UCR Interview: Kevin Baldes of Lit

Lit will be opening the Daybreak Summer Concert Series on SoDa Row on Friday, June 10th. Utah Concert Review had the opportunity to chat with Lit bassist and backing vocalist, Kevin Baldes. We discuss Lit’s forthcoming album, Smells Like Gold, and a variety of other topics. Enjoy!

Interviewed by Kevin Rolfe

Photo Credit: Jeff Mozey

UCR  So, first of all, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time. I’d like to talk to you a little bit about your new upcoming album.  I’ve heard a few songs, the released songs, and it sounds like I don’t want to say “classic Lit”, but it has your sound, which I think your fans are going to be very excited about. 

Kevin Baldes No, I take that as a compliment. To be honest with you, next to A Place in the Sun, it’s probably my favorite album. And I actually said something the other day to somebody that I would let it go toe to toe with A Place in the Sun. And I like it that much. And I’m the guy in the band that’s pushing to kick out a lot of the old songs in our set. Let’s just play a bunch of new stuff, which I know, like concert-goers and fans don’t really want that. But, I like it that much is what I’m getting at. But the band won’t let me throw nine new songs into the set. 

UCR That’s going to be tough. How do you decide that? Because I’m sure you get it. For example,  I just saw a concert when I saw Paul McCartney in L.A. 

Kevin Baldes Dude I wanted to go to that.  I was in South Carolina. Dude, it killed me.  I wanted to go to that and F*¢k! It didn’t happen. 

UCR I still can’t believe it happened. I wasn’t even in L.A. for that reason.  I just saw the billboard and I thought, I’m here, like, how can I not, you know? And it was awesome. But even he, the great Paul McCartney said, “I can tell when you like the song because I see all your phones come up and the whole place lights up, and then I do a new one and there are no phone lights”. He says, “But you’re here so I’m going to do a new song anyway”. As an artist, how do you reconcile that? Like, we want to play this, we want you to hear this, but you have such great classic songs too. So in your own mind, when you’re up there and you know, this is new. I don’t know what they think, but I want them to hear it. Like, what is that? Just what do you think?

Kevin Baldes Dude It’s crazy because there are the standards that we have to play for the general. What do they call it? The basic Lit fan. Not necessarily a fan, but just somebody that knows who Lit is. You got to play that base of songs. “My Own Worst Enemy”, the “Miserable”, the “Zip-lock”. You have to play “Over My Head”. You have to play those songs. That takes up 4 to 5 spots in your setlist. And if you’re doing a 45 minute set, you’re opening for somebody and you’re doing a 45 minute set. We can pack nine songs in the 45 minutes. So 4 to 5 of them are already spoken for. That gives us four songs. But then there’s that second greatest song. That’s “Something to Someone”. We have to play “Four”, which was the opening track off of A Place in the Sun. It was kind of a single, but it was never a single, you know? 

It’s hard, I’ll tell you, because when we start arm wrestling backstage and then you arm wrestle with yourself like, F*¢k it, man, I just want them to hear these new songs. Because, I wouldn’t say this about every album, but this new album, I feel that we can pull eight songs off it and play them. And I think the fan or even the general listener in the audience would dig it. And here’s why I say that, because we’ve already been playing quite a few of these songs live, and you can tell an energy from the crowd.  They’ve never heard this song before, and they’re hearing it right now. And you can tell they’re really paying attention to it. And deeper into the song, they’re trying to sing the chorus. 

This is how we selected “Miserable” to be a single. “Miserable” was never supposed to be a single, but we’d been touring for so long. Throughout 99, 2000, we went to RCA and we said, “Hey, you know, we’re doing these shows, and people are really gravitating towards the song “Miserable”. You guys ought to really consider that to be a single”. And it ended up being our third single, and it’s our second biggest song. So when you’re on stage, you get a sense of how the song is doing. And there’s been shitters. We’ve shit the bed on songs too. You play a song, and you’re all “they’re not really digging this right now”. But the new songs seem to be going over pretty well. They’ve got a certain heartbeat to them that the crowd can’t help but to be like into it, you know? And that that makes us feel good on stage.  

UCR I’m sure there’s got to be some songs or you just thought, oh, they’re going to love this and it just doesn’t land for whatever reason, which has to suck. When you’re saying that I was thinking like “Mouth Shut” off the new album. I don’t know how that can’t go over awesome with the crowd. It has a cool beat, it has a cool energy and in a live music setting, it just seems like it would be such a fun song for you and for the fans. 

Kevin Baldes “Kicked Off the Plane” goes over very well as well. And then we have a new song. There’s another song that I don’t even think it’s going to be like a single. I don’t know that we’re going to really push it, but we may. There’s a song on the album called “Life That I Got”, and I have a feeling that could be a really good banger, you know? I think people would dig that song. 

UCR Well, I’m excited to hear the rest of the album. Maybe I’ll get five or six. Maybe we’ll get nine, I guess we’ll see when we get there. 

Kevin Baldes I’m praying by the time we get to you that we’re doing “Life That I Got” in the set. I promise you, it’s a good one. 

UCR It’s so funny because nobody is an overnight success, right? You guys were playing for almost a decade, I think before you blew up. But then when you did blow up, you really blew up. And you’re on late night shows. You’re on at Woodstock 99, of all things, headlining these major tours, on the radio, hitting the charts, and all that. But it seems like everyone goes through this.  And correct me if I’m wrong because I don’t I don’t know, I’m on this end of it. But you kind of have to go from glamourous rock stars to making a career.  Obviously, once you’re in all that glamour, you know, it’s a business. But I guess what I’m getting at is there’s the thought, “Ok, we’ve had all this success. Maybe we’re on the other side of it but we still want to do this.  In some ways, the thought might be, “This is nice because now our actual fans, not mainstream fairweather fans, will like what we put out. They’ll come see us.” Maybe the shows will be smaller, maybe not. I have no idea. This will be my first time getting to see you. How do you determine if you’re releasing this album? How do you determine if you’re going to headline this kind of show or be a  support on someone else’s tour? When you’re in the heat of it all I imagine you just keep your head above water and go go go. But once you’re in the career phase, do you just let management kind of figure that stuff out and just keep your head down making music, or do you handle it all yourselves?

Kevin Baldes No, you know, A.J., Jeremy, and I have been in this band. It would have been all original members. We lost our drummer in ’09.  We still talk. “How do you guys feel?” It’s democracy between the three of us. And then it will branch out. We’ll ask management. “Hey, this is kind of what we’re feeling. What do you guys think?” We kind of get a feel for everything. To be honest with you, uh, we’ve been together. You’re right. I did my first show in 88, and we made it. We signed with RCA in 98, and we released A Place in the Sun and had the success, you know, where everybody finally heard about us in 99. So we were at it for a while. It definitely was not an overnight success. But to the general fan, it was because all of a sudden, one day magically there was this new song on the radio and they were like, “Who’s this? I’ve never heard of them before but I like the song”.

You’re right. We were everywhere, late night and we were playing every single time. We were literally gone for two years when that album came out and dude, it was amazing. It was everything we ever dreamed about doing. And we got to play with some of our heroes and stuff. So here we are, you know, so many years later and we’ve been releasing albums throughout those years and everything you said, you nailed that. I mean, dude, some days we’re playing in front of 12,000 people and then we’re playing for like 400. I mean, it happens. Not every single show is like some big filled arena. And that’s okay because we’re very realistic and it doesn’t bother us. The fact that somebody would carve out some of their money to go see Lit and take the time and go to the show and they’re invested in us. We got to be invested in the show as well. 

Photo Credit: Nick Fancher

So we understand that as both musicians and fans that these people aren’t just coming to the show for the hell of it. They come in because they’ve heard of Lit. They have one, two, maybe all the albums. They want to hear certain songs and they want to be entertained. And that’s why we got into this. We want to write music. We want to entertain people. That’s why we do it, you know? And another thing, we’ve all had additional kinds of things going on.  For me, I’m a photographer. So I have a whole photography business that I do. And so that kind of keeps me busy in the off-season or if we’re taking a break or maybe we’re working on an album, not really in shows at the moment. Jeremy owned a bar restaurant for many years and, and he just actually got out of that business only because he moved out of state.  

UCR That’s great. I bring this stuff up because I’ve been really impressed. I’ve seen other bands and it almost seems like they don’t know what to do to keep going. And you guys, you’re still releasing albums and playing shows. You had I don’t know if you call it a country or a country-influenced album that I thought was really good.  I don’t know how your fans took it or how country music took it, but I thought, what a leap. But just watching you guys over the years and just seeing how you sustained a career, it’s just not something everybody can do. And it just seems like you’ve done things according to your own decision-making. It doesn’t always happen and you’re not playing dive bars. I think it’s really cool. 

Kevin Baldes You know. I don’t know. We just won’t go away. First of all, we’re kind of like cockroaches. You can spray us all you want. We won’t go away. It’s kind of all we really know. It’s really kind of what gets us going. Getting on stage. Sometimes we do what they call flyouts. What that is, if you get together with some of your gang here in Orange County, cause some of us live out of state, but you know, a bulk of us live in Orange County and we go to the airport and you’re with your bro’s and then you get on the flight and you’re having laughs and whatnot, and then you fly to your destination and then you hang out that night, usually at like a sports bar or whatever. And so you’re hanging out with your, your band and your crew and you’re having dinner, and then the next day, you set up for the show and everything and you’re doing it all for that hour and a half or whatever, whatever the set is. Then you pack up and the next day you leave. 

There’s a thrill in that, man. I mean, you’ve got some buddies that, “Hey, we’re getting together and we’re going to go to Vegas this weekend. Are you in?” Then you got to scratch your head? “Well, yeah, I guess”. Well, that’s what we do for a living. We get on a plane with our bros and go hang out party and play a rock and roll show and then go home. So why would we give that up? It’s a lot of fun. People still come out so we’ll go as long as we can go. 

UCR For sure.  It seems like that initial rush, that initial huge amount of success and mainstream success if you want to call it that, where you’re just everywhere and everybody’s kind of focused on you. It seems like there’s nothing like it, but it almost seems like this stage where you have roots in the industry and fans and you can probably play just about anywhere. Like you said, the audience might vary, but you can play anywhere. But it almost sounds like this is a little more comfortable, maybe even better than the frantic initial huge rush of success. Do you prefer one or the other? Or were both great and you just kind of like where you’re at now. 

Kevin Baldes We have some pretty good offers coming up that we took. I mean, we’re going to be playing some pretty big places, and then we have offers where we’re playing theaters, and then like the last show we just did in South Carolina. We literally played on a lake. There was a stage that was built into the water. And then we played to this hill. And dude, it was awesome. The food there was killer, the south was killer.  It was packed. And we just had a great time. So every show is different. 

Sometimes the smaller shows are just a completely different animal. The people are closer to you. And then if you play an arena or a shed, you know, you’ve got the barricade and everything and the backstage accommodations are bigger and you’ve got an actual dressing room with a shower in it, which is always nice. We’re like a chameleon at this point. You just kind of shift gears based on what you’re handed that day. And that’s fine with us. We’re fine with it. Sometimes the place can be so shitty. You get a laugh out of it. You’ve got to take it with a grain of salt sometimes. Like I said earlier, some days we played to 12,000 people, and the next day we’re playing to 400, and that’s fine. That’s 400 people that want to come out and see you, you know? 

UCR I would love that. So I’m sure it’s cool. Not everybody gets to do this, so it’s cool you have that attitude. 

Photo Credit: Nick Fancher

Kevin Baldes We’ve had friends throughout the years when we were trying to make it in Orange County that never made it. And we still are friends with those guys. And some of them have regular jobs, some of them have regular jobs and still play, not really trying to make it anymore, but they love playing. We are just very, very lucky and very fortunate that we were chosen to be successful at it. And we don’t take that for granted at all.  We know what it means to people. Especially this far into the game. We’ve been told some really cool things. People have used our songs for their weddings. Some songs people have used to remember loved ones that have maybe passed on and that really hits home at this point in our career. It’s like, man, we’ve touched some people and that’s great and that feels good. Also on the flip side that we’ve made people very excited at shows. Like people get pumped up.  That’s mainly what we want it for, is to pump people up and be stoked. Just unplug from their daily life and come to a Lit show and just have some fun. 

UCR Sure!  I want to go back to Tastes Like Gold for a sec. It’s coming out on June 17, 2022. Was this something you guys wrote over the pandemic or did you have it and you’ve had to sit on it for a couple of years? 

Kevin Baldes No, no, no, no. It was kind of written during the pandemic. I think it might have even started prior to the pandemic. But then as the pandemic was happening, you know, through Zoom calls and that type of thing. Writing over Zoom is tough.

UCR Yeah, I bet. 

Kevin Baldes But, even during the pandemic, I remember flying out and one particular song, “Mouth Shut”. We wrote it on a rooftop in downtown Nashville, actually. Because Jeremy and AJ live out in Nashville. So that was written on like a balcony part. And so you had a view of some downtown area and everything. I remember being there. I remember my wife calling and I had to excuse myself and took a call and went back. It’s weird. I remember it like it was yesterday and now we’re pushing “Mouth Shut” and we just shot a video for it. And Adrian Young from No Doubt plays the drums on that particular song. So we called Adrian and said, Hey, we’re filming a video for it in downtown L.A. you want to come out? And he said, Yeah, sure. So Adrian’s in the video. It’s really cool, man. We’ve got a deep history with him. And he’s such a good dude. It was super cool of him to take his time out and just roll on out. 

UCR I can’t wait to see that. 

Kevin Baldes Yeah, it’s really cool. It’s a lot of fun. I just saw the video for the first time. I don’t even know if it’s the final cut, but I saw it like two nights ago and I was like, dude, this is really cool. The video has nothing to do with anything, and it’s just us having fun. It’s not even about “Mouth Shut”.  It’s us performing “Mouth Shut” in various rooms and stuff. It’s just chaotic and cool. 

UCR Thank you so much for your time, Kevin.  It’s going to be awesome having you guys back in Utah.  

Lit will be playing in Daybreak this Friday, June 10th. The concert is free and is recommended that Daybreak residents or their guests attend. I have a friend in Daybreak and he said you all can be his guest!

There is also a Lit meet & greet before the show. If you’re interested in purchasing a ticket to that click here.

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