Virginia to Vegas - Dreaming of Sunnier Days
Juno nominated singer-songwriter-producer from Toronto, Derik Baker, professionally known as Virginia to Vegas has been making waves in the music industry with his unique style of electropop and personal lyricism. Baker released an EP in February entitled a constant state of improvement, which started the #BetterManChallenge to raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts. Now he’s back with don’t wake me, i’m dreaming, a new EP touching on topics such as moving away from friends, the stresses of growing up too fast, and being distanced from family and friends.
Congratulations on announcing your new EP don’t wake me, i'm dreaming. With all the time in quarantine, did you plan to release a second EP this year or did it just happen?
It’s funny the year has changed so much for a lot of people. Specifically for artists, we haven’t been touring so there’s much more time to make music. I think maybe it would have not come out this year, or maybe I wouldn't have been able to get it finished. I just had time on my hands. I don’t think it was a conscious decision - I was just home.
You’ve been teasing new music on Instagram and social media and I think a full EP was such a great surprise for fans especially after the surprise single. I know that I was super excited when I heard about it. Why did you choose “Palm Springs” to be the lead single?
To me, the EP made sense once “Palm Springs” came together. I remember the day we wrote it and it just always seemed like the best introduction to this body of work. It was just fun. It feels fun but there’s actually a true story to every song. It’s a bit of a sad story. It’s about moving away from someone and it’s about a really fun weekend in Palm Springs, which was the last weekend I spent in California. I spent it with a really good friend. It was just a story I wanted to tell and it just made sense for it to be the lead single off the EP.
Yeah, of course. It really encapsulates the sound. Do you find a lot of your inspiration for songwriting to come from those personal experiences or do you just write more generally?
The songs that I do write that come from personal experiences just seem to connect more for whatever reason. Although everyone has a unique experience in life and the experiences that they have are their own. We all kind of go through the same things in terms of love and relationships and things that make us stressed and things that make us happy, so I think when you write about something that is extremely specific to yourself, that’s when it becomes more relatable to other people.
I totally get that. After the massive success of “Just Friends,” with it being included on one of Taylor Swift’s playlists, and the new direction in style from your debut album Utopian, do you think you’ve found your “style” as a musician?
Yeah, I think when we wrote “Just Friends,” we wrote it in Toronto but at the time I was living in Los Angeles and I had come back to work with a group of my pals that were here in the city. It just seemed so silly cause I was in the city that everyone says is the mecca of music. But I come back to Toronto and I’m with my pals and we totally get in sync and we just kinda like nailed something. I felt that I knew where Virginia to Vegas needed to go. I remember the night we wrote that song it just felt so good.
Yeah, I think that’s one of my favorites. You mentioned writing with your friends so has your writing process or processes of shooting music videos changed a lot since COVID?
Absolutely! I think the way that we’re writing music has had to change. Usually, you would do random sessions with writers that your publisher puts you with. Things were a lot more in-person whereas now everything is done through Zoom, which has also been amazing cause I got to work with people I never would have gotten to work with. In terms of the video, it kinda changed. We definitely had to be super careful and we couldn’t go shoot on location. In terms of how we made the video, I made the video with my best friend who I’ve been making videos with for the past 3 years. So it was fun, we just dumped a bunch of sand in his apartment [laughs] and put a green screen up and tried to make something that was funny and cool.
Of course, what do you hope that fans will feel or think after they hear the EP?
There’s a bunch of records that have stood out to me over the years that I can just listen to front to back. One of them is Heavier Things by John Mayer. I just burned that thing out by listening to it so much or Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. I think I listened to that album nonstop and I could listen to it front to back. I want people to want to put this album on and listen to it from start to finish. I want it to be that mood that they want to be in.
It definitely has a really good vibe to it so that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Thank you, I hope so.
Would you have any advice for would-be artists or songwriters wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I don’t think I’ve been the best at anything I’ve ever done whether it be songwriting or singing or producing or playing guitar or anything like that. I think the one thing that’s allowed me to have a career in the music industry is I just never gave up. I always kept trying and always tried to improve, tried to get better, and enjoyed listening to how music trends are going. If you look at an artist like David Bowie. If you listen to one of his albums and then play his next album right after unless you knew it was David Bowie (I mean his voice is pretty distinct) you almost wouldn't think it was the same artist. He was so great at infusing himself into pop culture and subculture and figuring out how music was changing and being on the cusp of it. That’s something that I’ve tried to emulate over my career (8 years in the industry) is I’m a fan of music. I love listening to music and trying to take my music to that place. I guess my advice to other artists is to be a fan of music, try to see what’s going on in subculture (who’s playing in the bar down the street, who’s songs are popping up on playlists or forums or things like that) and then don’t give up. Just keep trying and trying to be the best that they can.
That’s really great advice. Last but not least, what do you hope to do next? Some virtual shows, socially distanced things? Anything like that?
We’re definitely going to work on some live components so we can give people a visual and live experience of what the new music sounds like cause it’s kind of bizarre we’ve released 2 albums in a time that we haven’t been able to play any of those songs live. We’re gonna work on something like that. I watched Billie Eilish’s show the other night and I thought it was really well done and really creative and I thought the way that they presented it was cool. I wanna give fans of Virginia to Vegas the same kind of experience that they would get in person. So we’ve done some of those live things and they’re fun and they're a great way to connect. I want people to watch a Virginia to Vegas show and go “wow, that’s cool. I wasn’t expecting that.”
Virtual shows are definitely harder to get together, but I feel like if they’re done right they can be really great. Is there anything else you want people to know?
Just thanks. Always thanks. Thanks for listening, thanks for coming along and being a fan of the music. Hopefully, everyone enjoys this album and there’s lots of new music coming in the future.
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