Julien Baker: On My Culture Radar

The Tennessee singer on The Good Place, vegan haunts and comedian Cameron Esposito

Current favourite book

I love Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. It's a magical realism retelling of the refugee experience, where people find these magical doors that transport them to another country. I'd say it was an allegory for the refugee crisis, but I'd never want to impose my own interpretation of it. I feel the same as when I read Arundhati Roy, who wrote The God of Small Things. They go one step beyond an empirical, perfunctory analysis of the situation, which can be useful but a little dry, and instead they present you a problem in all its humanness. So instead of an anthropological discussion of how we create communities, why we exclude people and why we fear threats to the status quo, it tells you a story that illustrates those things in an implicit way.


Melbourne does great restaurants but I love Sage Bistro in LA, which does excellent whole foods. I’m a vegan, so a lot of times you get fake triple bacon cheeseburgers, and that’s not what I want to eat. I also love Redemption in Shoreditch, London. They have this amazing pulled barbecued jackfruit. They’re one of those healthy restaurants where everything is white, there’s natural lighting and floral arrangements everywhere. It’s a pretty small place, it’s tucked away, and they have good brunch stuff too.


Cameron Esposito is a musician and podcaster from the States and she's hilarious. She recently made a stand-up comedy special about being a woman in society and sexual assault. It doesn't make light of sexual assault, but it uses comedy in the way that it's supposed to: a good comedian is less like a joker and more like Molière or Voltaire, who makes a joke that indicts a society and holds up a mirror to it. If you stream it, there's an option to donate to it, and 100 per cent of the profits goes to an anti-rape organisation, which I think is awesome.


We always have a great time touring Germany, but one of my favourite museums in the world is Museum Ludwig, an incredible contemporary art museum in Cologne. I could spend all day in it. I’m attracted to vibes of cities and even though Cologne and Berlin are large, they’re very walkable. The public transport makes sense and there’s cool shops and events happening. I like it when I go to a city and it puts its personality out there to be readily experienced.



I listen to Cameron Esposito’s podcast, which is called Queery – geddit? – and then there’s Invisibilia and Hidden Brain – they’re science-y podcasts about psychology and I listen to them all the time. I get my news from Pod Save the People, hosted by a prominent activist and commentator called DeRay Mckesson. It’s more insightful than the TV.

TV show

The Good Place. I've never related more to a character than Chidi Anagonye. I also love that it's essentially a cursory explanation of moral philosophy and Kantian ethics couched in an easy, enjoyable Parks & Recreation-style comedy. Those are contrived and lofty concepts that people dismiss because they're only discussed in academic ways, but you can put them in a different way and show how they're at work in everyone's life all the time. It does that so well.


Sorry to Bother You itself is crude, but the pacing and cinematography is Tarantino, old '70s cop drama-esque, and it's like a satire. It has an underlying message about the way that huge conglomerates are controlling the market in a way that's advantageous for them and detrimental to the rest of consumers, but consumers don't realise that because there are all these bizarre, nuanced racial inequalities that they're dealing with. It's a very astute commentary on workplace economics and sociology.


The new Foxing record, Nearer My God, is incredible. I listened to that all summer.


Ariel Baldwin and I used to go to school together, and she recently did an exhibition in Chicago, where she lives. Her stuff is nuts. It's Cy Twombly-esque, in that it uses a lot of textures, materials and fabrics to evoke a specific emotion that you can't put words to easily.

Julien Baker plays Vicar Street, Dublin, on September 27th and Other Voices Ballina on September 28th and 29th