Columbus, Ohio residents Jonathan Baker and Taelor Gray first met in 2009 at a local concert where mutual friends were performing. Gray said,
“The meeting turned into a friendship. From there, we began to talk about different things, encourage each other, and collaborate on music.”
In 2011, the duo released their first collaborative song from Baker’s mixtape titled Off My Chest, Vol. 1. “It was a blast,” said Gray, explaining, “I’m more of a person who likes to create with people that I have a relationship with, so it’s something that develops before you even start writing.” They currently both serve in the same church, Linden Life Fellowship, where Gray is the Pastor, and Baker is the Worship Pastor.
After having made numerous songs together over the years, on November 29th, 2019, they released their first collaborative project, an EP titled All Minds Clear. Doing an entire project with Baker came naturally, said Gray.
“It was in this space where both of us were creating in different veins, and we came together at one point when we figured out we shouldn’t waste this creative energy.”
Having made two or three songs together earlier this year, they decided to go all-in on an entire project. Being able to both critique and praise each other’s work was an essential aspect of their relationship that went into All Minds Clear.
“I thought that the title was perfect for the project because both of us were in a vein where a lot of things weren’t forced,” said Baker. He explained that there was “a lot of clarity to the writing, to the production. I love it when it’s that way.” They hope that the lyrics will be relatable for all listeners, regardless of their background.
All Minds Clear is a colloquialism in the black church which “can be said at the end of a service, at the end of a rehearsal, at the end of a conversation, [or] a counseling session,” explained Gray. He said it is usually asked in the form of a question. It is like asking people if they have a good understanding of what was done or said and inviting those who may have wanted to say more to share what is on their mind. Also, it can be used in preparation for a task, asking people if they are ready.
The EP’s introductory song, “Pierce Brosnan” was named after the actor who played James Bond in several films between 1994 and 2004. Both of them being James Bond fans, they thought of how one of his film titles, Die Another Day, can be a metaphor useful to living out the Christian faith. Gray explained that he hopes to be able to use each day that he has to live according to God’s call on his life.
“I talk about my story throughout all my music, but it’s more about capturing how [my life] feels,” he said.
Jonathan Baker said that from a production standpoint, he loves beats that are simple in how they can allow writers to have more space to be creative. “Sometimes less is more, but [Tell It] had such a rise and such a feel to it that it’s just easier for the listener to take in.” Though “Tell It” was simplistic, they have heard listeners say that the song provides a good mood they enjoy. Being part of the same church, the two both went out of town for a retreat at one point, “and a few of us got up really late at night. [Jonathan] brought all of his production equipment, and we were literally just sitting in the lobby with a bunch of production equipment and headphones in the middle of a conversation. He was creating it right there on the spot,” explained Gray.
All Minds Clear’s following song, “Ashes,” features New Jersey artist Tragic Hero. “Ashes is basically about leaving everything behind. It’s not taking anything with you,” said Gray, explaining how he seeks to tell a story saying that he intends to be ready for death, whenever it may come. “I’m going to meet with Jesus, so everything else is in the rearview, it’s in the ashes.” Regarding Tragic Hero’s feature, Gray said,
“I love the edge he has in his verse. I have given as much as I can give, and you’re not gonna forget about me.”
Next up is “Vary Gee,” a reference to entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk who is known for his writing, speaking, and videos. The song seeks to express ambition; Vaynerchuk immigrated to the U.S. with his family as a child, grew up in poverty, and became an entrepreneur and businessman. He is currently believed to have a net worth of over $160 million. “Gary Vee is a person who motivates people to go after it, go get it, and no matter what, pursue your dreams.” Gray seeks to encourage people to follow God’s call on their life, knowing that God will lead them to his dreams for them. “In the end, we rely on Him to make the way and shape the path and ultimately put us where He wants,” he explained.
Before producing the song, Baker had a melody stuck in his head and decided to record it. “To be honest, I couldn’t find a rhythm to go with it that I liked… I think that I was in the living room with my son, and he did something on accident, and it was like the triplet pattern kick that you hear.” Inspired by this seemingly random set of sounds, Baker came up with the beat.
All Minds Clear concludes with “Courtside Dreams.” Baker said, “One thing you need to understand is that even though me and Taelor are great friends and work together in ministry, I’m still a fan [of him.]” Baker enjoys songs where he can hear Gray get free reign to express himself creatively as an artist. When Baker heard this beat, he knew it was going to be a great one for Gray, thinking,
“I know I’m gonna send this in the first batch.”
Gray describes how he wrote this song from a poetic approach, focusing less on directness and more on subtlety. The song speaks about the subject of goals and dreams, focusing on thanking God for the good things that have come to fruition in his life. The title was inspired by Gray’s dream to one day sit courtside at an NBA game. “I wanted to take the view of what it would be like to actually be close to the action.” Though he doesn’t have a favorite team, his favorite current players include Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James.
Concerning making another collaborative album, Gray said, “This was organic. Anytime you take something like this that’s a special moment and try to recreate it, it ceases to be organic.” The duo has enjoyed making music together for over eight years and plans to continue to do so.
Outside of music, Jonathan Baker and Taelor Gray enjoy spending time with their families, watching sports, and serving at their church, Linden Life Fellowship.