Rayland Baxter never thought much about being a musician — in fact, he didn't aspire to be anything in particular, until at age 21 his musician father gave him an acoustic guitar as a gift.
The way Baxter explains it to Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke, it seems like his initial interest in the guitar was casual. But it wasn't long before he found himself in two cover bands.
After "taking a year off" of college (re: getting kicked out), Rayland moved to Breckenridge, Colorado, to become a snowboarding instructor. But it wasn't what he thought it would be.
"I was living in a camper, I was hitchhiking to work and back," Baxter said. "I got frost bite on my nose and one of my fingertips, and I was like, 'Uh, this is not my life.' I wasn't happy, but I was happy on Wednesday nights when I played the open mic at the Gold Pan Saloon."
With that little bit of clarity, Baxter's dad, renown lap steel guitarist Bucky Baxter, gave his son another push in the right direction, helping get him a job as a guitar tech.
After going on tour in Europe for three weeks, Rayland moved to Israel, where he stayed for six months. When he returned to the U.S., he arrived with a conviction and sense of purpose like nothing he had ever experienced.
"I lived in Israel for six months after that [European] tour and then started diving in and finally listening to the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and not just singing along to the melodies," Rayland says.
The messages of masters like Dylan and Cohen was like accelerant to Rayland's creative fire. He isolated himself in the proverbial woodshed at his place in Israel, working on his artistic voice, honing his message.
When he arrived in Nashville, he bought with him a breezy sound with subversively poignant lyrics. Just like his facial hair and floral shirts belie his earnestness, Rayland's songs are like wolves in sheep's clothing.
The tunes are aesthetically laid back, but when you listen closely, you'll hear Rayland's veiled allusions to current events, and his derision of the political right and predatory capitalism.
For his latest album, Wide Awake, Rayland went back to the woodshed — this time at Thunder Sound Studios in Franklin, Kentucky.
"So I went in there and just camped out for a few months, you know, blanketed up the windows and kind of shut myself off," Rayland says.
Watch the full interview in the video above!
Get Wide Awake and all of Rayland Baxter's tour dates here.
Listen to Rayland's song "Casanova" below: