WILLIAMSBURG — There was a time when local Williamsburg musician Wyatt Baldwin was still learning how to perform in front of crowds at open mic nights around the Historic Triangle.
He was only 17 when he started going around to different venues in the area playing his guitar and singing on stage. Flash forward seven years, and a pandemic later, and now he hosts an open mic night every Wednesday at Brass Cannon Brewery.
“When I was 17 I started singing. I went straight to Aromas open mic, and I met a lot of good people there,” said Baldwin. “I met most of my musician friends at open mics around town. I wouldn’t say Williamsburg is a small town, but it’s not a big metro area. In a lot of towns it’s like you go there, you look at it, and you don’t expect it to have a big music scene, but if you look just hard enough then you’ll find a lot of great musicians. We’re all kind of interconnected and we’re all friends with eachother. We all go to eachother’s shows, or atleast in my exerience that’s how I feel.”
The local music artist has roots in the Penninsula. He grew up in the Hampton and Newport News area for the majority of his childhood. Baldwin’s father was in the Navy so him and his family have lived up and down the east coast and on the west coast during Baldwin’s pivotal years of musical discovery.
As a kid, Baldwin used to watch his grandfather play the acoustic guitar. However, his own talent developed around the age of 15 when he began teaching himself how to play. He says that he draws inspiration from all different genres of music such as alternative, hip-hop, and folk. The local musician cites artists like Lead Belly, The White Stripes, and Bob Dylan as some of his biggest influences.
“My music is very singer/song-writer focused. It’s lyrically focused, but it’s not slow coffee shop style. It’s very rhythm based,” said Baldwin. “I play acoustically, but I’m very heavy-handed with the acoustic. I’m very focused with the rhythm aspect. I think that’s where I start pulling from my favorite hip-hop artists. You don’t really need a very strong melody if you can make a very interesting percussive lyric with a good backing track. That’s also like a Bob Dylan or like a folk influence. Really wordy percussive verses. I guess you can call it Americana or alternative rock/indie rock.”
The process for performing live music is a skill that Baldwin has refined over the years. He often changes set lists; performing new covers and his own material at various venues around the Hampton Roads area.
As a songwriter and musician, Baldwin has been working on the recording aspect of his music as well. He anticipates the release of his first feature-length album sometime in early 2022. The project is called “The Rythm of Our Tides” and it’s an album produced and recorded entirely by Baldwin.
“That’s completely a one person project, and it’s also been like homework to me because it really solidified my recording skills which I kind of studied and developed over the years,” said Baldwin. “This is the first time I really just, from scratch, decided I’m going to release stuff that I recorded. I learned a lot. I guess where I’m different from a lot of song writers is that, I don’t really wait for something in my life to happen to write about it. Even though I do that sometimes if I feel inspired to. I think I kind of approach it as like a science fiction writer or a novel writer. I want to make a world, or something like that. So I have kind of an inspiration to make a sound, or a feeling, or an atmosphere. Then I get to work on finding that story and what the lyrics can be.”
The Pandemic and Open Mics
Baldwin says that his involvement in the local music scene has come full circle. Some of the hosts of the open mics that he went to, when he first started performing, have come to Baldwin’s open mic nights to perform.
“I’ve always enjoyed open mics. It’s fun, I got my start at an open mic and I still try to go to open mics as much as I can to kind of socialize. It’s like my social hour and practice at the same time,” said Baldwin. “I like being able to host that and provide that space and equipment for people who just want to get out and practice and want to find their way into it. I think what I’m proud of with this open mic is that there are a lot of people who weren’t in the music scene and they haven’t performed anywhere else in Williamsburg. They didn’t know any other Williamsburg musicians, but they came out and felt comfortable there to make that their regular spot. I like that people that I didn’t know have come out and they’re apart of the scene now.”
Another experience has been performing during 2020 and 2021. Baldwin is finishing a season of performances that he claims have been one of his best.
“I was like, well I need to find some way to do my job in a responsible way. So we did a lot of outdoor shows, and I guess I didn’t worry about it too much. I mean I wore my mask, and tried to be smart about it,” said Baldwin. “I took my mask off to sing outside. I think when it got colder and we moved inside a few times, I was a little bit nervous about that. By the time spring rolled around, we were vaccinated and I was starting to do my own shows again.”
Baldwin says that those who’ve always thought about performing, but who are maybe nervous about being in front of an audience should come out to his open mic night and give it a try. He says that the secret is having “confidence in yourself”.
Those who want to learn more about Baldwin’s music can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. His music can be found on Spotify and Apple Music.
Wyatt Baldwin’s Upcoming Shows:
Nov. 13, 2021, performance at Toanos Famer Market.
Nov. 27, 2021, performance at New Kent Winery from 2-5 p.m.
Dec. 4, 2021, performance at Celtic Tiger Irish Pub in Chesapeake, Va.
Jan. 21, 2022. hosting husband/wife folk duo called “The Wedding Funeral” at Brass Cannon Brewery in Williamsburg, Va.