to make good music and with that belief in one another the beeZkneeZ was formed. And through all that, the establishment of the recording artist that is Flash Baker.

  1. I see you’ve had formal training. Is this something you would advise to any aspiring artist, and how has formal training facilitated your career?

Flash Baker: I would definitely suggest studying formally and educating yourself in some aspect if you want to do music because it can help. It enables you to create limitlessly and decisively. Along with empowering you to really articulate and collaborate with your producers.

I actually attended a performing arts magnet school named Pebblebrook High School, in Mableton, Georgia (about 20 minutes north of Atlanta,) then proceeded to study musical theatre and dance at Point Park University.

The acting really helps me with my writing, helping me illustrate, analyze and effectively tell stories through verses. I can definitely say that a lot of my creative thinking spawns from those lessons.

  1. Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?

Flash Baker: Oh, easy. Michael Jackson (obviously), Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, James Brown, Usher, OutKast, Craig Mack, Notorious BIG.

  1. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?

Flash Baker: Overall quality across the board. I don’t want it to just sound ‘good’ or have people only enjoy what I’m saying, not how I’m saying it.

I want to give you the best sounding art as well as grab your ear and take you on a journey with the words. I live for  whenever I can make someone just rinse their worries, and become lost, to make them bob their head and look up at you like ‘what just happened’ when it’s finished… you got a banger (laughs.)

  1. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style?

Flash Baker:  I think going to school for theatre really helped me, because it’s all about truly understanding who you are as a performer, in order to best represent yourself. So when it comes to making music, both with the beeZkneeZ and as a solo artist, I’m able to express exactly what I want to say, how I want to say it and to whom I’m saying it.

Plainly, I would say that it’s more just the process of gaining confidence and exploring the realms of your originality, rather than explicitly learning it.

  1. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?

Flash Baker: Whether you like it or not, everything coexists with politics because we’re all people. I have made music on certain issues before, but I won’t press the matter because I know that isn’t the foundation of my music. However, when it comes to using my musical platform and performing, it provides me with the perfect opportunity to encourage awareness.

Simply, I think it’s our duty. Some of the most iconic moments in American history were performed by athletes and artists. Like John Carlos and Tommie Smith on the podium picture in the ‘69 Olympics, or Ray Charles’ performance strike in Georgia until segregated seating became abolished. They and so many others have used their platform for a greater purpose, and so must we. We as artists have an incredible influence and need to use the opportunity to harness that power for positivity.

  1. Do you ever write a song with current musical trends, formulas or listener satisfaction in mind, or do you stoically focus on your own personal vision and trust that people will empathize with your sound?

Flash Baker: Um…..I’m gonna say a little of both (laughs.) I say that only because like most artists, I’m a HUGE fan of music from the past, present and future too. For me, any and everybody is in rotation (laughs.) I think the more secure you are in your sound, the adaptation just happens more naturally.

  1. Could you describe your creative processes? How do start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a beat, a melody, or a narrative in your head?

Flash Baker:  It can literally start in any type of way. One thing about me is I’m not gonna try to force the art or stick to a creative process because if there were an exact science, I’d have a record deal (laughs.) But sometimes my producers Mu$e and Lauda will send me a beat and that will be the only thing I listen to for the next 2-3 days, just to really feel it inside and out. Then I set the time steps, where the verses are, how many hooks, if there’s a bridge, that type of stuff. A melody will stick around the fifth listen, and then from there it’s just finding the lyrics that fit melody.

Or… Sometimes I’ll rap a line in my head and then expand upon it using my mental rhyme book, then if I’ve constructed an actual verse from it, I go through an old beat folder my team has and see if it sticks with any of those.

I just try to be a vessel for the music and however we meet, I embrace (laughs.)

  1. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your career or life so far, and how did you overcome the event?

Flash Baker:  The most difficult thing, hmmmmm… the desire for instant gratification (laughs.) And artists, as Beyoncé would say, we’re all “sensitive about our shit.” It was tough for me at first, putting so much heart, effort and energy into a project just to get 5 listens (laughs.) I was humbled and I’m still learning that this business is a marathon and not a race. You’ve gotta believe in the quality of the product you’re putting out and not let the influx of money or fans dictate your success or drive your passion.

  1. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your career so far?

Flash Baker:  Being able to do what I love and share my music internationally. I was blessed and fortunate enough to perform on cruise ships for three years, and hearing my music at parties with dozens of nationalities and beliefs, all having a good time and enjoying my music.

Also, when I found I had 250 listeners in Africa and another 300 in Europe. It was just incredible because all I wanna do is share my art with the world.

  1. How did the moniker Flash Baker come about?

Flash Baker: (Laughs) This is always my favorite question.

Okay, so back in high school I played football and at two-a-days, I clocked a 4.39 40 yard dash time, so naturally the name Flash stuck. My mother’s maiden name is Baker, and when I was born my dad was late getting to the hospital so in all the hoopla, I ended up with two birth certificates and social security cards one saying Jameason Sterling Kasey Baker-McClary and one saying Sterling Kasey Baker.

Now all my life I grew up thinking I had one name (Sterling McClary) and I didn’t find out about this name ‘Baker’ until FAFSA accused me of trying to steal ‘Sterling Bakers’ identity (laughs.)

So in college I went by Sterling Baker, and there I played rugby and one time I scored and the announcer goes “Tri scored by Flash Baker” and once I heard that I knew I had been branded (laughs.)

  1. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?

Flash Baker: I’ll always read them, I’m only human (laughs.) But I try to stay focused on the task at hand. Constructive criticism is always welcomed and encouraged because I’m nowhere near where I want to be, and I believe if you can’t grow and accept criticism then you’re in the wrong field.

This business is solely based on opinion and preference, so you need to understand SOMEBODYS won’t like you and that’s okay. Niggas hated on Jesus so… there’s only so much I can control.

  1. Which aspects of being an independent artist excites you most and which aspects discourages you most?

Flash Baker:  Definitely the creative control. Being able to present Flash Baker, beeZkneeZ and VIP exactly how we feel it should be is exciting, because we know that when it pops, it’s genuine art and genuinely us.

The scariest part is the financial aspect and distribution support or lack thereof and working against that man Father Time.

We’re not a big company and a lot of us are working jobs to fund everything ourselves, so when we drop a project we don’t have a big promotional package and we don’t have thousands of fans sharing and retweeting. Sometimes I just look at my age and how things are moving, and I don’t want to be left behind just because I can’t financially back myself currently, like I know I could from a signing with a record label.

  1. What do you feel are the most important elements you have learnt from your experiences working as a performer on Disney Cruise Ships?

Flash Baker:  Storytelling and performance consistency.  When telling those iconic and legendary stories 3-5 times a day, you need to properly convey the message as well as entertain everyone, of all ages.

But, you’re also doing the same shit for 9-11 months like a tour, so it can get a bit monotonous… So with new riffs, or finding people in the crowd to feed off of, you gotta make show 78, just as turnt as show 7 or 8.

  1. Could you tell us something about your latest project, #MaskOffTheMixTape, and what fans can expect to hear?

Flash Baker: #MaskOffTheMixTape is a nostalgic appetizer for my upcoming album “Duty Calls” for those who have been following me. It’s kind of an early 2000’s style mixtape introduction for the first time listener.

Growing up mixtapes were a HUGE part of my childhood. We waited for Lil Wanye to drop the Dedications, and I was always ready for Don Cannon or Gangsta Grillz to release something. So I figured this would be a great and quick way to gain some new listeners and followers as well as give the OG supporters some reassurance that I’ve been working and that if you enjoyed “No Fear, Flash is Here” then you’re in for a treat. You’re gonna hear some bars! Like I really wanted to flex my rhyme muscles and pay homage not only to the rappers that influenced my sound, but to really show I’m not your typical R&B singer. BUT WHEN THAT R&B COMES IN!!!!! *Chef Kiss*

I personally believe it’s been a while since we had an R&B singer come out and strike gold since Chris Brown, and I feel in my heart that if my  R&B can create anticipation for the album to do the numbers I know it can,  I‘ll  be the next R&B artist ya feel me.

  1. Do you have a personal favorite track amongst those on the aforementioned recording that has a specific backstory and/or message and meaning very special to you?

Flash Baker: I would have to say ‘Me and You.’

This song is special because it was actually an anniversary gift to an ex of mine (laughs.) We dated for a while, and because we both worked as performers on cruise ships, a lot of our relationship was long distance. So, for our anniversary I wrote her ‘Me and You’.

Obviously she didn’t think it was that good because we’re not together (laughs.) But it’s definitely one of my best songs lyrically and sonically.

  1. Please inform us about what you would consider particular highlights for fans to watch out for on #MaskOffTheMixTape?

Flash Baker:  I know right off top, ‘Soul Brother Application’ is gonna be a banger from the intro. And because it’s a Pete Rock beat, I know my hip hop heads are gonna feel that. I also think #SunDressSzn will be a highlight cause it’s the first R&B track on the project, so with all the built up anticipation of “when is he going to start singing” happening, it drops right on time.

  1. Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excite you most?

Flash Baker: Live crowd. No question. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like the sound and feel of a standing ovation.

  1. Do you have a favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by on a daily basis?

Flash Baker:  Yeah, one of my big homies told me “all you gotta do, is be better than yesterday” and “fall in love with the process, not the results.”

All in all the job is never finished, so we gotta keep grinding.

  1. What do you find most rewarding about what you do? And do you have a specific vision or goal set in your mind that you would like to achieve in the near future?

Flash Baker: I find it most rewarding that I get to sing, rap and dance for a living. There are very few people in life who can say they get to do what they love, and to be one of those people is such a blessing.

A goal of mine is to win a Grammy, Tony and Image award. Also to sell out a stadium and hear the crowd sing the lyrics word for word.

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