Raised in a small town in Ontario, moving from garage bands to Youtube, and eventually being discovered and being signed out of the blue: Derik Baker, AKA Virginia to Vegas, has a story eerily similar to that of Justin Bieber. But unlike our friend the Biebs, Baker brings a soulful nuance to his singing, honesty to his guitar, and a talent for making pop that balances catchiness with tasteful hooks and a gift for melody.
What’s happening with Virginia to Vegas right now?
Well, there’s a lot going on, even today. My EP just came out, so I’m really excited about that. I’m currently on tour with Alyssa Reid, so we’re doing like a cross country tour, which has taken about two months to tour over and I just made a music video, playing lots of shows, including at We Day. This year has been just really cool.
What do you and the CIA have in common?
Me and the CIA? Well I think the head office of the CIA is in Langley Virginia?
You’re correct, you’re both from Virginia. And my question for you then is, how does life in Richmond, Virginia compare to Toronto, and how did you originally find yourself moving into the great white north?
[laughs] Ah well, I wish I had like a cooler story, to be honest. I did this for my family. When I was really very young. But I’ve always had a fascination of, I mean there’s something really cool about the South. In the South, there’s so many big, massive trees. [laughs] And I love that, I’ve always loved that. Like driving through one of the interstates in the States, and it’s so cool, and I always love that. And that’s a really random answer. What’s the difference between Virginia and Toronto? It’s really hard to answer that, because I didn’t spend too much time living as an adult in the States. But living in Toronto is rad, there’s a really cool music scene here. I‘ve had the chance to go to Vancouver a bunch this year, and I love Vancouver as well.
Awesome. I was just thinking that if you love big trees, have you been to Stanley Park over here?
I have, yeah. I’ve been in Vancouver around three times this year so far, and my first time ever going to Vancouver and I’ve had a blast.
Glad you loved it. So as you say, you just finished a video shoot in New York City for Don’t Fight the Music, so I wanted to ask, aside from obviously shooting a video in New York City, what are some highlights of New York for you?
New York is so cool. I mean, New York’s is one of those cities, which is kind of like Toronto in that you think you have an idea of what New York is? Like everyone has this picture of what New York is. But every time you go to New York you meet new people, you hang out in a new neighbourhood, and you get another little taste of New York. And the thing that I always love so much about New York is, pretty much if you let it happen, anything can happen in New York. There’s always something fun going on, there’s always a party and there’s always someone interesting you can meet. New York is a really cool city. It sounds cheesy or cliché, but there’s an energy in New York that is just unbelievable.
Absolutely. Regarding your EP, one thing that everyone has said about your music is that it’s unbelievably catchy and the melodies are stuck in your brain for a very long time. How do you go about composing melodies that is so darn catchy?
Well, first of all thank you. I think it’s great that there are people who find it catchy. I’ll tell you a quick anecdote of why I write songs the way I write songs. When I was a little kid, I was in a garage band, I don’t know if you played music when you were younger. For most of us that played music when they were younger, you played in a shitty garage band, and I played in a really shitty garage band. And my dad would kind of pick me up from rehearsal and he would always call me and be like “Hey Derek, I’m coming to pick you up, make sure you’re packed up and ready to go.” He didn’t like listening to my band. So one day, he came in, and he gave us all a piece of advice, “Guys, you’re making a lot of noise. The only thing that will ever grab someone, about any piece of music, is the melody. So once you get a melody, all the other stuff will fall into place. You can have a guitar solo, or this and that, but it’s all about the melody, and at the end of the day, when anyone listens to a song, a good song is a good song, and a bad song no matter how well you try to cover it up is still a bad song.”
Wow, that’s very very true. Is your dad like an industry executive? Because that’s pretty on ball.
Um, he’s not, my dad just loves music. He’s an audiophile, I grew up listening to records with my dad and my mom as well, my mom listens to a lot of music. But yeah, he was just one of those guys that really loves music.
Amazing. And the next thing I want to ask is that the other day I found your first ever YouTube video that you recorded and posted online. And it’s a cover of Chris Brown and Justin Bieber’s Next to You, I believe.
That’s not the first one, but one of the first ones.
And I wanted to ask that obviously, that was done a while ago. What’s really changed since you were doing that sort of acoustic YouTube cover?
I think a lot changed, I mean, I’ve been trying to be a musician and being Canadian pop culture as a writer, and it’s funny that, it took me starting a cover project to become a well known writer. Which is funny, and I’m not saying that I’m well known now, but I’m becoming to be well known. And I think that it’s really funny in that, you know I kept watching all these kids and all these artists making and breaking it on YouTube, and I said wait a second I can do that. I watched to see what songs would chart and I would try and release a music video before they could release a music video. And I had this really awesome small team that was like me, a producer, and a videographer, and we like sat down before most of these videos and songs and one day just put them out, and thats how Vegas started off. And then as I evolved, it just became myself. But its funny that you bring that up, because a lot changed. I remember recording that video and hoping that one day a record label would call me. What would that feel like?
So you’re on tour with Alyssa Reid right now, what are some tour highlights for you so far?
Canada is funny, because most of the small towns of Canada, although they are thousands of kilometers away from each other, you’ll drive 12 hours to get to the next city because it’s so spread out. But most of the small towns kind of feel the same. They have the same kind of vibe, which is cool. Because, most of the people are kind of the same. You meet the same kind of characters, and I think the best part of the show is which is weird, its not the show its after the show, is the meet and greet and I get to hang out with these people that like have a story about myself, or just want to say hey, or tell me something that happened while they were listening to my music. And to me that’s really crazy because if I ever had that opportunity when I was a big fan of music listening to John Mayer, I think that would have been amazing, so I really try to soak up those meet and greet moments when I get to do them.
A lot of bands and performers go through a lot of bad names before they settle on the one that they use. So what is the worst name that you’ve ever performed under?
The less successful out of all of name is my name, like my actual name, that’s probably the least successful. Nobody bought it. No one was like “yeah, Derik Baker”. I was in an emo band, we were called Shot At Sunrise. I was in a blues band that was called Audio Blues, that was kind of unoriginal. The first band I was in was called Element 18, because that was my hockey jersey number.
That’s not too bad, I could have seen that working maybe. My last question for you is what’s next?
I’m writing a lot right now, working on my EP, working really hard to finish it’s second part, and I have a lot of new stuff coming into the new year and I don’t want to leak it too soon but Alyssa and I have something coming out by the end of the year together, which should be out fairly soon. But there’s a lot of stuff. What’s next? I don’t know, pick up the album.
Follow Virginia to Vegas’ website for more updates.