On our way through Baltimore we had the pleasure of stopping by the home of Caleb Stine, a veteran musician around Charm City. A man who has a love for the story-telling and soul of folk and bluegrass, got his start in music because, as he puts it, "it's the best way for humans to connect with each other and the Devine; it's the quickest art form."
After a short walk around Baltimore's musical epicenter, Hampden, he got right into the Rusty City's latest music developments: "You know, Baltimore's gritty, alive and fucked up; in the way that America as a whole is right now. I think it's sort of a mini-America. You have the flash, the grip and the stories all condensed here in this dangerous place. The art and even the politics have an edge to it."
Hampden is a short walk from Caleb's original 1920's solid block of rowhouses. From the nearest intersection, as you peer to your right, Johns Hopkins University sits juxtaposition, and to your left, it leads to a more distressed part of town . This can be seen all around Baltimore; the clashing atmospheres. The nearby Hampden's gentrification is slowly seeping wider into neighboring areas. The artists there have thrived for the past two decades, as Caleb explains, "It's a great place to be an artist right now; the quality of the work is really high and personal."
He goes further, "Unlike certain scenes where the competition comes from a more corporate thinking, a "me vs. you" attitude, here, people help each other out. It's more like, "I'll draw your cover art but you've gotta play at my wedding." With residents old and young peering from their connecting wood-laden porches and ghetto lingering streets around the next block, the town feels like a cross between an urban Mayberry and the early cultured spirit of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Caleb assured me this was a city hinged more on the latter.
As Caleb kept referencing to the gritty quality of Baltimore, I asked him, "Has that had any influence on you as a musician and artist?", his eyes swept the ceiling, "You know, I think about that a lot and yeah, I think it has. I feel like it has opened me up to other voices, you know, like songs that don't come from me. Part of them are stories from Baltimore; they must be subconsciously floating around and looking for a home."
Most people know this city for artists like Beach House, Dan Deacon, and Wye Oak but I asked this troubadour about his thoughts on the city's "sound" as of late, "You can capture this adventuress, sort of ballsyness to it. There's no spotlight, there's no fame or guarantee, there's no record executive that's going to show up to your show; you've gotta be here cause you wanna be here. It has the sound of a place where people have the space and time to grow into themselves."
The Baltimore scene, like most these days, is without a generalized "sound" or new genre coming from its underground. It's more of a collective of bright personalities beaconing from the community within. And that's just how Caleb likes it.
Here's a little track Mr. Caleb Stine was kind enough to play for us entitled "Doin' Time In Baltimore". It's from his forthcoming album due September 25th. Enjoy.