After laying his indie-rockestra Hey Rosetta! to rest in 2017 following a successful 12-year run, Tim Baker was desperate for a clean break—from his band’s dramatic, over-the-top musical aesthetic, and from the overly familiar comforts of his home in St. John’s, Newfoundland. So in 2018, he moved from one of Canada’s most bucolic regions to Toronto to begin the next chapter of his career. But ironically, his relocation to the manic metropolis has resulted in a solo debut that is several degrees more patient and reflective than Hey Rosetta!’s outsized anthems. “Moving from the wilderness into a condo was a pretty harsh difference,” Baker tells Apple Music. “So I’d be sitting in my little cube in the sky, pining for the woods and for the water. There’s lot of longing on this record for my personal past, but also our collective past, where we should not be sitting all day looking at a screen in this box in the air.”
That sense of longing is immediately felt on Forever Overhead’s romance-rekindling opener, “Dance,” and serves as the connective tissue that runs all the way to the ebullient closer “Don’t Let Me Go Yet.” The latter song—about the importance of making time for friends no matter how busy you are—was actually performed at Hey Rosetta!’s final show as a parting message to fans; a good chunk of Forever Overhead comprises songs Baker initially brought to the band over the years but never made the cut. As a solo artist, however, he had to grapple with the question of where his band’s influence ended and where his own musical identity began.
“Hey Rosetta! was my musical outlet for so long,” he says, “and I was trying to figure out who I was. So I ended up going back to my life before the band, to the records from the '70s that would be played around the house when I was a kid. That breezy, not-super-dramatic feeling is not something we really did in Hey Rosetta! It’s a little more gentle, a little more laid-back—there’s more space to breathe.”
But the more relaxed vibe of Forever Overhead doesn’t negate Baker’s gift for emotionally stirring songcraft. He simply takes a more scenic path to the album’s peaks (see the rousing finale of “Two Mirrors,” where a tender piano serenade blossoms into a cathartically profane, raspy-voiced eulogy for a friend lost to cancer). And while the album exudes the wood-cabin warmth of Baker’s ’70s singer-songwriter faves, he and producer Marcus Paquin (The National, Arcade Fire) inject strange sonic details—the phased-out fuzzy guitars of “Strange River,” the plucked strings drizzling in the background of “The Eighteenth Hole”—that throw these conventionally structured songs delightfully off balance.
“The record was intended to be more of a stripped-down, singer-songwriter, song-based record,” Baker admits. “But it’s hard not to hear things and want to add them—and before you know it, you end up going down the road of spending a week charting out all the horns. There aren’t too many gimmicks or ‘wow’ moments—they’re bubbling under the surface.”