American singer/songwriter Rayland Baxter is an artist whose music is at once mystic and down to earth, focused on the ebb and flow of human relations while wrapped in simple but evocative melodies and sung in a voice that reflects the mysteries of life that are the stuff of his songs. He first rose to national attention when his 2012 debut, Feathers & FishHooks, was reissued by ATO Records, kicking off a subsequent string of critically acclaimed releases for the label.
Born in Bon Aqua, Tennessee (not far from Nashville) on September 26, 1983, Baxter grew up in a house full of music; his father is Bucky Baxter (aka William Baxter), a noted pedal steel guitarist who has worked with Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, R.E.M., and Ryan Adams. Rayland was about nine years old when his father gave him an electric guitar, but even though he enjoyed music and learned to play his new instrument, his first love was sports, and the young man was more interested in spending time outside than picking. Baxter would go on to play lacrosse at Loyola University, but injuries to his knees put an end to his career as a competitor, and with sports no longer a priority, his interest in music deepened. He eventually quit school and moved to Creede, Colorado, where he wrote songs, played open-mike nights, and busked for change. Baxter next landed a job as a roadie with the band Moonshine Sessions, and a tour of Europe prompted an extended stay in Paris, but when a brief romance left him with a broken heart, he took a friend up on an offer to spend some time in Israel, where he immersed himself in classic singer/songwriter albums (including artists such as Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Townes Van Zandt), and committed himself to the art of songwriting.
By the summer of 2010 Baxter had settled in Nashville, and began playing local showcases and open-mike nights; his first EP, The Miscalculation of Song, appeared a few months later. Baxter's first album, Feathers & FishHooks, which featured extensive instrumental work by his father, was released by an independent label in 2012, and by the end of the year he had signed with the artist-friendly ATO Records label, which quickly reissued Feathers & FishHooks. Baxter supported the album with touring, including road dates opening for the Civil Wars and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. When not touring, he made his home in a ramshackle house in Nashville he shared with several friends and slept on a screened-in porch. In 2015, Baxter dropped his second full-length album, the ambitious Imaginary Man, which filtered pop, folk, country, and indie rock through a distinctly Nashville aesthetic. Working with producer Butch Walker, Baxter returned in 2018 with Wide Awake, his third full-length.The following year saw Baxter issue the EP Good Mmornin, which featured seven cover versions of songs by the late rapper Mac Miller. ~ Mark Deming