Julien Baker

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Julien Baker
Baker performing in April 2018
Baker performing in April 2018
Background information
Birth nameJulien Rose Baker
Born (1995-09-29) September 29, 1995 (age 25)
Germantown, Tennessee
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • Vocal
  • guitar
  • piano
  • organ
  • mandolin
Years active2014–present
LabelsMatador, 6131 Records
Associated acts
Websitejulienbaker.com Edit this at Wikidata

Julien Rose Baker (born September 29, 1995) is an American singer and multi-instrumentalist. She has received widespread critical acclaim for her music, which often confronts issues of spirituality, addiction, mental illness, and human nature.[1] In addition to her solo work, Baker is known as a member of Boygenius alongside Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born on September 29, 1995, Baker was born in Germantown, and raised in Bartlett, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis.[1][3] Her parents both worked in the field of physical therapy, and she has spoken of being inspired by her father who, after an accident in his twenties resulting in the amputation of his leg, dedicated his life to making experimental prosthetic limbs.[4]

She grew up in a very religious Christian family, and her early exposure to music involved playing at her church.[5] After seeing Green Day on television, she was inspired to explore more alternative music and started listening to bands like My Chemical Romance and Death Cab for Cutie.[4][6] She subsequently became captivated by the punk, hardcore, metalcore, and screamo scenes, and has said some of her favorite bands were MewithoutYou, Underoath, The Chariot, Norma Jean, and Whitechapel.[4][6] She struggled with substance abuse as a young teen, but found support in the community surrounding house shows in Memphis, and became inspired by the straight edge punk subculture.[4][7]

While in high school in 2010, Baker co-founded the band the Star Killers, who renamed themselves Forrister in 2015.[8][9][10]

She came out as gay to her parents at age 17, after years of being closeted and watching friends sent to conversion therapy or kicked out of their homes.[11] However, she found her family was “radically accepting.”[11]

She attended Arlington High School and then Middle Tennessee State University, where she had a campus job in the A/V department and initially studied audio engineering, before switching to literature and secondary education.[3][12][13][14] She eventually left school to tour full-time after the release of Sprained Ankle, but returned to campus in the fall of 2019 to complete her degree.[15]



Baker is widely known for her deeply personal, confessional songwriting, and her music has been categorized as any mix of indie rock, indie folk, alternative, and emo.[16] The sparse arrangements on her “fragile, gentle” 2015 debut, Sprained Ankle, feature only her voice and guitar, and her stage performances often consist of her alone, utilizing a loop pedal.[17] 2017’s Turn Out the Lights saw the addition of occasional violin as well as “organs and cavernous-sounding production,” and continued the development of her honest lyrical style.[17][18]

Baker’s writing is infused with religious themes, and is often noted for its physical imagery.[17] Hope, redemption, love, addiction, shame, self-loathing, and direct appeals to God are all prominent motifs throughout her work.[19]

For her 2021 release Little Oblivions, Baker wanted to experiment with a more full-band sound, and has commented on feeling limited by her own expectations to adhere to her established style.[18] The album newly features drums, bass, keyboards, mandolin, and banjo, all played by Baker on the recording.[20]

2015–2017: Early success[edit]

During her first year at MTSU, Baker began writing songs on her own, often utilizing the university practice rooms that stayed open late at night.[21] She wrote what would become Sprained Ankle in her dorm room and recorded it on free studio time that a friend of hers had gotten from an internship, and she’s said that she never thought the EP would be heard by a wide audience; she put it on Bandcamp so that her friends could hear it.[22]

It was discovered and picked up by 6131 Records, however, and became the studio album Sprained Ankle which was released in October 2015.[10] Sprained Ankle ended up topping many 2015 year-end lists, and its success led to features in The New Yorker and The New York Times, with various critics calling it "heartbreaking," "hypnotic," and "striking."[11][4][23]

Baker performing at Rough Trade NYC in 2016

In March 2016, Baker gave an NPR Tiny Desk performance, the first of an eventual four appearances at the desk.[24][25][26][27] She also played at that year's South by Southwest and Newport Folk festivals.[28][29] Her performances from this period have been called "hushed, reverential events," with the audience often remaining quiet and emotional.[11] In 2017 she signed to Matador Records, and released a 7-inch single consisting of the songs "Funeral Pyre" (previously called "Sad Song 11") and "Distant Solar Systems."[30][31]

Her second album, Turn Out the Lights, was recorded with engineer and producer Calvin Lauber at Ardent Studios in Memphis, and released on October 27, 2017 to further acclaim. She spent the following year touring across the U.S. and internationally, performing alongside artists including The National, Father John Misty, Half Waif, Adam Torres, and Lucy Dacus, and appearing on CBS This Morning and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.[32][33][34]

Baker has opened for or collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Death Cab for Cutie, Conor Oberst, Paramore and Hayley Williams, The National, The Decemberists, Belle & Sebastian, Frightened Rabbit, The Front Bottoms, Touche Amore, and Manchester Orchestra. She has also released covers of various songs including those by Elliott Smith, Radiohead, and Soundgarden.[35][36][37]

2018–present: Boygenius and Little Oblivions[edit]

In 2018, Baker formed the rock supergroup Boygenius with fellow indie singer-songwriters Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, both of whom she had toured with previously. The group released three songs in August of that year and subsequently announced an eponymous EP, Boygenius, which was released on October 26, 2018 to widespread critical acclaim.[38] The band spent that November touring the U.S., and performed "Me & My Dog" on Late Night with Seth Meyers.[39] The trio has continued to collaborate on each other’s solo work since the release of their EP, lending backing vocals to two songs from Bridgers’ Grammy-nominated Punisher and “Favor” from Baker’s Little Oblivions, as well as Hayley Williams' Petals for Armor single "Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris."[40]

In 2019, Baker put out two 7-inch singles. The first, released in June, featured songs "Red Door" and "Conversation Piece," and the second in October featured "Tokyo" and "Sucker Punch" as part of the Sub Pop singles series.[41] All four songs had a slightly more produced sound than her previous work and were received very positively.[42]

On October 21, 2020, Baker announced her third studio album, Little Oblivions, accompanied by the lead single "Faith Healer" and an essay by poet Hanif Abdurraqib.[43] Little Oblivions was released February 26, 2021, and was preceded by additional singles "Hardline" and "Favor."[40] It was written mostly over the course of 2019, a difficult and formative year for Baker as she had to cancel various tour dates, struggled with her sobriety and mental health, and eventually returned to school to finish her degree at MTSU.[15] In January, she appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, performing "Faith Healer."[44]

Personal life[edit]

Baker is lesbian, and her fraught experiences with organized Christianity inform much of her work.[11][45] She previously referred to herself as a Christian socialist, but has spoken on how being constantly labelled the "sober queer Christian" early in her career was damaging to her understanding of her identity, and led to her questioning and reevaluating many foundational aspects of her life.[46][47][48][15] She has since discussed the ever-changing nature of her relationship to faith, saying she is no longer interested in labeling her beliefs so rigidly and that she is trying to adopt a less dichotomous worldview than the one she was raised with, calling the realization "freeing."[49][50][48]

Her music often features frank explorations of addiction and sobriety, and she has been open in discussing her experiences with substance abuse and mental illness.[51][52][53]

Baker has a deep appreciation for literature and has said that she “loves school.”[15][37] She has contributed essays to literary magazines and been known to enjoy discussing philosophy, history, theology, and her hopes of possibly continuing her academic pursuits or becoming a teacher.[37][54] Interviewers have often remarked on her kind, playful nature and Southern politeness as striking in contrast to the weight of the themes she explores in her music.[14][55]


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions





Sprained Ankle [A]
Turn Out the Lights
  • Released: October 27, 2017
  • Label: Matador
  • Format: LP, CD, cassette, digital download, streaming
78 9 3 9 12
Little Oblivions
  • Released: February 26, 2021
  • Label: Matador
  • Format: LP, CD, digital download, streaming
39 5 1 6 4 21 71 37 74 51

Extended plays[edit]

Title Album details
Sprained Ankle
  • Released: Winter 2014
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: Digital download, CD
Spotify Sessions
  • Released: May 20, 2016
  • Label: 6131
  • Format: Digital download, streaming
Audiotree Live
  • Released: October 22, 2016[66]
  • Label: Audiotree Music
  • Format: Digital download, streaming


Title Year Peak chart positions Album

"Funeral Pyre"[68] 2017 Non-album singles
"Distant Solar Systems"[68]
"Appointments" Turn Out the Lights
"Turn Out the Lights"
"Bad Things to Such Good People"
(with Manchester Orchestra)
2018 Non-album singles
"Red Door"[69] 2019
"Conversation Piece"[69]
"The Modern Leper" Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened
Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’
"Tokyo" Non-album single
"Faith Healer" 2020 14 Little Oblivions
"A Dreamer's Holiday"
(Spotify Singles)
Non-album single
"Hardline" 2021 Little Oblivions
"—" denotes single that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Guest appearances[edit]

Title Year Other artists Album
"Ballad of Big Nothing" 2016 N/A Say Yes! A Tribute to Elliott Smith
"Skyscraper" Touché Amoré Stage Four
"How It Gets In" 2017 Frightened Rabbit Recorded Songs
"All I Want" 2018 Matt Berninger, Stephen Altman 7-Inches for Planned Parenthood, Vol. 2: Pt. 1
"Bless This Hell" 2019 Mary Lambert Grief Creature
"Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris" 2020 Hayley Williams Petals For Armor
"First Time" Becca Mancari The Greatest Part
"Graceland Too" Phoebe Bridgers Punisher
"I Know the End"
"Reminders" Touché Amoré Lament

As part of Boygenius[edit]

As part of Forrister[edit]

  • American Blues (2013) (as The Star Killers)[72]
  • "Esau" for Little Moses/The Star Killers Split (2014) (as The Star Killers)[73]
  • "Choked Up" (2015)[74][75]


  1. ^ Sprained Ankle did not enter the US Billboard 200 but did peak at number 23 on the Heatseekers Albums chart.[65]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2016 Sprained Ankle Libera Award for Best Breakthrough Artist Nominated [76]


  1. ^ a b Mehr, Bob. "Ascendant Julien Baker overcame darkness to find light of success". The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  2. ^ Lorusso, Marissa (August 21, 2018). "Hear New Music From Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus' Supergroup boygenius". Npr.org. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Townsend, Eileen (October 22, 2015). "Julien Baker Arrives". Memphisflyer.com. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e Fink, Matt. "Julien Baker - The Under the Radar Cover Story". Under the Radar Mag.
  5. ^ Pareles, Jon (October 22, 2017). "Julien Baker Bravely Confronts Her Traumas and Fears". The New York Times. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Turned Out a Punk Podcast. "Episode 197: Julien Baker". Apple Podcasts.
  7. ^ 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. "Interview with Julien Baker". YouTube.
  8. ^ "Forrister – Forrister". Forristertn.tumblr.com. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  9. ^ Ladd, Olivia (February 23, 2015). "From Memphis to Murfreesboro: Musician Julien Baker Shares Her Passion". Mtusidelines.com. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Chiu, David (December 9, 2015). "Julien Baker's 'Real Life' Music Tugs at the Heartstrings". PopMatters.com. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d e Syme, Rachel. "Julien Baker Believes in God". The New Yorker. Conde Nast.
  12. ^ Cannon, Joshua; Shaw, Chris. "Beale Street Music Fest: On the Road, On the Beach, On the Rise". Memphis Flyer. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  13. ^ Fenwick, George (July 20, 2017). "Julien Baker on queerness, the power of music and making people cry". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  14. ^ a b Claymore, Gabriela Tully. "An Interview with Young Phenom Julien Baker". Stereogum.
  15. ^ a b c d Bernstein, Jonathan. "Julien Baker is Still Learning". Rolling Stone.
  16. ^ "Julien Baker: Ones to Watch". Ones to Watch.
  17. ^ a b c Geffen, Sasha. "Julien Baker: Turn Out the Lights Album Review". Pitchfork. Conde Nast.
  18. ^ a b O'Neill, Lauren. "The New Era of Julien Baker". Vice.
  19. ^ Cohen, Ian. "Julien Baker: Sprained Ankle Album Review". Pitchfork. Conde Nast.
  20. ^ "Little Oblivions". Bandcamp.
  21. ^ Gokhman, Roman (December 1, 2015). "Julien Baker: The Best of What's Next". Pastemagazine.com. Retrieved December 30, 2015.
  22. ^ Hughes, Hilary. "Julien Baker is Just Being Honest". Entertainment Weekly.
  23. ^ Williams, John (April 26, 2016). "Julien Baker: Sad songs that whisper and howl". The New York Times.
  24. ^ NPR Music (March 7, 2016). "Julien Baker: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert". YouTube. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  25. ^ Boilen, Bob. "Julien Baker: Turn Out the Lights Tiny Desk Concert". NPR.org.
  26. ^ Boilen, Bob. "Boygenius: Tiny Desk Concert". NPR.org.
  27. ^ Gotrich, Lars. "Hayley Williams: Tiny Desk Concert". NPR.org.
  28. ^ "Julien Baker: SXSW 2016 Event Schedule". SXSW.com.
  29. ^ Horn, Rachel. "Julien Baker, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2016". NPR.org.
  30. ^ "Matador Records". Matadorecords.com. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  31. ^ "Funeral Pyre, by Julien Baker". Julienbaker.bandcamp.com. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  32. ^ "Julien Baker Tour Dates & Concerts". SongKick.
  33. ^ Slingerland, Calum. "The National Announce Toronto Show with Father John Misty, Jenny Lewis, Julien Baker". Exclaim.
  34. ^ Yoo, Noah (January 4, 2018). "Watch Julien Baker Perform "Turn Out the Lights" on "Colbert"". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  35. ^ Aycock, Dylan. "Hear Julien Baker's "Ballad Of Big Nothing" Cover For Elliott Smith Tribute". American Songwriter.
  36. ^ Bloom, Madison. "Listen to Julien Baker, Ben Gibbard, More Cover Frightened Rabbit on Live Tribute Album". Pitchfork. Conde Nast.
  37. ^ a b c KEXP. "Julien Baker: Performance & Interview". YouTube.
  38. ^ Rincón, Alessandra (August 21, 2018). "Julian Baker, Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers Form Boygenius, Release Three Singles From EP: Listen". Billboard.com. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  39. ^ Yoo, Noah. "Watch boygenius Perform "Me & My Dog" on "Seth Meyers"". Pitchfork. Conde Nast.
  40. ^ a b Curto, Justin. "Julien Baker Drops New Song 'Favor' with Boygenius". Vulture.
  41. ^ Meadows, James. "Review: Julien Baker's Modern Gospel in "Red Door"/"Conversation Piece"". Atwood Magazine.
  42. ^ Jones, Abby. ""Tokyo" by Julien Baker Review". Pitchfork. Conde Nast.
  43. ^ Leas, Ryan. "Julien Baker – "Faith Healer"". Stereogum.
  44. ^ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. "Julien Baker "Faith Healer"". YouTube.
  45. ^ Tolentino, Jia (October 27, 2017). "The Raw Devotion of Julien Baker". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
  46. ^ "Julien Baker Is a Queer, Christian, Socialist – We Had to Talk to Her". Religion and Socialism Podcast. SoundCloud.com. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  47. ^ Power, Ed. "'I just want to be an artist. I don't want to be the queer Christian artist'". The Irish Times.
  48. ^ a b Carson, Sarah. "Julien Baker: 'The Church made me feel powerless. Even if I was Mother Teresa, I'd still be gay'". iNews UK.
  49. ^ Eloise, Marianne. "God, shame and redemption: how Julien Baker just wrote her best album yet". Louder Sound.
  50. ^ Pierson-Hagger, Ellen. "Julien Baker: 'I saw music as religion'". The New Statesman.
  51. ^ "Music Heals: Julien Baker on Addiction and Finding Your Place in the World". KEXP.org. KEXP-FM. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  52. ^ Heath, Chris. "9 Musicians on How They Thrive Creatively Without Drugs or Booze". Gq.com.
  53. ^ "Julien Baker on Living With Depression and OCD". Consequence of Sound. Consequence of Sound. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  54. ^ "Julien Baker". Oxford American: A Magazine of the South.
  55. ^ Roebuck, Ian. "Julien Baker: a young voice of reason, from behind the wheel of a large automobile". Loud and Quiet.
  56. ^ "Julien Baker Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  57. ^ "Julien Baker Chart History: Independent Albums". Billboard. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  58. ^ "Julien Baker Chart History: Independent Albums". Billboard. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  59. ^ a b "Julien Baker Chart History: Independent Albums". Billboard. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  60. ^ "ARIA Top 50 Albums Chart". Australian Recording Industry Association. March 8, 2021. Retrieved March 6, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  61. ^ "Ultratop.be – Julien Baker – Little Oblivions" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved March 14, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  62. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Julien Baker – Little Oblivions" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved March 14, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  63. ^ "Irish Albums Chart: 5 March 2021". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved March 15, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  64. ^ "Julien Baker | full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
  65. ^ "Julien Baker Chart History - Heatseekers Albums". Billboard. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  66. ^ "Julien Baker – Audiotree Live, by Julien Baker". Bandcamp. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  67. ^ "Julien Baker Triple A Songs Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  68. ^ a b "Funeral Pyre / Distant Solar Systems, by Julien Baker". Bandcamp. December 4, 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  69. ^ a b "Red Door / Conversation Piece, by Julien Baker". Bandcamp. August 22, 2019. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  70. ^ "Future Releases: Triple A". All Access Music Group. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  71. ^ "boygenius : demos EP (Bandcamp) (24 Hours Only) – Matablog". Matador Records. July 2, 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  72. ^ "American Blues, by The Star Killers". Bandcamp. April 1, 2013. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  73. ^ "Little Moses/The Star Killers Split, by The Star Killers". Bandcamp. July 31, 2014. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  74. ^ "Choked Up (Single), by The Star Killers". Bandcamp. January 27, 2015. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  75. ^ "Choked Up, by Forrister". Bandcamp. March 3, 2015. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  76. ^ "SoundExchange Presents The 2016 A2IM Libera Awards". shoerefire. Retrieved March 22, 2021.

External links[edit]