WENATCHEE — Norman Baker isn’t one to compete in music often, but when he does, he does well.
Baker won the NCW Fair’s Battle of the Bands on Aug. 22, earning him a spot as country musician Craig Morgan’s opening act the next night. The battle wasn’t typical for Baker.
“I do play out in that region fairly often and they reached out to me and I said, ‘Sure, I’ll give this a shot’ and ended up winning,” Baker said. “So that was cool.”
Waterville and Wenatchee, where he’ll play Friday, are like many of the rural towns and cities he plays.
“I met a lot of people that had some good things to say about my music,” Baker said. “And I like being out there in the boonies where it’s a little bit more peaceful.”
The area is one he’s grown a fondness for since developing a love for country music.
“Country is actually kind of a newer thing to me,” Baker said. “I didn’t grow up listening to country.”
The 37-year-old Seattle resident came of age listening to gangsta rap, grunge, alternative rock, heavy metal and punk. His foray into country began after 30, but isn’t all that unexpected.
“Kent, where I grew up, is kind of a rugged, hard-living, trouble-making city, but it’s also very rural and country and down home,” Baker said.
Country and folk acts like Charlie Pride, George Jones, Doc Watson, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt spurred his expanded musical tastes.
“For me, I wasn’t exposed to the good kind of country that I’ve started to enjoy in my older life,” Baker said. “Now, there’s some country music that I just absolutely love. But I still love me some gangsta rap, too.”
His songs touch on a number of themes.
“Sometimes it’s about traveling, sometimes it’s about love, sometimes it’s about loss, sometimes it’s about loss prevention,” Baker said.
Almost all are autobiographical. Almost all.
“Most of them are real life experiences — except for my murder ballad,” Baker said, alluding to “A Murder Ballad,” written early in his country career.
This week he began a 2-1/2 week tour that will take him through Eastern Washington, Oregon and into Northern and Central California. He considers it his fourth “longer” tour since fall 2018. When it’s over, he’ll take a break until spring.
Touring has been a constant in Baker’s life since he transitioned to full-time musicianship a few years ago.
“It’s been great. I make my own schedule and that’s nice, you know, working for myself,” Baker said of his career as a singer-songwriter. “I mean, mainly I just keep writing songs and keep getting them out there, and as long as I’m getting them into new ears and as many communities as possible.”
That means playing shows. Lots of them. Two hundred in 2016, 214 in 2017, 261 in 2018.
“I feel more at home while I’m traveling and on the road,” Baker said. “I feel like I’m thriving more when it’s a different thing every day and I’m just on the go, in and out and playing my music.”
This year hasn’t been as prolific travel-wise, but he’s OK with that.
“It was pretty strenuous last year, but in a good way,” Baker said. “I’m totally fine with not beating 261 this year.”
Baker plays at 7 p.m. Friday at Pybus Public Market. Listen to his new singles “Tell Me About Your Life” and “Where Did the Land Go?’ on Spotify or Bandcamp.
Follow him at facebook.com/normanbaker206 or on Instagram @normanbakermusic.