A still from the video for John Baldwin's "Changes."Courtesy The Salt Lick Denver
Musician John Baldwin, a videographer and musician of the Salt Lick Denver collective, says the idea for his latest single, "Change,” came about in 2018 in a shack in the woods in South Carolina. He was experimenting with some loops he’d made, and when he started writing lyrics, the words began flowing out of him.
“I was surprised at how passionately they came out,” he recalls. “Then I realized there’s a lot of emotion behind something that I still hadn’t found a way to express yet.”
Baldwin says he put a lot of subsequent work into “Change," scrapping lyrics and recording them several times while adding and subtracting elements from the instrumental.
“I think I did seventeen different versions of that one,” he says. “I’m really excited to have it done. … I feel like ‘Change’ is the final, fullest version of things I wanted to express for the longest time. I have not really found the right form to express those things. I’ve done similar songs in the past.”
The Salt Lick also produced a music video for the single, which was released earlier this week. Baldwin, who is originally from Charleston, South Carolina, says the video tells a couple of separate stories in visual narrative.
“It’s all just illustrations of the different states of mind that people are capable of and how those relate to the theme of change,” he says. “Originally, we had this idea of a whole flight of drinks and different colors, meaning different emotions, different states of mind. We ended up cutting out some of the scenes, but the theme is still there.”
Members of the Salt Lick Denver shot the video at and around the Rocky Mountain Land Library near South Park. According to the collective, it “shows characters drinking strange brews and struggling through interpersonal relationships, wrestling with their own emotions, and eventually overcoming their stagnation.”
The Salt Lick co-founder and video director Jason Edelstein says he found the location when he camped there several years ago. The library's owners are working to convert an old ranch into an artist retreat with numerous modular libraries that each detail a different facet of the environment.
“One of the reasons we were drawn to this location is [because] sometimes, as humans, when we get really existentialist, we can try to conceptualize the idea of the changes in our lives,” Edelstein says. “It’s insignificant when compared to the changes of the planet and the universe on a geographic scale.”
Last year, the collective shot a video for Bear and the Beasts, one of the bands on its record label — the Salt Lick Records — at the East Troublesome fire burn scar northwest of Denver. While this video didn’t feature other members of the Salt Lick Denver, as the collective has made a habit of doing, Edelstein says the connection lies in the location, the beautiful mountains of Colorado.
“Thematically, I guess one thing we like to do in music videos, since we have access to the outdoors here, is really showcase how this music connects with the landscape of Colorado,” he explains.
Baldwin has been influenced by Radiohead and comedian/musician Reggie Watt. He says it’s tough for him to discuss influences, but he takes inspiration from artists like Frank Ocean and EDM producer Grabbitz — not necessarily in songwriting, but in style.
“I feel like EDM is kind of fusing together genres of dubstep [and] future bass,” he says. “A lot of that stuff is coming together and finding its own thing. A lot of it is in pop music these days. I would name Grabbitz as an example, but there are a lot of artists who are doing that similar kind of thing who have been an influence.”
“Change” is a teaser for Baldwin’s second full-length album, also called Change, which is due out on May 11 via the Salt Lick Records. Much of the album concerns the past few years of Baldwin’s life, including his relocation to Denver for a change of scenery. He wrote some of the songs early in the pandemic, around spring of 2020, when he and most everyone else had a lot of free time.
“Moving to Denver was a big one,” he says. “Moving to a city where I basically know no one, trying to just survive, establish myself as a musician, an artist and a part of the community. A lot of these songs tell the story of working through that, making tough decisions, doubting yourself.”
Change drops on May 20 via the Salt Lick Records. The single "Changes" is now available to stream on all platforms. More information is available at thesaltlickdenver.com. Visit johnbaldwinsounds.com for more music.
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