Bastian Baker earned thousands and thousands of new fans, opening up for Shania Twain on her Shania NOW World Tour. While Bastian, an independent artist from Switzerland, might have seemed an unlikely choice, the rising star says he spent his entire life getting ready for this career-changing opportunity.
"That's the gig that everybody wanted," Bastian told PopCulture.com. "What I like about this story is how unique it is, especially nowadays in the market; we all know how it works with labels and booking agencies and how there's a lot of politics in how opening bands are picked.
"Where Shania's a real legend is that she just picked me because she wanted to have me on tour, no matter if I didn't have a label or anything," he continued. "We've been good friends for six years now. She's always loved my music. She discovered me at Montreux Jazz Festival which is an iconic festival we have in Switzerland, probably one of the top festivals around the world. Everybody wants to play there. And she saw me performing there. She invited me over for lunch and we became good friends and ever since she's been supporting my music."
Not that Baker joining Twain was entirely the superstar's idea. Baker admits he became quite bold when he realized the opportunity in front of him.
"When she decided to go on tour I literally just asked her," he recalled. "I was like, 'Hey, you know I can do a good job with just lead guitar and vocals, and I would love to join you on tour. Plus we can do the duet, 'Party for Two,' which she recorded with Billy Currington a couple years ago. And she had to convince her management and label and booking, and she did 'cause she's Shania and then I got the gig."
As Bastian reflects on the Shania NOW World Tour, which wraps up on Dec. 22, he still can't believe he spent the year on the road, playing some of the largest venues in the world.
"It is surreal in a way," Baker said. "I played a lot of big, big gigs before being on tour with Shania. It's actually the first time in eight years of touring that I do a gig that's me opening for someone on more than one or two shows. I usually do my own tours, but this one was one of the five biggest tours of this year so it really made sense for me."
Even though Baker has played dozens of dates with Twain, he still can't quite believe he's had the year he has had.
"Surreal is a good word," said the 27-year-old. "Five minutes before going on the stage, I find myself laughing on the side of the stage 'cause I'm like 'This is crazy.' I come from this little village somewhere in Switzerland and all of a sudden I'm rocking Bridgestone Arena. And that for sure was always a dream of mine, and I do it with a good friend of mine who happens to be this country legend."
Baker didn't even intend to be a musician – at least not at first. Instead, he had dreams of becoming a professional hockey player, a dream he held onto until he realized he had to make a difficult decision.
"It started when I was seven," Baker said. "I was doing great. I was part of the Swiss National team until I was 17. I did all the junior world championships and stuff. So a lot of traveling. A lot of great friends of mine are still hockey players. It teaches you a lot. It's an awesome sport; it requires everything. You need to be fast, know how to skate, stick handle, keep your head up, be rough, be subtle, be dedicated, learn about team spirit."
Baker tried to pursue both of his passions, but soon realized he wasn't giving either of them a fair chance.
"I was doing the hockey thing," Baker recounted. "I was practicing every day, with games two to three times a week and I was going to a special school for people who do the sport, like the elite level when you're a teenager. So I only had school in the morning. At a certain point I was like, 'Man this music thing is just too strong' ... I was still playing hockey, and in the meantime I was recording some demo tapes at some friend's place during the nights, 'cause that was the only moment I had the time to do so."
It wasn't until a radio station got a hold of one of his early songs that he realized it was time to focus on one thing, which he knew had to be music.
"I recorded one song, sent it to radios asking for feedback, and instead of feedback they started playing it, and it was all over the radio. And it happened over night. I was still driving to hockey training and I'd hear my song on the radio and I was like, 'Alright, I might have to focus on something 100 percent now." ... I never really had to sit down and make a decision because it was always kind of very clear for me from the moment the music thing started picking up. It kind of made sense for me to go 100,000 percent in this direction."
Baker just released his own self-titled record. He will head out on his own to support the new album in 2019. Find dates at his official website.
Photo Credit: Getty images/Rick Kern