Folk music has had a long and storied history in the United States. And just like all old things, people eventually get around questioning whether it is still relevant for the milieu of the current generation. While the 1960s were ripe for iconic folk songs (like Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind”) due to the perpetual state of social and political unrest that was present in the country, can the same be said for folk music today or has the time for this genre simply come and gone?
It’s also important to ask if the sound itself has been left behind. With new music popping up left and right, is there still room for something like folk music? Enter Meg Baird. Meg Baird is a San Francisco-based folk musician who has been redefining the genre since she started her music career back in 2007 with her debut album Dear Companion. If you want to know more about Baird and her impact on the genre, read on for a quick run-through on how she is changing folk music and ushering it into a new era.
Prior to her solo career, Baird was one of the founding members of the psychedelic folk group, Espers. The group was signed under the legendary label, Drag City. With acts such as Pavement, Joanna Newsom, and The Silver Jews on their roster, it’s no surprise that Esper’s unique brand of folk found a home in the Chicago-based label.
And while we’re here to talk about Baird’s solo career, her time with Esper was formative as the group was doing some unprecedented things when it came to folk. They released a cover album called Weed Tree where they reimagined iconic songs from acts such as Nico and the Blue Oyster Cult, converting them into folk songs.
Watch Espers perform “Rosemary Lane”:
Such creativity would be consistently present even in the work Baird would continue to do for folk music. She’s done this in both big and subtle ways, as her technical mastery of instruments and gear have been helpful throughout her career. This is evident in her use of the reverb pedal in tracks such as “Don’t Weigh Down the Light,” as she takes what is a pretty common element in most modern music and uses it to solidify her unique sound and vision. More outward examples of this would be her masterful use of looping pedals in the track “Stars Climb Up The Vine” from her sophomore album Seasons on Earth. Here, she puts her listeners into a trance that pulls them in even further the longer the song goes on.
Watch Meg Baird perform “Don’t Weigh Down the Light”:
Baird’s impact on modern music can be summed up with her latest project, Ghost Forests. Baird, in collaboration with harpist Mary Lattimore, delivers a unique sonic experience as they combine harp and guitar playing with an eclectic use of electronic music that produces a cacophony of sounds. This gives listeners a rare glimpse of what the future of folk can be.
Listen to Meg Baird and Mary Lattimore perform “In Cedars”:
More about Drag City.
Check out guitar pedals here.
See Meg Baird at Drag City.