Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta! on what he says “we’re supposed to be doing,” running, and what it feels like to play a show before a running crowd.
Hey Rosetta! are a seven-piece rock band from St. John’s, Newfoundland, whose last record reached number one on the Canadian album charts. The band, known for their crescendoing anthems, dynamic instrumentation and soaring choruses, are a tight-knit group of friends, men and women, led by frontman Tim Baker, who’s currently at work on his first solo project. Baker’s music was used at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and his band is playing this summer in Muskoka, Ontario, at the great Band on the Run 5K, 10K and half marathon. iRun caught up with Baker as he prepared to play an outdoor show in the company of thousands of runners.
iRun: It feels like your music in particular is similar to running, in that there’s a great physical and emotional, cathartic release. Do you make that connection?
Baker: Definitely, it’s like a driving thing, and you certainly feel that playing onstage. If you’re honest with yourself, it’s much more difficult not to move, to sit still—when I hear all kinds of music, I feel like we all want to run.
iRun: What do you like about running?
Baker: The great thing about running is that it’s running. What’s better than that? We’re built to do this and you feel like a kid when you’re doing it. It’s a joyful action, you don’t have to convince anyone bodily to take part in it.
iRun: I always say that, like when people ask me how to run. Just go out there and do it. Don’t worry about anything, pretend you’re catching a bus.
Baker: It’s sort of become this regimented thing and that’s a shame because as a means to an end, running in itself is beautiful.
iRun: Your music with the band has this tremendous buildup and release and I find it great to run to; have you heard that before and does that make sense to you, as a songwriter?
Baker: I’ve heard that many times and it makes sense to me, both as a writer and as a person who moves to music. I definitely run to music, I cycle to music, I’ve done classes where they have horrendous music played really loudly.
iRun: Tim, I love you. But you are losing all of your street cred.
Baker: No, it’s true, but I’ve also been in a spin class (oh God, I’m just killing myself, I know), and heard one of our songs come on and think, Yeah, that actually works. It’s never quite as bright and as brash as the pop mixes, but I can see how at some point in your workout, when you’re grasping at anything you can get your hands on to push you over the hill, something dramatic or emotional or impassioned will help you and I try to make our music full of those things.
iRun: I think when you’re running you want messages of hope, of defiance, of perseverance and strength.
Baker: I’ve been writing new music for the last year or so and am putting together a little solo project and I’ve noticed in the music there’s constant recurring themes that I write about. You know, you struggle and you suffer, but you also take heart in little things that eventually can reveal to you that it’s going to be OK.
iRun: I think for a lot of people running does just that—gives them a moment of sanctity to gather the will to go.
Baker: That’s like my thing and I feel like if you’re given a microphone and you have to figure out something important to say, that’s what helps me sleep at night and makes it all OK for me and that’s what I want to share with others.
iRun: It’s a nice thing to share with runners.
Baker: Yeah, I can see how that might be a good soundtrack when you’re literally struggling physically.
iRun: What do you do to stay so fit, given the demands, and temptations, of performance and spending so much time on the road?
Baker: I need to exercise every few days and blow off a little stress, especially on the road when you’re beset by stressful situations, constantly. I do anything I can do to release the valve. There’s a joy in movement and I think it’s fun and I think it should be fun, when you think about it. I feel like if force myself to sit at the desk all day long I force myself to ignore my human animal body by sitting; that’s when my body complains, when I sit in the van or play guitar for three hours. That’s what’s unnatural—running around and being free, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. I get at it anyway I can.
iRun: How do you resist the usual rock star temptations?
Baker: I don’t worry about fitness, I worry more about mental health. I have to sleep a lot on the road but it’s true that after a few days without any exercise, it’s better to get up early and run then sleep in, you feel much more energized. Anyway, I’ve never been very good at being a rockstar. I find the toll of doing sets night after night doesn’t leave much left to go out partying. It’s physically and spiritually draining—you have to be there and give it all every night.
iRun: It sounds like running a race.
Baker: There is a certain weightlessness to it, when there’s people all around you, it inspires you. Maybe I’d be good in a running race, just to run and get back to being a kid, being a creature in the world, running around.
For more on Hey Rosetta! and Tim Baker, please see HeyRosetta.com. The band plays St. John’s on July 31.