- 12 Jun 20
As she releases her highly anticipated debut EP, hotly tipped Waterford artist Carrie Baxter discusses her hip-hop influences, the futility of finding fulfilment in external factors, and the making of Placebo.
Marrying neo-soul and hip-hop-flavoured jazz in an approach that mirrors the best of Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu, Carrie Baxter has emerged as one of the most thrilling new forces in Irish music. Following a string of acclaimed singles released over the last few months, she has rapidly established a reputation as an artist unafraid to deliver devastatingly powerful personal insights in every line – while simultaneously embracing a sound that revels in a sense of unapologetic joy.
Now she's set to cement her star status with the release of her debut EP, Placebo. The project is structured in the style of an old school hip-hop mixtape, complete with interludes and skits, to guide the listener through Carrie's journey.
“I grew up on hip-hop,” she explains, in a Waterford accent still safely intact after years spent living in London. “Eventually, that stuff seeps into your subconscious. It just seems like the right format for what I’m trying to say. A straightforward, three-track EP wouldn’t have said the full narrative. I modelled it on a couple of Kendrick Lamar’s albums. good kid, m.A.A.d city changed the way I see music. And then, To Pimp A Butterfly was so jazz-heavy, it blew my socks off. It had so many messages, inside one main, big message. That was a huge influence."
Just like the interludes in good kid, m.A.A.d city, which memorably feature Lamar's parents, Carrie's own mother makes a guest appearance on a voice note that leads into the moving 'What Ya Telling Me For'.
"My mother’s mortified," Carrie laughs. "But deep down she’s buzzing to be included. She’ll say she’s mortified, but what mother wouldn’t? And it was necessary. I didn’t think the EP would make sense without that in there.
"The song that she’s on is basically in relation to my dad," she continues. "He had contacted her after more than 20 years – just called her out of the blue on Facebook. And she sent me this voice note. We were having a giggle about it – it wasn’t serious at all. But when I heard it, I knew it had to go on the mixtape. She was like, ‘What?! Are you mad?’"
Carrie can also thank her mother for her impeccable taste in music.
"There was always jazz playing in my house when I was younger," she recalls. "There were always parties too, with people gathering and singing in the house. I remember a lot of Frank Sinatra being played. Then I started listening to Norah Jones, and my mother would play Amy Winehouse when she first came out. I started dancing when I was about 15, and that's when I found hip-hop."
She later rediscovered her passion for jazz while studying at the London School of Musical Theatre, and has continued to find musical inspiration on the other side of the Irish Sea ever since. What she never expected to see, however, is the thriving hip-hop scene that's springing up back home in Waterford.
"When I was growing up, there was nothing like that – and I actually felt really disconnected from the Irish music scene," she reflects. "Then I moved over to London, and I was like, 'Hey! What's going on back there? How come they're starting a hip-hop movement now?!' To see that evolution is incredible. It's so unique as well. Obviously in hip-hop there's a tendency to mimic American artists, so it's amazing that people have the confidence to rap in their own native accents."
Another influence behind Placebo was Russell Brand's book Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions – in which he compares the shallow pursuit of things like fame, money, drugs and sex to placebos.
"I have a really strong interest in learning about addiction," Carrie explains. "Addictions to all sorts of things, and how we look for that saviour in everything. It could be a person, or in my case, a place. For a long time I was like, ‘Get me out of here, I want to go to America!’ I had this wild notion that America was going to save my life. Then it was boyfriends. I was running in circles constantly after these things.
"Then I picked up that book," she continues."Honestly it was one of the moments that I’ll never forget. From there, I wrote the whole of Placebo in a pretty short amount of time."
Although the immediate future of the music industry is still uncertain, Carrie remains hopeful – and is already looking forward to her next project.
“I’m looking to release another EP in September," she says. "It's done already, and pretty much ready to go. And hopefully – crossing my fingers – I’ll be able to play my headline shows at the end of the year. It’s all up for grabs!"
Listen to Placebo below: