Get to know ... Will Baird
DARIEN — On the bank of Tilley Pond recently, musician Will Baird sat placidly with his acoustic guitar in hand, softly singing a little known James Taylor tune as walkers strode by and the fountains sprayed behind him.
But beneath the surface, this former Darien resident — and one-time Post 53 volunteer — struggled to come to terms with the recent massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead.
As a country collectively grieved, some people found their own ways to address the violence. For Baird, a songwriter since his college days playing gigs in Boston, the answer was music.
So Baird dedicated his most recent song, “I Carry a Candle for You,” to the victims of the Orlando attack in hopes of providing some solace.
He met with the Darien News to discuss his music and his reason for writing the tribute.
Q: How did you get your start in music?
A: I first started playing music in my college days. I didn’t study music, I studied psychology, believe it or not. But my whole family is very musical, so I studied music at home.
I played throughout my 20s in coffee houses and then eventually rock n’ roll clubs. That was back in the late 70s, at the end of the folk era when it was sort of dwindling. At that time singer-songwriters were becoming popular. Folks like James Taylor, Jim Croce and Carole King.
The last band I was in, I realized everyone lived with their parents and we were almost 30. I decided I didn’t want to keep going that route. So I dropped music and became a marketing executive for a number of years and still do some part-time consulting. But I’m mostly retired now.
Q: Do you consider yourself a folk musician? Who were you influenced by?
A: These days we don’t use the word folk because it sounds like your grandfather’s Oldsmobile. We call it acoustic music now. I’d say the biggest influences for me - I have a wide-range - may be James Taylor and John Mayer. They’re the two that I’m compared to the most frequently. But ideas come from everywhere. I’ve had songs where ideas came from the Pretenders, from Cyndi Lauper, from Lady Gaga. Ideas that kind of come out of someone else’s idea. You don’t know where the next one’s going to come from ‘till you wake up in the morning and the next one comes spilling out.
Q: At what point did you get back into music?
A: I was with Post 53 for 11 years, which was quite a significant time commitment. So when I finished up with Post 53, after a few years I found myself gravitating back toward music and writing. Suddenly it was like someone popped to top off Aladdin’s Lamp. All these songs started pouring out.
The more life experience you have, the more you have to write about. I guess it’s one of the few advantages of age.
Q: Prior to Orlando, had you ever written songs in response to a tragedy?
A: This is the first time. I think it happened for two reasons. One was because it reminded me of my EMS experiences. Television is so immediate, it brings you to the place, instantly. Usually when you had a bad call, you’d come around the corner and there would be a sea of blue lights because all the police were there. The early film footage of Orlando had the same sea of blue lights, during that period when nothing was happening. It brought back those memories of the sight of blue lights and the sound of engines idling.
The other was I lost my voice last year, which for a singer is devastating. I eventually came to the conclusion that it was kind of a message that I should be using my voice for more than just entertaining. I should be using it to help people. Whether that meant singing to sick people or some other form I wasn’t sure.
Q: What compelled you to write when you heard about Orlando?
A: I thought, I could write a song and provide some solace to people. It was very impulsive, I was working on something and suddenly out of the blue just stopped and started working on it.
The TV was on in the background and I was doing something at my desk and happened to glance up and see the footage. I had fragments of the song already set aside for reasons I didn’t understand. The last verse of the song that goes, ‘For you a thousand church bells ring, for you a thousand angels sing, ‘ that had just been sort of sitting off to the side and I didn’t know where it came from or what it was for. And then suddenly, here’s where it belonged. So some of it was piecing things together from other places and some of it was spontaneous.
Q: What are your plans to get the song to the ears of victims and their families?
A: I think my next step is to go to the churches. I’ll probably turn to the churches and see if there’s interest in having me come down and singing. The sad part about this is, for the rest of this is going to be done in another week or two. We’ll have moved on. And for these folks it’s going to last a lifetime. So, this song, while I’d love to see it do it’s job now, it may do it’s job next month or next year. But I’ll continue to carry it and continue to make it available.
Q: What do the candles signify?
A: The candles are a symbol of hope I imagined a candlelight vigil. My son described to me going to a little church in Vermont on Christmas Eve. The service was very unimpressive until the end when everyone was given a candle and they sang “Silent Night.” He said it was one of the most moving moments of his life. A candle is a very powerful thing. It can light a fire, or it can be blown out with a puff of air or a speck of water. And hope is the same way. It’s a powerful thing but it can be taken so easily. That’s a powerful thing.