“Music lets me escape,” says Darius “Doc D” Baker, program director at Hallelujah 95.3 FM and creator behind Tallahassee Nights Live. “It takes you to another place. If you allow yourself, you can get lost in any song. I go on vacation every time I listen.
Baker started Tallahassee Nights Live 18 years ago at the Ramada Inn. The monthly live music showcase has since grown and moved to The Moon. Baker co-produces the shows with a team to provide the community with exciting new music from local talent, while giving musicians hands-on industry knowledge and experience.
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Baker looks forward to the next showcase, “The Lover’s Lounge,” on February 12. The Valentine’s Day-themed music will take listeners on a journey through the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a relationship. Like other showcases, a variety of singers will perform throughout the night alongside a 13-piece band.
“A nice story”
“It will be a great story told with live music and video like Tallahassee Nights Live does,” says Baker. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve just started a relationship or are celebrating your fiftieth anniversary, it’s going to be beautiful for both of you.”
Baker’s relationship with music began at an early age. His nickname, “Doc D” was formulated in middle school and stuck with him throughout rap battles and his hip-hop debut. While passionate about performing and traveling across the country, Baker found himself drawn to the cogs of the music industry machine.
Baker studied sociology at Florida A&M University. He created his own company in 1994, producing major and independent artists. He looked up to giants in the field, such as Teddy Riley, Timbaland, Quincy Jones and Berry Gordy. As he cultivated his own distinct sound as a producer, Baker learned to sharpen his ear to help support the careers of new artists.
“You have to have an ear for the artist because every artist is different,” says Baker. “They can sing in the same genre, same style, same tone of music, but some sounds just won’t suit all artists. The knowledge comes from your expertise and gift as an individual producer.
Production and Radio
As he learned more about the behind-the-scenes work of training artists and creating stars, Baker programmed his first radio station, Heaven 98.3. The station has been nominated for two Stellar Awards – what Bakers calls “the gospel Grammy’s”. His current station, Hallelujah 95.3 FM, plays more than hits.
“I provide 24 hours of entertainment, but I’m only on the air three hours a day,” says Baker, who schedules segments that are supposed to be good for the soul. “It’s not just gospel music. There are segments on finance, mental health, physical health. That’s why the station is growing and people like to listen because everyone can get something out of it and that’s what keeps me going.
Baker approaches the station’s programming like a puzzle. It determines when to play the top chart songs in order to give people a good mix of music without the sound becoming redundant or predictable. Although some producers use a well-worn playbook, Baker prides itself on thinking outside the box in terms of how to reach listeners.
Share insider knowledge
His experience goes beyond his work as a radio jockey. Working within the industry every day gives him insider knowledge that he shares with the artists performing on Tallahassee Nights Live. He warns them against old-school practices like dropping off CDs full of new music at the train station. Instead, he uses his expertise to teach them how to access the proper channels and get radio shows.
“It’s another opportunity for me to reach people and inspire people,” says Baker. “It also gave me insight into how radio actually works. I give my artists and the people who attend Tallahassee Nights Live an inside look at things, so they don’t have to go through the mistakes that others have committed.
Baker is proud to have created a springboard for the musicians of Tallahassee Nights Live. Many alumni of the performance series have gone on to Grammy-winning careers.
Baker says musicians have played with artists like Lionel Richie, Bette Midler and Ce-Lo Green. He’s excited for the February show, which he says will be a complete experience from start to finish. Doors open at 6pm, with a performance starting at 8pm followed by an after party with DJ King Green.
“It’s a good thing when you have so many creative minds that can come up with big ideas,” Baker says. “Tallahassee Nights Live is not just a show. It’s a movement, it’s a lifestyle, it’s an experience. It’s not just a band, but a platform to propel artists at higher levels.
If you are going to
What: The Lover’s Lounge – Tallahassee Nights Live Valentine Edition
When: 6 p.m.-9.30 p.m., Saturday 12 February
Or: The Moon, 1105 E Lafayette St
Cost: General admission $25 until Feb. 1 then $30, VIP tickets available
Contact: For more information, call 850-321-5765 or visit tallahasseenightslive.com.
Amanda Sieradzki is a feature writer for the Council for Culture and the Arts. COCA is the Capital Region’s umbrella agency for arts and culture (www.tallahasseearts.org).
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