Edmonds man uses music and stories to soar above disabilities

Nick Baker singing

Click the the photo and watch Nick Baker perform “Fly the Eagle” on My Edmonds News TV.

Nick Baker is a 33-year-old Edmonds resident with a degree in music performance, a recording studio and four albums to his name. He taught himself how to play the piano starting at age 1 and began to write his own music around 2000. He performs in venues ranging from senior centers to schools, sharing his music with countless audience members. He also happens to be blind and autistic.

“I started playing one-handed melodies at the beginning… the simple songs, like “ABC,” “Twinkle Twinkle [Little Star],”’ Baker said of his piano skills. His ability to play by ear was helpful in his development as well. “It’s like I just hear a song once, right by ear, and then I just copy it back.”

His most prominent musical influences are a product of his childhood years, ranging from the movie soundtracks of Flashdance and Footloose to the big hits of the 1980s. “Besides Michael Jackson, my [favorite artist] has to be the genius himself, Stevie Wonder. I like all of his great early Motown stuff to the sounds of today,” Baker said.

Consequently, Baker’s next album will be titled The Soulful Side of Nick, featuring covers of R&B, dance and funk classics from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Three of Baker’s four albums include original songs and arrangements; his first album, Think Positive, features exclusively original songs. The track list includes “Bad Behavior Blues,” a song about an altercation on a bus that first inspired Baker to start writing.

“Back at WSSB [the Washington State School for the Blind], before the holiday season began, I had a major – how do you say – verbal assault incident on a charter bus on the way to school,” Baker explained. “Right when I got my radio taken away, that’s when I felt that song coming on, ‘Bad Behavior Blues.’ That’s what inspired me to make my first album.”

cover with textAs if his previous accomplishments weren’t enough, Baker’s first book, “Turtle,” was released this week on Amazon. A Braille version is also in the works. The picture book recounts a few of Baker’s experiences as an elementary school student in Arizona, where he lived before he moved to Edmonds at age 15.

Baker said “Turtle” was inspired “by my grade school adventures; you know, when certain students don’t know better and make fun of people just because they’re different than each other. Even though I was blind, nobody knew I was autistic. That’s what kind of shocked me.”

The book is transcribed by Baker’s mother, Kathy Passage, and illustrated by Mike Motz, both of whom worked together to develop sketches into color pictures that matched up with the text. It is being published through CreateSpace, which will make Baker’s book available on electronic platforms like the Kindle as well as in print.

Baker said he decided to write the book “just so that people can learn never to misjudge,” Baker explained. “I wrote it because I just want people to find out just what it’s like, you know, to be born without sight and what it’s like to be autistic.”

Baker doesn’t show any signs of slowing down after the book is released. In fact, he’s hoping his book will help push him on to his next big goal. “The big documentary I’m working on is what I want people to know about me. Basically, I wrote it for the people of VH1 because I want them to know about me and have me featured on either Behind the Music, or one of the shows that I enjoyed, “Before They Were Rock Stars.”

Baker’s biggest supporter in reaching his goals is his self-proclaimed number one fan: his mother. Passage — who also happens to write the “My Edmonds Restaurant News” column — acts as a manager for Baker, a constant advocate of his career. “She realizes that music is my dream and it really makes sense for her to support me in that kind of role,” Baker said.

And Baker admits he is living the dream. In 20 years, he hopes his music will have airplay on local radio stations. “Getting on the Grammy’s [so] I can perform with certain people… like John Legend, maybe Stevie Wonder, the local people like Macklemore, or even Bruno Mars – just anybody!”

Check out Baker’s albums on iTunes and CDBaby. Look for “Turtle” on Kindle, BookBaby, and in print.

– Story and video by Caitlin Plummer 

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. Nick Baker!

    Having missed the ‘Intro” one Fourth of July as I listened to the strains of The Star Spangled Banner at the Edmonds fireworks show, I slowly came to the realization that I was listening to Nick’s voice.

    As a late-in-life college student I attended Shoreline at the same time Nick was taking music classes and was very actively involved in all the the performance arts at the college.

    What a delight to read Nick’s story in My Edmonds News. He is so talented, so versatile, and such A Star!

  2. . . . And one more thing. . . Could you do the click! click! on the share button to put Nick’s story on YOUR Facebook page if you are proud of Edmonds’ young people?

    Let’s test Edmonds’ “Go Viral” power!! ;D

  3. Emily, thanks so much for all your support! Nick is blessed with so many great friends from his Shoreline College days. He continues to work with several of his class mates both on live performances and also in studio sessions.

  4. I met Nick as the Activity Director of the Senior Center in Edmonds. He played regularly for the seniors before lunch. I have since become the Enrichment Coordinator at a retirement community in Bellevue and have hired him to perform on a regular basis. His piano music and singing has been a highlight to the enrichment of our residents. He tailors his performances to the season, the holidays and to the crowd. He brings pleasure to all of us.

  5. This was very inspiring!! My son Tony attended WSSB and has used music to help him deal with his loss of vision. He has written several songs,all of them dealing with vision loss in one way or another. He wants to start a band and do some recording, but I really don’t know where to go from here. Would Nick and his mom have any advice as to how we can proceed from here?

    • Teri, I would be happy to speak with you regarding the process of recording music. Please check out UNITED BY MUSIC- http://www.ubmna.org. This is an amazing organization whose aim is to partner professional musicians with musicians like your son. Does Tony use Jaws for Windows on his computer? Nick uses software that is Jaws friendly, a Sonar version called Caketalking to record his songs. Has your son had any training or education in sound engineering? Nick had many classes at SCC, which helped him prepare to set up a studio at home. There are lots of steps and hard work ahead, but great satisfaction too.

  6. I have two of hi albums and love his music. What a talented young man! I hope we see your music all of Edmonds this Christmas. Every store should have it right by the cash register. You are the best!
    ginger

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