John Baumann has something to prove with new album
"Here I Come," John Baumann
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Texas country singer John Baumann is feeling uncomfortable these days — and that's a good thing.
Baumann's fourth studio album, Proving Grounds, dropping in June, and with it came a new outlook: He left behind the geographically inspired songs that set apart his previous albums and, staring down his upcoming 30th birthday, took a much more personal approach to songwriting.
Baumann will perform the new tracks, including current single "Here I Come," when he returns to Amarillo for a 10 p.m. Saturday show at Hoots Pub, 2424 Hobbs Road. Cover is $10.
"The songs kind of came out slowly over the last year," Baumann said. "I was tired of writing songs about places ... and I felt it was easier to write my story in the music business, growing up, losing my dad. ... The album took shape around my story. It was a happy accident, I guess."
But in doing so, he didn't initially stop to think what it would be like performing those intensely personal songs — including "Old Stone Church," about the death of his father to cancer — night after night.
"I wasn't quite aware that by playing the songs live, I'd have to saddle up and put the spotlight on me more," Baumann said. "The first few times I played 'Here I Come' or 'Old Stone Church,' I thought, 'Oh man, what have you done?'
"I don't think I was totally aware it was going to be such a personal exposé."
But Baumann has "no regrets," especially considering the positive reaction the album has elicited.
"I think it's a good lesson in that if you're going to show yourself, be ready to be uncomfortable," he said.
Besides, performing the songs regularly is already starting to feel like a new normal.
"I play 'Old Stone Church' in a venue now, and typically it goes completely silent," Baumann said. "Those are the magic moments that you love in a gig."
Proving Grounds was born of Baumann's dissatisfaction in his career's progress, and as he already has proven, taking big swings has worked out for him in the past.
He began writing songs less than 10 years ago, on breaks from a day job that wasn't exactly capturing his imagination. But his dreams of making it in the industry stretch back to his teenage years, captured in the opening lines of "Here I Come," Proving Grounds' lead track.
"When I was a younger boy, my father asked what I want to be / I said I want to be a Flatlander, Jimmie Dale, Butch or Ely / I want to play guitar and sing, and make the people stomp the floor / I want to write the best of the best and be a High Plains troubadour," Baumann sings.
His father, Bill Baumann, was a Potter County attorney in the 1980s, but the family moved to San Antonio when the younger Baumann was 4. It was there that his dad first bought him a guitar, as the song explains.
Calling on Texas country's holy trinity of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and Joe Ely — plus Terry Allen, who gets a shoutout in the next verse — is Baumann's sign of respect to those whose music meant so much to him growing up.
"They're not quite Mount Rushmore, but they're pretty damn close," Baumann said. "It's (saying), you guys have lived a cool life and put together an incredible body of work. Thank you for what you've done. (I) and 10,000 others are trying to do the same thing."
But the song doesn't only look back. It makes Baumann's case for a lasting career: "It's too soon for accolades, and it's too late to quit / so here I am, and here I come."
Proving Grounds may be exactly that — a chance for Baumann to make his mark and break out of the pack of singer-songwriters reaching for the gold ring.
Reviews have been glowing.
"Whereas others in his lane try to coast on bravado, bullsh-- and hype, Baumann is keeping it as real as it gets. This is the type of gritty honesty we’re all craving and seeking in our music. It’s the type of insight previously provided by the likes of Hayes Carll and Guy Clark," wrote Galleywinter's Brad Beheler.
"It has given me a new momentum, a new face as a songwriter in Texas," Baumann said. "I don't know, I feel like we have a new life and a higher platform than we did before with this new record."