Julien Baker lets true vulnerability shine through in debut album

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This interview is a part of #KanvasLive, an interactive, cross-platform content series brought to life on the Kanvas App and AOL.com. See more on coverage here.

It's not easy being honest, especially when you're an artist. Although musical artists strive for truth in their work, many become consumed with caring too much about how fans or the industry will react to their work.

But what if that work was never expected to be heard by so many people in the first place? That's how Julien Baker found success in her debut EP, 'Sprained Ankle'. Although the singer had been at the helm of alt-rock band Forrister, she saved her most personal songs for her newest EP.

AOL.com had a chance to catch up with Julien before her performance at Outside Land Music & Arts Festival in San Francisco this past weekend, where she revealed how she never expected critically-acclaimed new album to get heard by so many people and opened up about her songwriting process.

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When did you first discover your love for music?
I feel like I've always loved music. I remember listening to music in the car with my mom, obviously. That's kind of like a usual thing musicians cite. But it must have been around 2004 or 2005 when I picked up records like [Green Day's] 'American Idiot' and [My Chemical Romance's] 'Welcome to the Black Parade' and I became the "Hot Topic Mall Kid". All I ever wanted to do was close myself in my room and teach myself guitar. I had been in piano lessons, but I would never be able to sightread. I would learn everything by ear. And so I started playing guitar and then around 8th or 9th grade, I started playing with Matthew Gilliam and we eventually made a band.

After that, we started picking up shows and I got involved in the local DIY scene and we would play every single weekend. I mean, always. So, he recently came out at some shows and played drums with me and it was really cool.

Check out the crowd from Outside Lands Music & Arts festival:

When did you pick up songwriting?
It's a difficult question. I liked writing and like writing poetry. I don't even know if it could be called poetry, just the creative writing you would do in middle school. And the more I started listening to music and teaching myself song, the more I started to think, 'Maybe I could write my own songs'. I think the first song I ever wrote was called 'School Daze'. It was so bad! But it was just like any other skill. I just kept writing cheesy songs and then I started performing in The Star Killers, which we renamed Forrister.

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Talk to us about your EP 'Sprained Ankle'. What did that creative process look like?
I left Memphis, where I was in Forrister, to go to school in Murfreesboro, TN. I had all these songs that weren't right for Forrister because we are a heavier band and I had no friends at that college when I first moved there. So I would go to the practice rooms in the music hall and would go knock on the door super late at night and the janitor would let me in. And so I wrote all these songs and eventually, my friends would be like, 'Hey, we have some extra studio time. Do you want to demo these?'

And then Michael Hegner, who ended up engineering the record, really liked it. So, we just took a few days and recorded as many songs as we could and it just mostly one track with one vocal and guitar, which is how I play. We put it up on Bandcamp and I thought that would be the end of it, but 6131 Records approached me about releasing it for real and it all just happened from there. It was really quite amazing because I didn't have those ambitions for it, I was just writing in college.

Check out the unique street style seen at Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival:

What was it like writing an album that was so confessional in nature?
It's one thing, especially with the material that I write, is that I preserve that element of knowing when to stop refining. When I was writing 'Sprained Ankle', I would write whatever I wanted because it was a passion that I would have to pursue in a hobby of my life and I had other obligations, like school and such. I was just like, 'No one is going to hear this that isn't 10 people in a house show.' So I could say whatever I wanted and I feel like that helped me view the work with more honesty and artistic license to do whatever. Now, I try not to overthink things so I don't allow worrying about how my music will be perceived to influence whatever I make moving forward. If I had not written in that way, it wouldn't have been honest. I didn't know anyone was going to hear it and it was scary when I realized other people were hearing this record that I only expected my friends would listen to, but it showed me the positive side of that. It helped me maintain my vulnerability.


See more photos from Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival in the gallery below:

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Miguel performs on Day 3 of Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Miguel performs on Day 3 of Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Lionel Richie performs on Day 3 of Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Major Lazer performs during the Outside Lands Music Festival 2016 at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Lionel Richie performs during the Outside Lands Music Festival 2016 at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Lana Del Rey performs during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Kehlani performs during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Major Lazer performs during the Outside Lands Music Festival 2016 at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Recording artists Diplo Major Lazer performs during the Outside Lands Music Festival 2016 at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Lana Del Rey performs during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Brandi Carlile performs during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/WireImage)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Music fans watch Major Lazer perform on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Musician Erick 'E.D.' Coomes of Lettuce performs on the Panhandle Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Musician Erick 'E.D.' Coomes of Lettuce performs on the Panhandle Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Festival goers attend the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Festival goers watch Major Lazer perform on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Recording artists Walshy Fire (L) and Jillionaire of Major Lazer perform on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Comedian Fred Armisen performs on The Barbary Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Recording artist Diplo of Major Lazer performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Comedian Fred Armisen performs on The Barbary Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Recording artist Diplo of Major Lazer performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Recording artist Walshy Fire of Major Lazer performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Musician Lotti Benardout of Haelos performs on the Panhandle Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Festival goers are seen during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Festival goers are seen during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Festival goers play mini golf during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: DJ Lee K performs at The House by Heineken during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Recording artist Chance The Rapper performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Recording artist Chance The Rapper performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Musicians Kryz Reid (L) and Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind perform on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Festival goers visit Sound Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: A parade is seen among the festival goers during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: DJ Lee K performs at The House by Heineken during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Recording artist Chance The Rapper performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Recording artist Chance The Rapper performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Festival goers are seen at the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Festival goers are seen at the Twin Peaks Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Festival goers are seen under the Windmill during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Festival goers are seen under the Windmill during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Musicians Stephan Jenkins (L) and Alex LeCavalier of Third Eye Blind perform on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Musician Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Musician Josephine Vander Gucht of Oh Wonder performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem performs on the Lands End Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: Comedian Jo Firestone (C) performs on The Barbary Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 07: A musician performs with Natalia Lafourcade on the Twin Peaks Stage during the 2016 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 7, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)
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