If you’ve caught Shania Twain on her Now Tour this year, you may recognize the name Bastian Baker. The 27-year-old Swiss singer-songwriter is Twain’s sole opening act on the trek, making audiences swoon with his lighthearted acoustic tracks and contagious smile — both of which caught Twain’s attention seven years ago.
Twain discovered Baker while he was performing at Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival in 2011, where she asked to meet the budding singer because she enjoyed his music. While Baker knew who Twain was, his Swiss-German father wasn’t so familiar.
“We all had lunch together, and my dad hadn’t been introduced to her. He was like, ‘Hey, so what do you do?’ We politely laughed, but she was like, ‘Oh, I play music,'” Baker recalls with a chuckle. “And because I had just started in the industry, he told her, ‘Hey if you ever need some help, my son is in the music industry, I’m sure we could help you with some contacts and stuff like that.’ And she said, ‘Oh that’s very sweet of you, I’ll let you know in case I need any help.'”
Fortunately for Baker, his dad’s naivety didn’t ruin the singer’s chances at connecting with the superstar. And actually, she’s done everything she can to help advance his career, perhaps most importantly asking him to join her 2018 tour.
The North American leg has been a great introduction to new audiences for Baker, but also a meaningful one for the former hockey player as he’s getting to perform in the arenas he once dreamed of playing in on skates instead of a stage. One of the songs he sees fans connecting to most — when they’re not screaming “Take your shirt off!” to the blue-eyed hunk — is an uplifting tune called “All Around Us,” which acknowledges the love that’s prevalent in an often tumultuous world.
When it came to conceptualizing a video for the positive song, Baker took the metaphorical route, starring alongside people of different backgrounds (including two that blend into the background) and letting dance unify them. It’s simple but meaningful, similar to Baker’s music — one of the main reasons Twain is such a champion of his.
Billboard chatted with Baker to hear about his connection with Twain and the inspiration for “All Around Us,” which happens to be the country star’s favorite track in his catalog. Check out our chat and the premiere of the “All Around Us” video below.
What’s the story behind “All Around Us”?
I wrote this song in New York last year. We met in the morning with my friend Vlad Holiday. There had been a terrorist attack in Europe that morning, so we were checking the news and I was like, “Man it’s crazy, because all these things happen and they’re all over the news and I travel all around the world, for years, and I’ve met so many great people and had so many great experiences. I think we should talk about this more because it’s easy to talk negative, but we need to give a shout-out to all the people who are awesome people.” There are many more nice people than assholes in my eyes. We wanted to say, “Look around, and you’ll see the good. The good is all around us.”
I hear “All Around Us” is Shania’s favorite song of yours…
Yeah, she loves the song. Sometimes we’ll be in the car on the way to the plane, and she’s just singing it. I’m in the backseat like, “Yep, yep… that’s good.” Obviously, it’s great that she loves my music, but when you witness it every day it’s crazy. The other day we played it twice in the car and she was telling us to play it again. It’s cool, she likes the song a lot.
Did she say what she loves about it?
I think she just loves the hook. She thinks my English is great on it. She said I sound like I’m an Irish, Dutch dude singing on it. I’m like, “Okay, sounds good.” [Laughs.] So that, and I’m assuming also probably because it’s a super positive song with a great message. She’s all about the lyrics.
I would assume the song’s positive message is part of what you love about it too.
Yeah, of course. After a lot of the trouble and drama that has happened over the last year, it became pretty clear that one of the only things that can bring people together and not care about anybody’s background is music. I wish the world was a concert venue, because that’s a place where everybody can have fun and not care. To me, it’s so just important. Growing up in Switzerland, we’re mutual, and I have friends from all backgrounds — it’s just the way it should be. Definitely, the positive message behind the song is something I really care for.
What inspired the video concept?
It’s definitely a metaphor of the lyrics. You look at the wall and you first just see the wall, then there’s this guy coming out of the wall. Then you look at the curtain, and there’s this girl coming out of the curtain. You look at a black background, and then you have this little girl that walks out of it. It’s exactly that. Look at things the way you want to. See that there’s a wall, but is it just that, or is there something behind it?
Did the dancing have anything to do with the metaphor? Or is there any deeper meaning within the choreography?
The dancing is a very positive thing. It’s great to express joy and happiness through dancing for sure. The unison you’re talking about, for sure, we’re all walking in the same direction, moving in the same direction — it definitely shows unity.
Is there anything you personally brought to the video that you are proud of or feel connected to?
I was personally proud that I could join some of the dance moves without looking pretty stupid. [Laughs.] Let’s not forget that I’m a former hockey player, so you know, I don’t have dancing in my blood. Music videos are always a struggle for me — even after seven years of shooting videos, I’m still nervous on the days that we shoot because I’m like, “I hope this one’s gonna turn out great.” But hey, some people on this video struggled a lot more than me. The guy painted in the wall, it took six hours to paint that guy like a wall. He was in his underwear the whole time and it was freezing, I have big respect for him. He had the hardest time for sure.
It had to be kind of weird walking around seeing this guy painted like a wall.
Well, yeah. I posted a picture at the time we did the shooting when he and I were talking and said, “Sometimes I just feel like I’m talking to a wall.” [Laughs.]
Even though you weren’t in your underwear, was it the coldest video you’ve ever filmed?
That was definitely cold. But I have almost died from the cold in some of my music videos. If you check out “Ain’t No Love,” we shot it in Iceland and I was in the Arctic Ocean. That’s like 5 degrees Celsius, that’s cold — really cold. I had to act all cool walking out of the ocean while I’m freezing, and my feet are hurting because the rocks are sharp. I definitely felt the cold on that one. We shot an acoustic video a couple years ago in the Swiss Alps, and that was also pretty cold. I know Shania did her last video in Jamaica or something like that, that looked pretty good. [Laughs.]
Yeah she’s one of the queens of extravagant music videos. Did she give you any tips for “All Around Us”?
I showed her the video, and she definitely had some comments after the first cut that I forwarded to my management. She really liked the hallway part with the nice lighting. She thought there should be more of it, so we did actually at a little bit more of it because it did look really good. Just yesterday before flying to Kansas City I had another almost hour conversation with her on strategies, communication, timing and stuff. She thinks a lot, and a lot of her thinking seems to be for my career, so that’s pretty cool. My management is still always shocked that I can give them direct feedback from Shania Twain on the things we do.
What have you learned from Shania on tour?
She loves her fans like I’ve rarely seen an artist love her fans. The way she treats her fans at some of the shows is pretty sensational. She always takes a moment and makes sure everybody’s happy. So I’ve definitely learned that from her and I try to recreate the same atmosphere at my own show. I’ll always try to hear what people in the crowd are laughing at me, and react on it or make a joke on it so we can all have a fun moment.
She is just this amazing pro and she’s in charge of everything that’s been created for this tour. You can’t fool her — anything that’s not working, she’ll notice it, and it’ll be fixed for the next show. And that’s another way I look up to her — she’s very involved, and I think that’s one of the keys if you want to have a successful career as an artist.
Have you guys worked on any music while out on the road together?
She actually wrote a song for me that we have not released yet that we might release in the future. The special thing about this song is that she wrote a song for me and she didn’t write it in English, she wrote it in French. So there’s a demo of her and I singing it in French — and that would be something really special, because she’s never released a song where she sings in French. We might take a minute in the studio after this tour’s done next year to make it a proper song. Whether it’s going to be something or not, time will tell.