When 12-year-old Schrop Intermediate student Chad Baker won the first Schrop Idol singing “Word of God Speak” performed by MercyMe and written by Bart Millard and Pete Kipley, he had no idea where his voice was going to lead him.
Now a country music artist, Baker looks back on how it all began.
“My dad is a preacher. I sang there (at church) at a young age," he said. "Eventually, my parents (Randy and Rebecca) got me a guitar for Christmas.”
Still, he had no idea that by the age of 14 he would be writing his own country style songs and performing at local open mic night in local dive bars. The opportunity for his first real gig came along at age 15. The country music bug bit the young guitar and vocalist and he worked his way to the country road that led him to Nashville.
He played football at Springfield High School while still performing at shows throughout high school. He graduated in 2014 and within a few months moved to Virginia. He wasn’t settled with that move so he bought a van, came home to visit for a week and moved to Nashville.
Baker, now 23, admitted that he lied to his dad letting him think he knew someone in Nashville.
“It was for his peace of mind,” said Baker, who had just $400 to follow his country music passion.
“That is where it really got crazy for me.” He found a small efficiency which, was actually a small basement room with one light and no window. It was in the middle of winter. I had to sleep in my Carhart, jeans, boats and everything,”
He didn’t know what to do so he started going to open mic nights.
“I got broke real quick. I was a 19-year-old kid," he said.
Baker played on the streets for money to eat and for gas. His first street performance was on a very cold day, about 30 degrees. He stood there playing his guitar and made $15 bucks. Those street performances kept him going until he could pick up some odd jobs.
"That was kind of my welcome to Nashville,” he said.
From there, he was able to get an apartment supporting himself with the odd jobs he had found. Things settled for him and because of his love of travel, he began singing so he could pay his rent. He went on his first tour in southern California for two weeks with a fellow musician.
“We were in LA and ran out of money," Bakere said. "One day, we began singing in front of a WalMart and we made $40.”
They took on the WalMart “circuit.”
“We went to every single WalMart within 50 miles of Los Angles and would play until the case filled up or the manager would kick us out. That is how we made it home,” Baker said.
It got him started and now he is on his third national tour with the band. He has 14 shows booked on the 17-day tour. His band will travel through 15 states travelling 7,000 miles and perform as far west as Seattle before working their way back through the Dakotas and a few other states before arriving back in Ohio.
Since 2014, Baker has opened for artists such as Josh Thompson and Sundy Best.
Baker just released his first official album, “This Feeling Grows” and he plans to continue playing locally when he is in town but, will continue touring the country with his new album. He plans an acoustic tour in the fall where he will head to the southern portion of the U.S. Baker recorded his album in Nashville and said he got to work with great people there.
As soon as he returns home, he will be performing at the Springfield Firefighter's Food Truck Festival at the gazebo on Springfield Lake. The festival will be from 12:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 10 and Baker will be performing from 1 to 4 p.m.
For more information or to purchase Baker’s album or songs, visit www.chadbakercountry.com.