Music in REVIEW • Scott Baker • PURPOSE (and destiny)

Scott Baker’s Sixth Studio Recording Serves Up Lush Musical Meditations in an Evocative Manner

    icon Jul 13, 2023
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“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”       ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it”.  ― Buddha

Scott Baker has carved a formidable niche of accomplishment throughout the Great Lakes Bay region for nearly three decades now. With his music journalism background at The Bay City Times, his social worker foreground, and over 20 years now of creating his own music as a singer-songwriter, Baker has done much as both an artist and an advocate to help sculpt the shape and add definition to the contours of the Mid-Michigan music scene.

From his days working in the studio and on songs with classic rock legend Dick Wagner, his songwriting friendship with blues legend Larry McCray, and most recently with the success of his Michigan Music History Podcast series, which recently won the Best Music Streaming Series honor for the second year in a row at the 2023 REVIEW Music Awards, Baker is never content to bask in the glory of his past accomplishments, but is always keen to explore the boundaries and challenges that open and present themselves to him artistically as an independent songwriter.

Over the past 20-plus years Baker’s creative onus has focused mainly upon blending the sensibilities of Classic Rock, Americana, and singer-songwriter Folk approaches with an earlier jam-band background during his stint with Muddy Gumbo, but this past April Scott released his sixth studio recording, which makes a radical departure from his past outings insofar as all the songs are structured and composed around a thematic narrative, making this his first attempt at creating a true ‘concept’ album.

Titled Purpose, each track that cycles through this latest collection is based upon the human desire to find purpose in every step of life. Whether it be grade school children scoping out a career, an elderly person having lost their significant other, a career-job change, or a middle aged person taking a look back while moving forward, many viewpoints upon these existential moments we encounter in life are touched upon throughout the album.

“Purpose is my attempt to create a modern concept album chronicling a journey to find one’s point in life and a search for clarity, which is  significant today as we search for purpose within the outlook of this post-covid, divided country we currently find ourselves living in,” explains Scott.

“There comes a time in all of our lives where we find ourselves coasting down the middle of the road when suddenly we encounter a brick wall forcing us to disable the cruise control, take a detour off the highway of the familiar, and find a different more challenging route to our destination.   Perhaps we’ve seen too much, seemingly achieved too little, missed the turn to our destination because we were driving too fast looking for more, or simply have reached a point where we question and reflect upon our ‘purpose’,” he elaborates.

Each of the 16-tracks on Purpose  were written between late October 2020 and the first week of December 2020 in demo form, with Baker recording the final tracks between 2021-2022 at his Harvest Canteen home studio and Jeff Yantz engineering the vocals at his White Trash Studios. As a result, sonically the album slowly opens and unravels into expansive and majestic aural landscapes.

With a thoughtful blend of acoustic and electric arrangements, the construction of the song-cycles on Purpose are thoughtful and simple one instance, while opening into the deeper threads of emotive complexity crossing many feelings and directions, which are tastefully colored by contributions from guest artists such as Timothy Scott on drums, Matt Nyquist on bass, Mike Thomas & Wesley Knust on keys and synths, Addison Baker on also sax, Dylan Baker on percussion and programming, and backing vocalists courtesy of Levi Rose, Andy Hahn, Eric Asel, and Jeff Yantz.

At a time when most newly released music is done in a ‘singles’ format that is shying away from concept albums, Scott says the genesis of this project started back in 2020 during the Pandemic, when he was only able to perform three live shows the entire year.

“On this album, I wanted to try something different,” he reflects. “Rules, personal pathways, growth, vision, admiration, desire - all of these make great topics for songs; but like a long repetitive song that never seems to end, you simply need to change the channel but don’t know how to reach the knob to change the channel without letting go of the wheel and risk driving off the road.  It’s that moment in time where you take note in dissonant worry or depression that things could be better, and properly expressing that was the goal of this project. I wanted to explore how we achieve that.  How we do turn the corner to write a new kind of story or start a new book as opposed to turning a page?”

The genesis of this latest endeavor was almost as convoluted a journey as the challenges posed by the types of questions the songs attempt to answer.

“My goal was to develop a ‘70’s style rock album with a sound similar to converging the styles of Steely Dan meeting Black Sabbath and Govt Mule,” he continues. “At that time I had a full band with Wesley Knust on keyboards and Josh Corrion on guitar and saw the band heading in a really strong direction, so after coming off my last acoustic recordings, I wanted to do something different with more synergy, so it got me thinking about the sound of Pink Floyd and even Supertramp, where the music is colored with keyboard textures.  I wanted to create a lush and spacious sound, with kind of a Dark Side of the Moon feel to it.”

“That summer of 2020 during the pandemic my close friend Corrie Colbert  said to me, “Look dude, you’ve found your purpose in all of this - you’re still writing music, still performing, you’re involved with your kids, but you still follow the music.’  This conversation provided the trigger for the entire project. From the last week of December, 2020 and for close to 3 months I was in writing mode 5-days a week. Nothing much was going on because of the lockdowns, so I just did it and developed the songs around this idea of covering different stages of life - different existential moments like the first job, or our first big loss. I wanted to capture different specific moments through song where people start to deeply examine themselves.”

Scott says his biggest challenge with Purpose was making sure it had a lasting effect of timelessness, similar to what The Moody Blues achieved with Days of Future Past.

 “I didn’t want to give these songs a time stamp or give them a historical context,” he explains. “I didn’t want to talk about Covid or set this in the ‘70s or ‘80s, so in order to make the songs more timeless and universal I realized that finding a purpose in life has so many different stages.  I started thinking more about those specific stages of life that all generations go through - when you’re a kid first going to school, or older people who lose their spouse - I wanted the content to be general and not specific, so from there I could start threading the pieces together.”

Baker says that in order to advance this sense of timelessness lyrically, he also didn’t want to time-stamp the musical compositions to a specific genre such as ‘70s Classic Rock, so was searching for ways to make it sound modern. 

“Fortunately, my son came to me with the suggestion to record Alexa talking to Google Assistant and Siri asking questions and trying to plot and discuss exactly where these humans are going? Dylan and I spent time doing that - writing the script, getting their voices on the phone, and recording the bit where you hear me throwing the phone in the water, which worked really well to advance the narrative and give the music a modern edge.”

After getting the demos completed Scott says the second week of December 2020 everybody in the band came over to listen to all the tracks and vetoed one because it was too covid based. All the rest of the material was brand new and at that time he had 80 songs written, but only used one for the album and wrote all the additional ones that appear on Purpose.

“I had already written material for the next album, but once I got the idea for Purpose I asked the band if they wanted to record a concept album instead. I’d been waiting 20 years to do this and with the line-up in the band, it was perfect timing.”

Unfortunately, the project did have unexpected challenges and pitfalls. “It took a couple years to record and during that time Wes was getting married and moving way, so I only had three sessions with him before he was moving to Detroit,” explains Scott. 

“While I got him to record his parts on the first song and parts of track two, I was fortunately able to get Mike Thomas to finish it off, which happened in stages throughout the summer of 2021. But then Josh called in June and said he was leaving the band, so because the drums were done and all the official parts were cut, I just started recording guitar parts on top of the demo and it all worked out nice, even though it delayed the release for about a year. 

Within the framework and context of this expansive collaborative endeavor, Scott Baker has managed to create an engaging and lush musical mediation revolving around one of the pivotal questions of mankind’s place in the cosmos, and one’s ‘purpose’ in the universe.

Scott Baker’s ‘Purpose’ is currently available on all streaming sites and can be purchased on Bandcamp at

The ‘Michigan Music History Podcast has doubled its audience over the past two-and-a-half years and is now going into its fourth season. Two episodes are broadcast each month every other Thursday and you can catch it on Amazon, Apple, YouTube & Facebook. It brings together every style of Michigan Music, its history and backstory with detail. Featuring Gary Johnson, Fred Reif,  Mike Beattie, along with host Scott Baker.

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