Bluesfest Byron Bay has taken home Silver at the Australian Tourism Award for Best Major Festival and Event at a ceremony in Perth on Friday night.
The festival has enjoyed recognition in Australia and in the US over the past months. In November 2017 Bluesfest was honoured with an admission into the NSW Tourism Hall of Fame after winning Best Major Festival & Event at the NSW Tourism Awards three times in a row. Bluesfest was also nominated for the sixth time in a row at the Pollstar Awards for International Festival of the Year and received the Keeping the Blues Alive Award from The Blues Foundation in Memphis Tennessee. And it’s this commitment to presenting talent from around the world, across genres and demographics, that has kept the festival on the global best fest radar.
One of the acts Bluesfest is presenting this year is Darwin-based rhythm and blues, soul and beats singer/songwriter Caiti Baker. Some have said she’s our Amy Winehouse. It’s a comparison she gets a lot, and still finds flattering.
‘I would put her as a contemporary in that I’ve been listening to her music since Frank. I’m much less jazzy, I guess, in aesthetics when it comes to music. I was more on the blues side, and I guess I still am, but I’ve always absolutely loved her, and I’ve loved the aesthetics that she’s put together with jazz and hip-hop. I guess it’s maybe a similar dynamic in what I’ve done with blues, but her voice is, and her presence and her phrasing, and everything about her is … It’s a great loss that it’s no longer present in the world. But yes, thank you, it is super flattering. I don’t personally see it, but … Yeah. I don’t know what to say, really. Just humbled by it.’
Blues is in Caiti Baker’s blood. In fact she says, ‘I exist because of blues music’.
‘My father’s a blues musician, and he met my uncle, my mum’s brother, in bands, and they used to play together, so I came about through the Adelaide blues music scene. I was based in blues, and soul, and rock’n’roll, and gospel and country blues as a baby, and didn’t really listen to anything else other than that until I kinda discovered hip-hop, and pop, and R&B, and new jack swing in my late primary-school times, and from there moved to Brisbane from Melbourne. Adelaide, sorry, oh my goodness. I’m in Melbourne right now. I moved from Adelaide to Brisbane, and I discovered a hip-hop and R&B show on a community radio show on 4ZZZ, and got heavily into everything from Lauryn Hill to Wu-Tang Clan, Leela James, and on the flipside also really loved the music and work of Fiona Apple and Cat Power, and more indie, kind of soul-based, I guess, pop and rock artists. That’s where my melting pot of influences kinda stems from. Our families used to drive to the Byron Bay Bluesfest, and as a kid I slept in the car waiting for them to finish. Can’t really do that any more. Times have changed.’
They sure have; now she’s playing at Bluesfest.
Baker’s story is one of pleasure and pain, music and art, trauma and struggle. In just three years she’s produced an album, dealt with chronic fatigue and been diagnosed bipolar.
‘One of the good things about music is the release. It’s therapy. It’s something I wouldn’t know how not to do.’
The talented Caiti Baker is one act you need to make sure you catch this year at Bluesfest.
For tickets and program info go to www.bluesfest.com.au