Singer/songwriter Erick Baker sometimes gets overlooked when people talk about Knoxville’s most noteworthy musicians. The Dirty Guv’nahs, the Black Lillies, Royal Bangs, even the Black Cadillacs, who recently headlined their first show at the Bijou Theatre—those are the bands most likely to get mentioned as the city’s best, or biggest, or most likely to succeed, or whatever standard it is you use to measure artistic significance. Maybe it’s that Baker’s radio-friendly pop-rock approach, similar to Top 40 troubadours like John Mayer and Jack Johnson, is too mainstream for music nerds who value “authenticity” over commercial viability; maybe it’s that Baker only briefly performed in local nightclubs before landing big-time opening gigs for Heart and John Legend and an annual Valentine’s week concert at the Bijou Theatre, which he’s sold out five years in a row.
Whatever it is, Baker’s show at the Tennessee Theatre this weekend marks him as an official member of the local big leagues. It’s Knoxville’s grandest stage, and only a handful of local acts—like the Guv’nahs, the Black Lillies, 10 Years, and the briefly reunited V-Roys—have headlined there in recent memory. Baker plays at the Tennessee with opening act Matthew Perryman Jones on Friday, Nov. 22, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.
“I really ought to write John Legend a thank-you card, because it was right there on the Tennessee Theatre stage that I opened up for him in 2007 and my life changed in an instant,” Baker writes in an e-mail interview. “I decided right then and there to quit graduate school and pursue music full-time. So this upcoming show is my own personal homecoming. To be able to headline there after that big moment that started this whole thing is humbling.”
Baker is winding down support for his 2012 album, Goodbye June, which was produced by former Uncle Tupelo and Wilco drummer Ken Coomer. Baker says he’ll soon start writing songs for a new album, which he expects to be released next year.