It’s only been seven years since Swiss singer Bastian Baker met Shania Twain at the Montreux Jazz Festival. She loved his music and they became friends. Today, Baker is the opening act for her world tour, NOW. The tour visits Van Andel Arena on Wednesday, July 18 at 8 p.m. GR|MAG had a chance to talk with Baker ahead of the performance.
GR|MAG: You’re from Switzerland. How was it growing up there?
Bastian Baker: Growing up in Switzerland, I can only tell you amazing things. I grew up on the lakeside with two loving parents, two beautiful sisters. Switzerland is an awesome country. It’s organized, clean, pure air. I’ve got a glacier half an hour away from where I lived. We spent the summer on the lake, we skied in the winter. It’s great food, great people. It’s a little piece of heaven in Europe. I really, really like Switzerland. It’s still my favorite place on Earth.
GR|MAG: How has America been?
BB: It’s been really good to me. I’ve always loved coming here. I started coming by myself or with friends or for business six or seven years ago. It was mostly at first New York or LA, and then I discovered Nashville, where I spend a lot of time now.
Thanks to this tour now, I’m seeing literally every part of the U.S. I have to say the audience is my favorite so far. They just respond so well to my music and it’s so much fun to just play every night and interact with those people.
GR|MAG: How is being on tour with Shania Twain?
BB: Opening for Shania Twain is definitely a dream come true. Because when I was a kid, I wanted to play music in every arena in the world. She and I met seven years ago in Switzerland because that’s where she lives. We actually live about 10 minutes away from each other. I was playing a little showcase before [The Montreux Jazz Festival] at one of their private events and Shania Twain was there and apparently, she liked my music. They invited me for lunch and we had the best time, and from this moment, we are really good friends. She kind of became a mentor for me.
And when she started thinking about going back on tour, I said, ‘Hey, if you need someone to open for you, you know I’ll just come with me and my guitar, it’s not a big deal. We can have fun and be like a little family on tour.’ And that sounded good and here we are and so far, it’s been amazing. We travel together, we play this duet every night that is so much fun, and I get to play in front of an amazing crowd and get exposure. I can only say great things about her.
GR|MAG: How did that make you feel knowing that she liked your music?
BB: See it’s a very interesting thing because I knew about her but I just knew a couple of songs and I didn’t know about the 100 millions of records sold and the Grammy’s at first. I got introduced to her and was told a Canadian singer wants to meet you and I didn’t freak out and I didn’t think ‘oh my God, I really have to be her friend.’ I didn’t see the potential behind that. I think that’s why we clicked. I was just being myself, my dad was with me . . . It’s just always been nice and easy. I’m getting to know her through my experience with her.
GR|MAG: How did you get into singing? I know that you were a hockey player before.
BB: I actually started both things at the same time. I was seven years old when I started playing the guitar and I was seven years old when I started playing hockey. I kind of have always done the two things at the same time. I always had this need of writing, this need of performing.
GR|MAG: What made you want to pursue music instead of hockey?
BB: The hockey thing was more of a family thing. My dad used to play. I was pretty good at it and it was pretty promising and then this music thing was this unexpected thing that I was doing. I kept on doing it and then I got discovered and that’s when I realized I had a real opportunity to make this dream my job. I’ve been working really hard every day knowing that I’m one of the lucky ones.
GR|MAG: In your own words, how would you describe your music?
BB: I think my music is a crossing of many different genres. My music varies from pop to folk to a little touch of country. I think maybe it’s a Swiss thing. We have four different national languages and a lot of different cultures. I’ve never felt like I had to be stuck in one particular genre.
GR|MAG: What has been the best thing about touring? You mentioned you get to visit all of these different places.
BB: There’s many great things about touring. As I said, discovering new places and I’m a very curious person so I’ll always try to make the most out of my stay. The best thing about it is I get to play music every day.
GR|MAG: Do you ever get nervous before a performance?
BB: I’m rarely nervous. It’s really helpful. I just love to go up there, I know what I’m doing. I just love to be on stage and do my thing . . . I always try to tell myself to always make everything the best memory I can.
GR|MAG: What has been the highlight of your year so far?
BB: I guess it was in January when I had Shania’s husband on the phone and he confirmed to me that I was going to be on the world tour and was going to do all 80 shows. It was a start of a very promising year. That phone call really made a change in what my year was going to be
GR|MAG: Do you have any advice for those wanting to achieve their dream, no matter what it is?
BB: The cheesy stuff is actually true. You really gotta believe in yourself. If someone tells you no, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to work. You have to do what you do for the right reasons. If you want to be a musician, it’s because you want to play music and bring people together. Do it because you want to do it.
*Main photo by Sunny Martini
**Editors Note: This article has been updated to reflect 8 p.m. as the start time for the concert.