Darwin’s Caiti Baker has teamed up with the forthcoming ‘BIRDS EYE VIEW’ podcast, the first podcast to be made by women in prison, and is out this week ahead of International Women’s Day.
Her first new music of 2020, ‘Worth It’ is a strong single recorded in collaboration with women in the Darwin Correctional Centre, shining a unique light inside the prison walls.
Called ‘BIRDS EYE VIEW’ because “we wanted to give people a new perspective on who we are,” the 10-part magazine-style podcast debuts this Sunday, created by women prisoners, in collaboration with Darwin-based production house, StoryProjects.
‘Worth It’ is the theme music from the podcast, and from Caiti Baker’s forthcoming album Mary of The North, which she created alongside frequent collaborator and producer, James Mangohig. The pair ran percussion and vocal workshops with women in the Darwin Correctional Centre, with these sounds woven into the final soundscape of ‘Worth It’.
We brought Johanna Bell, creator of BIRDS EYE VIEW, and Caiti Baker together, and they interviewed each other with some incredible questions. Check it out below.
JOHANNA BELL TO CAITI BAKER IN INTERVIEW
What was it like working on this song with women in Darwin Prison?
Humbling, interesting and heartwarming. As a songwriter, I’m fascinated with perspectives and there sure is a variety of unique perspectives amongst the women in sector 4.
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What did you learn from the women you worked with?
I learnt that sadly, men (in most cases) seemed to be the catalyst for the women being incarcerated. I shouldn’t be surprised really. I also learnt that their library is filled with books that the men didn’t want. Literacy leftovers.
Have you ever worked on theme music for a podcast before? How did it differ from the way you normally create music?
Nope, never worked on music for a podcast before. I have edited vocals for a podcast and James Mangohig (my producer) has soundtracked/sound designed a podcast or two but we’ve never created a theme song for one!
Some of the sounds in ‘Worth It’ are quite haunting. How did you come up with these?
I think I may have been blessed with the gift of melody. So matching emotion and melody comes quite naturally – the theme song’s narrative is eerie and haunting so my brain created the vocal harmony stack to compliment the energy. I’m not sure that I ever really think about it, it just happens!
Your song asks ‘Will we ever know if it was all worth it?’ Why do you think this resonated so much with the women in prison?
I think it resonates with them because they have the time to sit with their mind and contemplate their choices, actions and decisions. Whether they were in control or not, these series of events ultimately lead to them being in their consequential situation; a sentence in prison. So, was it all worth it?
Were you thinking about a particular experience or time in your life when you wrote this song?
I was in Melbourne on tour during the winter. I’m not a fan of being in cold climates for very long as I find it hard to retain body heat and being cold is extremely uncomfortable. I find it easy to slip into more of a pessimistic mood when I’m uncomfortable but challenge myself to be more optimistic! Maybe elements of past trauma were being provoked and my heart was questioning all the decisions that ultimately lead me to be where I was at that moment. A lot of my writing can be subconscious; sometimes its meaning will take months to surface.
Your producer, James Mangohig, is also your partner. What are the perks and pitfalls of working with someone you love?
Something I don’t often discuss in media but did reveal on the BIRDS EYE VIEW podcast! The perks would be that we get to have fun making music together and experience a life that inspires the music to be. We also both completely understand this lifestyle and what it requires of us. So we are empathetic to each other’s needs. The pitfalls can be that we often spend large chunks of time away from each other but we’re grateful to live in a tech world that makes communication always possible.
Listen to ‘Worth It’ by Caiti Baker below.
CAITI BAKER TO JOHANNA BELL IN INTERVIEW
What was the moment of inspiration for you to create BIRDS EYE VIEW?
The idea for BIRDS EYE VIEW came from the women in Sector Four. We were all huddled around a piece of cardboard in the library listing the names that people call women in prison. It was a really long and ugly list. But it didn’t match what I’d seen in the prison. The women in front of me were smart, resilient, hard-working and full of courage and they wanted people to know about that side of them. So they decided to make a podcast that showed people who they really were and the idea for BIRDS EYE VIEW was born.
Is there a story or moment that completely changed your perspective or judgement on a subject that you previously held a strong opinion on?
One of the most memorable moments was a couple of months into the project. Naomi, who was super shy had been coming to the program every week but whenever the microphone got anywhere near her, she covered her face or collapsed into a fit of giggles. I think most of us had accepted her shyness and we just rolled with it. Then one morning, when we were all talking about birds, Naomi piped up and told us about her totem, the pelican. Her voice was soft but she described the pelican in such beautiful detail that the room was completely still (which is pretty unusual in prison because there’s a lot of jigglers!). I think we all knew that something magic had just happened. Naomi went onto share her story and you can hear it in Episode 7 which is all about love.
Upon your observations over the past two years, how important is music to the women in sector 4?
Prison is a pretty dull place. There’s not much to look at and there’s not much to do. But women still have their voices and one of the things I loved about working in the prison is all the different vocal imprints and accents. They got so much out of working with Caiti. I couldn’t believe how much their vocal confidence soared in just a couple of hours. Imagine what would be possible if there was a regular music program in Sector Four!
Name a life hack you’ve learnt from the women.
Before I started working with women in Sector Four, I didn’t know that you can use dandruff shampoo as a substitute for face scrub! And salty plums for lipstick!
How have you evolved as a person through this two-year experience?
I’d never been inside a prison before I started working on this project so it was a pretty steep learning curve for me. As a middle-class white woman I was already aware of my privilege, but after spending time in prison, I realise that there’s a huge spectrum of privilege and that I’m luckier than I realised. Some of the stories women shared during the making of the podcast were really sad and I didn’t know what to do with that sadness. I got really sick and it turned out that I had vicarious trauma. I got better but realised that I have a lot to learn about how to work in a sustainable way.
What would you encourage people to do after listening to BIRDS EYE VIEW?
We want the stories in BIRDS EYE VIEW to be heard by as many people as possible. You can help us by subscribing to the podcast and leaving us a review on iTunes. Also, we’re on twitter and Facebook – @birdseyepodcast – and we’d love to hear from you. Tell your mates, tell your mum, tell everyone!
Listen to ‘GONE’ by Caiti Baker below.