Whether he’s playing with a band, performing solo or teaching students, Jimmy Baldwin more often than not has a guitar in his hands.
The Vancouver musician’s biography says there aren’t many things in the world he would rather do than grab one of his guitars and play on stage, in front of a room full of happy people. Speaking with Baldwin, it doesn’t take very long at all to sense there is a lot of truth in that statement.
For the last few years, Baldwin has been leader of his own Jimmy Baldwin Band, co-founding member of 10-piece Afro-beat funk juggernaut Camaro 67, hot Tele-picker with Warner country artists the Washboard Union, performer with top-tier event band Ten Souljers and hired gun for various solo artists and one-off appearances. He is always playing.
Baldwin started playing guitar late in high school in Prince George.
“I started getting some of my friends who were playing to show me a few things,” he says.
“I was instantly hooked. I think I’ve always been kind of solitary in a lot of ways and enjoyed solitude, and it was sort of a peaceful, productive way to spend time alone. I was just kind of drawn to it from the beginning.”
As Baldwin got older, playing guitar turned from a hobby into a possible career.
He distinctly remembers being in a college marketing and management program in Prince George and getting this feeling that this wasn’t what he needed to be doing.
“I just felt drawn to music and felt I needed to do it,” he says.
Baldwin dropped out of the marketing program and ended up studying music at Vancouver Community College.
As a guitarist, Baldwin has assimilated elements of genres including country, blues, jazz, funk, R&B, rock and various world music forms — specifically West African — into his own personal style. The influence of guitar legends like Jeff Beck, Danny Gatton and Mark Knopfler is evident in his playing. His vocal stylings, songwriting and performance skills have been shaped by a wide range of influences, from Waylon Jennings to Bruce Springsteen to Prince.
As a guitarist and songwriter, Baldwin has created a style he calls “country-soul,” which he describes as a funky, soulful hybrid of country-rock and R&B.
Baldwin says a lot of the different influences you can hear in his music come from growing up listening to a wide variety of music. His parents had different tastes in music, so the house was filled with the sounds of everything from folk and country to Motown and rock.
“I’ve always loved music and responded to it, and it didn’t matter what it was called,” he says.
“It was just how it made me feel. I’ve always been open to those influences … and ultimately tried to synthesize them into my own thing.”
When he was in his early twenties, Baldwin started listening to jazz music, and that’s when he started to get more serious about making music his career.
Today, Baldwin is as comfortable delivering lonesome songs of heartbreak as he is performing funky, up-tempo rockers. His biography describes him as a charismatic performer who lives to be on stage — alongside his bandmates or on his own.
“I just enjoy that opportunity to connect with people and to bring the audience in so we can have that shared experience so we can create something memorable that we can all go away with,” he says.
“A good performance with a good audience, there’s sort of that reciprocal energy there. It can really inspire you to go back and keep getting better at it.”
Baldwin released a solo album called Changing Time and has toured throughout B.C. and Alberta. As a sideman with The Washboard Union, he has toured across Canada and travelled as far as France. His horn-driven funk band Camaro 67 recorded a new album over the winter and is playing a CD release show June 1 at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver.
Baldwin says he is always working on something new, and is trying to find some time for songwriting.
“I definitely plan to work on some new solo recordings and do more solo touring,” he says, adding this trip to Quesnel on May 18 and to Nancy O’s in Prince George on May 19 is a great chance to focus on his solo work.
Baldwin performs May 18 at Pen-Y-Bryn Farm at 2911 Kersley Dale Landing Rd. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the music starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at Circle ‘S’ Western Wear, online at penybrynfarm.ca, by contacting Lindsay at 1-250-510-5508, or at the door.
This concert is also part of a Horse Lover Package at Pen-Y-Bryn Farm, which includes the concert, overnight camping with a horse, a group breakfast and a Mountain Trail obstacle course.
To learn more about Jimmy Baldwin, visit jimmybaldwin.ca.