Singer-songwriter Julien Baker performs on NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers Monday night to promote her new record, Little Oblivions. The 25-year-old Baker is a critically acclaimed indie performer who was born in Germantown, Tennessee. Little Oblivions is her third solo album, and she has previously performed with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus as part of the trio boygenius.
Baker was born on Sept. 29, 1995, and raised in Bartlett, Tennessee, a Memphis suburb. Although she grew up in a very religious Christian family, her exposure to Green Day inspired her to look into alternative rock, which has continued to inspire her sound. When she was 17, she told her parents she is gay and was surprised to see they accepted her.
Baker once told a reporter that her father looked through the Bible to find scripture to prove she was not going to hell, reports the New Yorker. Baker said this only strengthened her belief in God. She compared this to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. "It’s like that part of the novel where the people in the town forget everything and someone puts up a sign that says ‘God Exists,'" she told the New Yorker in 2016. "That’s what my tattoo says. ‘God Exists.’"
Even after Baker made an impact on the music scene, she still wanted to finish her college degree. Before she started work on Little Oblivions, she completed her English degree at Middle Tennessee State University. Her desire to never stop learning informed her writing on the album. She even provided Vulture with a "reading list" for the album, listing novels that influenced her lyrics. Her list includes Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, John Steinbeck's East of Eden, and Just Kids by Patti Smith. The other influences for the album were science fiction books, cults, the Empress ZOIA modular synthesizer, and drum machines, she told Billboard.
The multi-instrumentalist released her first album, Sprained Ankle, in 2015, and followed it with Turn Out the Lights in 2017. Little Oblivions is her first album with a full backing band, although she played most of the parts herself. Her lyrics are known for covering serious, deeply personal subjects like addiction and sobriety. That's one reason why her lyrics resonate with listeners.
"I honestly love when people tell me what they get out of the record; it allows me to think about it in other ways," Baker told Nylon. "Part of what makes art such a useful means of communication is its non-specificness. Maybe that's why I feel so anxious in interviews where I have to give a name and a purpose and a thesis to my songs. The reason why I am a songwriter and not a person who writes scholarly articles is because I have difficulty with certainties. I don't want it to be exclusionary."