Baker was playing Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival as one of his first big-time professional gigs. He had been asked by the festival’s founder to perform and in the audience was Twain.
She was taken by the Swiss-born singer.
“They said ‘Hey, this Canadian singer wants to meet you,’ ” says Baker, talking on the phone from Des Moines, Iowa, where the tour stopped on Tuesday. It plays Aug. 1 at the Save Mart Center.
The two hit if off and quickly became friends. Twain, who has long lived in Switzerland, wasn’t touring at the time and started frequenting Baker’s shows, watching him perform from the side of the stage. She became a mentor of sorts.
He would listen to some of her demos, giving her feedback when he could.
Last year, Baker filled in as support on the final three show of Twain’s North American tour and got great reaction from the crowds. When it came time to fill the current tour, having Baker on board just made sense. The two were friends and he traveled light. He performs solo, with just a guitar.
The singer has played in the U.S. before. He’s done the hip club shows at places like the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles and the Living Room in New York. He played warm up for Hilary Clinton at the Donna Karan-hosted Apple Awards last year. While he has released several singles (“Love on Fire” for example) his album won’t be out until later this year or next.
In many ways, this tour is his first real introduction to American audiences.
And he’s taking full advantage. That means getting up early for all the television and radio interviews. Twain isn’t doing press in advance of the tour and is directing people to Baker. He was already on morning TV and had two more radio spots to do before Tuesday night’s concert.
Twain is also making sure Baker gets his shout outs at every show. He joins her for a duet on “Party For Two” and has played guitar on her tune “Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed.”
“She always has the nicest words for me,” Baker says. During one show, she joked that she would be opening for Baker if they were playing in Switzerland.
He isn’t quite sure about all that.
Twain is a superstar with a worldwide fan base and could sell out just about anywhere. But Switzerland is his main market and has played (headlined even) the biggest venues and festivals there.
“If we were playing a festival, she might be playing before me,” he says, making sure it comes off without it sound like a brag.
“Let’s put it this way, we would co-headline.”
- Opening for Shania Twain
- 8 p.m. Aug. 1
- Save Mart Center
- 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com
Six other noteworthy events happening this week:
- Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson 8 p.m. Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, 711 Lucky Lane, Coarsegold. $45-$55. 866-794-6946, chukchansigold.com
- Tee Grizzley 7 p.m. Friday. Warnors Theatre, 1400 Fulton St. $30-$75. 916-712-1995, warnors.org/event/tee-grizzley
- “Urinetown” 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Dan Pessano Theatre, 2770 E. International Ave. $22-$28. 559-.289-6622, www.stageworksfresno.com
- Mini Scavenger Hunt Adventure: Fresno 7 a.m. Saturday. 950 N St. for parking. $14.99. 888-433-8966, puzzlingadventures.com, www.eventbrite.com
- Gary Allan 7 p.m. July 20. Table Mountain Casino, 8184 Table Mountain Road, Friant. $45-$65. 800-541-3637, www.tmcasino.com
- Dave Koz and Friends 7 p.m. Sunday. Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave.$78.50-$108.50. 559-485-9050, www.towertheatrefresno.com