We sat down with one of our favorite musicians Rayland Baxter to chat about the artists and albums that inspired him, growing up with a rock star father, his unique style, and life with that epic stache. With his easy-going personality and incredibly written lyrics, we’ve got a feeling the future for Rayland is as bright as 79 shiny revolvers, and that he and that mustache have quite a few more albums to grace his fans with.
CYTIES: Rayland, on your new album, Wide Awake, your single Casanova is a very addicting song. We have a hunch it’s not about a woman though. Can you dive into what the track is all about?
Rayland: That song for me, this is what it’s about, for anybody else who wants it to be anything, it can be anything to anybody that’s listening to it, you know what I mean? I wrote this song about Sallie Mae Student Loans which is the lender that I borrowed money from to finish my last two years of college. And so that song is about the debt that I owe a bank and how I may not have spent my “book money” the proper ways that she wanted me to, and for years after college, I’ve got delinquency phone calls like seven times a day.
When I felt like my mind was about to melt away, I would sleep and then I would wake up and start doing it again.
CYTIES: Yes, and all those emails they send…
Rayland: I actually wrote that four years ago and it was just kind of a funny song that I’d written that really didn’t fit into my second album, Imaginary Man, I didn’t even try to record it. But then it became the last song that I recorded for Wide Awake. The last day we were tracking out in California we needed a fun song, and that was the one.
CYTIES: And it became the single, right?
Rayland: Yes, and it almost didn’t go on the album, it’s just funny, but I’m glad it did. It’s a stepping stone of a song for me.
CYTIES: We read that in 2016 you moved to Franklin, Kentucky for three months with the goal of being able to write in isolation. Can you walk us through what those days looked like?
Rayland: The first day I got there was a few days before Halloween. It was just me, the studio owner, this dude Tiger, and some LSD, and I watched the ceiling turn into pigeons. The next day I woke up and I wrote 79 Shiny Revolvers. Over the three months that I was up there, I had taken over a room in the studio/rubber band factory and turned it into my little writer’s room. I brought pads of paper in there, big pads of paper, markers, crayons, incense, cigarettes, red wine, and frozen pizzas. I just lived in this room for three months and I wrote all day and all night. When I felt like my mind was about to melt away, I would sleep and then I would wake up and start doing it again. I just wrote and wrote. I went through a bunch of voice memos that I had put on my phone from just walking around various places, little fragments of songs, fragments of melodies, fragments of chord progressions on various instruments, and I went to town — it was amazing.
CYTIES: Your father was also a musician who played with Bob Dylan and others. How was it growing up in that environment, and did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a musician?
Rayland: It gets way cooler the older I get when looking back on growing up in that world. I had an interesting dynamic because my parents divorced when I was two-years-old. My dad was on the road before I was born and he was touring all up until I was done with college. I got to see him at shows, and on the weekends when he was home. We would go on these long trips. But at home, my mom was going to college getting her nursing degree. She was an artist as well, but she had to sacrifice some of her dreams to raise her two kids. So, I saw that as one staple and I saw my dad that was this amazing genius, artist, left-brained cowboy and just all around rock n’ roller — it was amazing. A lot of my instincts were formed at a young age. My dad is still one of the greatest pedal steel players to play the instrument, it’s just amazing the more I look back on it. I see why I’m the way I am with music and it has a lot to do with that, it has a lot to do with my mom and my dad. I’m very lucky. I think “lucky” is the word or it’s just meant to be, but I learned so much from my dad about music and how to conduct myself as a dude, you know what I mean?
CYTIES: Absolutely. Did you know from an early age that music is what you wanted to do?
Rayland: No, I did not at all. I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 21-years-old and I didn’t start writing songs until I was 25. I had a cover band my senior year of college and I remember my roommate’s parents would come down to visit and be like, “so, I know your dad is a musician, do you want to do this after college? I was like “no, this is just a hobby I’m moving out to Colorado, I’m going to work at a ski resort.” And that’s what I did after college, I moved to the southwest corner of Colorado in the middle of nowhere in the summer, and then that winter I moved to Breckenridge, Colorado and I worked as a snowboard instructor. I was playing open mic nights every Wednesday at The Gold Pan Saloon. I made it halfway through a winter in Colorado and then I moved. Long story short, I made my way back to Nashville, via a three-week European tour working as a guitar tech for a band my dad was in. Then I lived in Israel for six months after that, and that’s where I made the promise to myself and the universe that I would give a shot at writing songs, and so… I’m a late bloomer.
CYTIES: You’ve been on fire for having such a late start to your career.
Rayland: Yeah, actually, I was a lacrosse player in college, I played in high school and I was really good, I’m tall. I put all my effort into playing lacrosse from seventh grade when I moved to Maryland to the end of my Sophomore year in college, and then I got kicked out of school for a year. When I came back, I quit the lacrosse team and started the cover band. It was the universe knocking me into position to do what I should be doing, which is this, for now.
CYTIES: So you lived in Maryland? We actually wondered about that because you mentioned Baltimore in a few songs.
Rayland: Yeah, I went to college at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland. That’s where I was a midfielder on the division one lacrosse team, and I was one of five or six dudes that got high before every practice and didn’t take it so seriously but still loved the sport, and then college came – it was a lot of work in college to play lacrosse and I didn’t have fun with it anymore.
CYTIES: You do a ton of traveling on tour, what artists do you have right now on your playlists?
Rayland: Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.
CYTIES: Recording and spending time in different cities around the nation, do you have a favorite? If so, which?
Rayland: Let’s see… I’m never good at answering that question because any given day could be an amazing time in Davenport, Iowa or Los Angeles, California, you know what I mean? The United States is a beautiful, diverse landscape with all types of people and lovers of music. So, I don’t have a favorite place.
CYTIES: Well-put. When seeing you on stage and watching you in music videos, we can tell you have a lot of fun. How do you keep a level head and enjoy the journey amidst all the noise?
Rayland: Just to remind myself on a daily, hourly, minute basis that this is a really fun way to live. Seeing the sunrise and the sunset, respecting it, and appreciating it, and the noble pursuit of man, which is to live by a golden rule. And at the same time try to leave my thumbprint on the world, to leave a small explosion of dust when I do go and not worry about the bullshit. It’s a beautiful gift to be a human being.
CYTIES: That’s a fascinating philosophy you have. Growing up, who did you listen to that influenced you?
Rayland: I listened to a lot of The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Green Day, my mom was always jamming INXS and Cyndi Lauper, but my first album was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, so that’s where it all began for me, that and Tom Petty’s album Wildflowers, I listened to that over and over again when I was a kid.
CYTIES: Let’s dive a bit into your personal style, you’ve always got a hat on every time we’ve seen you play and sometimes a pretty loud shirt, do you live by any style rules?
Rayland: Yeah, I like to feel good and usually if I feel good, then I look good, so that’s about it. I wear the same clothing over and over and I always have a hat on of some sort because if I took it off, my brain would work too well, so I keep it on to keep me nice and dumb.
CYTIES: You have a pretty epic mustache. In your opinion, who’s had the most epic ‘stache to ever grace an upper lip?
It’s a beautiful gift to be a human being.
CYTIES: Yeah, Bill the Butcher’s is pretty damn good.
Rayland: Yeah, when I first started growing the mustache, I had a Rollie Fingers thing, I used mustache wax — this was like 10-years-ago — and I made it go out in a straight line on both sides. It became too much maintenance, so I just clipped it off. I can rock the mustache, people don’t recognize me when I don’t have it and they look at me like, “Whoa dude, what’s wrong with you?”
CYTIES: It’s definitely here to stay, huh?
Rayland: Yeah, I guess for good or for worse, man. The thing is stuck on me now.
CYTIES: What’s next for you?
Rayland: I’m in Nashville then we go back out at the end of the year, New Year’s I’m out in Santa Fe with Shakey Graves and Nathaniel Rateliff.
CYTIES: You’re pretty good friends with Shakey Graves, right?
Rayland: Yeah, he’s my brother, man. I love that boy.
CYTIES: Anyway we ever see a collaboration album?
Rayland: Yeah, we’re thinking about it. We write really quickly and interestingly together. And so when we have time, he and I are going to lock ourselves away in a room somewhere and make an entire album, just got to figure out when that’s going to be.
CYTIES: We’ll be counting down the days.
Rayland: Me too, man. Me too.
CYTIES: That’s all the questions we have for you, thanks for taking the time for our readers. Let’s catch up next time you’re in Los Angeles.
Rayland: Very cool. See you guys down the road.