Rob Baird, with special guest Kait Lawson
9 p.m. Friday at 1884 Lounge, 1555 Madison, inside Minglewood Hall. Tickets: $8, available in advance at the box office and online at minglewoodhall.com.
For more information, call 901-312-6058.
Last summer, during one his increasingly rare visits back home to Memphis, roots singer-songwriter Rob Baird caught one of his heroes, like-minded troubadour Hayes Carll, at the Hi-Tone in a show that got the attention of the press.
"My dad rode me about getting some press in Memphis, too, and now we're on the phone," Baird says. "He was like, if Hayes can get in there, you can get in there. And I was like, Dad, Hayes has sold like 100,000 records."
Just a few months later, as he heads back home for a show Friday at Minglewood Hall's 1884 Lounge with guest Kait Lawson, Baird is getting hard for anybody to ignore.
The Memphis University School graduate is riding high on the success of his latest album, I Swear It's the Truth. The Carnival Music release has been praised in Billboard and recently landed at No. 19 (just behind the Zac Brown Band) on Spin magazine's list of the Top 20 country albums of 2012.
"I didn't know it was going to happen," says Baird of the record's success. "I just woke up the day after it was released and my Twitter was at 400 follows (it's at 800-plus now), and I was like what is happening?"
Baird grew up in Memphis, but spent a number of summers working on a ranch in Wyoming. The experience helped him cultivate the love for country music he has had ever since his father dropped him off at the New Daisy for a David Allan Coe concert when he was in fifth grade.
"A lot of (people) in Memphis are listening to hip-hop, so I guess I kind of stood out there," says Baird. "But I love Memphis. It gives me an identity and a point of view. It's good to be different, I think.
Baird fit in more in Fort Worth, Texas, where he attended Texas Christian University. He got his degree in entrepreneurial management, but all along knew he wasn't going to work for some tech startup, but rather start up his own music career. He played his first gigs in college bars and quickly put together a band to cut the CD Past Tomorrow.
"It was like throwing paint at a wall and trying to get a picture out of it," Baird recalls of the lost record. "I didn't know what I was doing at all."
Just four years later, Baird showed growth with his sophomore disc, the Carnival Music debut Blue Eyed Angels, which generated three regional singles and earned Baird nominations for New Male Vocalist at the 2011 Texas Regional Radio Music Awards and Emerging Artist at the 2011 Lone Star Music Awards.
For his follow-up, Baird wanted to push himself even more, moving his sound away from country toward a more rock feel. Produced by Scott Davis, the record has Baird writing with up-and-comers like Rick Brantley and Andrew Combs, and also features another Texas transplant from Memphis, singer Kelley Mickwee.
"We wanted to make a collection of songs that stretched outside the boundaries of what's happening in Memphis while still touching on the singer-songwriter tradition that happens there," says Baird, who has ramped up his touring considerably since the accolades have started pouring in.
"We weren't out to change to world. We were just out to make a solid record."