Thank you for chatting with me! You were born in the Bay Area and are now Brooklyn Based. What brought you to the east coast?
Honestly it was basically dumb luck. I spent a year in Germany recording in my brother’s studio, and at the end of it I wanted to come back to the states. I didn’t really have any particular reason to head back to the Bay, and my best friend from back home was living in NYC. He threw out that we should get an apartment together, and I had no better ideas so we did! Turned out to be a great decision.
Care to add anything to the ongoing conversation about NYC vs Cali? What do you like best about each place?
You trying to get me in trouble? In all seriousness, I really love both places. If you’re looking for excitement, you absolutely can’t beat NYC. The culture, the nightlife, the music, the food, it’s all amazing. But what I really miss about Cali is having the ability to get out in nature. Hiking, camping, surfing, climbing, anything really. It can get a little cramped here in the city, especially right now.
This is something I used to really struggle with as an artist: How do you describe your music to people that have never heard it?
Man, do I feel you there! I’ve never really had a good answer for this question, because I feel like my music draws from plenty of influences and sort of bounces around genres. Maybe a little too much. But if I had to boil it down, I’d say pop with soul and folk flavor.
Do you record yourself for your releases or do you work in a studio? Which do you like better?
Most of my stuff was recorded at my brother’s studio, but given circumstances lately I’ve been forced to record more often on my home setup. I definitely prefer the studio. Aside from the sound quality being obviously better, I think it really helps me get in the right headspace to perform. Being in that professional setting with somebody else to sing for makes a world of difference.
I’m sure that you miss live performance as much as I do. What are some ways that you are finding to scratch that itch?
You got that right! Nothing quite does it like performing live, but I’ve been trying to focus on getting more videos out on my Youtube channel as well as doing some live streaming stuff. It’s not the same but it helps.
My favorite venue in NYC to play at is Rockwood Music Hall. What’s your favorite venue in the Big Apple?
I’d have to pick the Rockwood as well! It was one of the few places I had a chance to play at before everything closed down, and I had a blast there.
During this socially distant time, I wish I had been busy writing songs, but in reality I ate up the days by crocheting miniature couches for my puppy. I’m sure you have been more musically prolific than I have been, but what are some ways you have spent your time in Quarantine?
You’re not alone there. While I’ve been doing what I can, inspiration can be hard to come by when you’re stuck at home. I’ve written a few new tunes but definitely less than I would like. I think it’s important to not be too hard on yourself if that happens (I wish I could follow my own advice). Other than music, I’ve developed a new and probably unhealthy obsession with Dungeons and Dragons.
The Descent shows off a really soulful side of your voice. It’s truly wondrous. It took me a long time to figure out what the hook reminded me of and then I realized that your voice has a Maroon Five vibe, but without all that autotune and put to use on a really well written song. Where does that soul come from in you?
The Descent is a unique track for me because I actually wrote it about my own life. A lot of the time when I write the lyrics to a song I’ll treat it like a work of fiction. It’ll still contain themes, feelings, and ideas that are mine, but even if I’m singing in the first person it won’t necessarily be about me. The Descent is an exception. I really tried to put down what I was feeling about what was happening in my life at the time. Because of that it definitely holds more emotion for me, and I hope that comes through in the vocal performance.
You mention in The Descent that you learned musical chops from your folks. Are they musicians by trade? Are you close?
I’m very close with both of my parents. They’re an incredibly important part of my life and I couldn’t do what I do without their support. They’re not exactly musicians by trade, but they are both great musicians. Before they split they even recorded an album together! My dad is an amazing guitar player and singer/songwriter, we’ve cowritten a few tunes together. My mom is a beautiful singer and has recently picked up the harmonium.
Our country is in chaos. Do music and politics mix?
Oh yes, definitely. Music over the last century has so often been intricately tied to political and social revolution. Now should not be any different. Given what we’ve seen over the last few years and what is happening right now, the time for keeping silent is long past.
If you were writing the future, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Well, how about triple platinum and number one on the Billboard charts? But seriously I would really just like to have built a stable, sustainable career in music. If it’s playing my own music that would be ideal, but I’ll take what I can get. Writing, playing, singing, it doesn’t matter to me I just want to be able to keep doing what I love.
What song by another artist can you not get enough of right now?
Oh man, I can’t stop listening to “On Melancholy Hill” by Gorillaz. It’s got such a cheerful, summery vibe and it’s impossible not to at least bob your head to it. Just what I need right now.
I started this blog as a way to boost the signal of artists I really respect. Are there any other indie musicians you want to recommend to help boost their signal? Either friends or Artists you are just a fan of.
Yeah check out Domenic Bianco and the Soulshake! They’re buddies of mine from back home and they have an awesome beach rock / ska vibe. Super fun to listen to!
Who are your musical heros?
Well I’ll try and keep it short because the list is endless: Allen Stone, The Beatles, Bon Iver, Elliott Smith, Radiohead, John Mayer, Gorillaz, Alabama Shakes and Ratatat off the top of my head. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone important.
You are signed by a big label and they say that you can open for whoever you want? Who do you want it to be and why?
Allen Stone hands down. Of course there’s bigger acts out there, but he’s my favorite artist right now. Also, I’ve seen him play a few times, and I’ve never seen a band have more fun on stage than his. I would love to be a part of that.
What's next for Tobe Baer?
Hard to say! It’s a very confusing time to be a musician. As soon as possible I’d like to get back to playing live. Playing outdoor, socially distanced concerts may become our new norm, but we adapt and overcome! Other than that, I’m gonna keep working on new tracks. We’ve got a (probably optimistic) goal of putting out a new single every month. Who knows what the future will bring?
interview by Chris Dallman