After his son’s death, this Biddeford man turned to music to soothe his grief

BIDDEFORD, Maine — All things thought of, it is been a good 12 months for Jim Baumer. The artist wrote a few dozen songs, place out his to start with EP and networked his way to 45 gigs at pubs and other levels throughout New England.

But it was not that long ago that Baumer, a writer, didn’t play songs at all. Though he’d constantly desired to, it wasn’t until eventually his son’s demise that he started to dedicate time to it.

Mark Baumer was a writer and local climate activist who died in January 2017 at age 33. He was struck by a automobile and killed in Florida while strolling across the U.S. to increase recognition about local weather modify, and to raise cash for a friend’s environmental corporation. He was reportedly carrying a large-visibility vest at the time he was struck and going for walks in opposition to visitors in accordance with basic safety suggestions. His death was a nationwide tale.

For his mom and dad, Jim and Mary Baumer, Mark’s death was an unfathomable loss. The pair, equally 59 and celebrating their 40th anniversary this yr, put in the very first calendar year sure to their instant soreness. They went to grief counseling, attended to a prison case versus the driver who struck their son, started out a nonprofit basis in his title and participated in numerous interviews and a documentary film about his lifestyle.

As the months wore on, they had unique approaches of coping. Mary Baumer, a effective saleswoman, continued operating and leaned on her practical experience with reduction. She has been a distance runner for decades, an exercise that gave her a broad circle of good friends. As a teen, she shed an older brother, which assisted make her “a really sturdy person.”

But Jim Baumer spiraled into a deep despair following his son’s dying. A freelance writer, the times doing work by itself from house were being agonizing, supplying Jim Baumer no peace from his grief. What experienced once been a balanced contrarian streak in his persona experienced lapsed into a kind of nihilism. He’d get in hassle at get the job done and select fights with good friends, antagonizing them with political positions he didn’t really help.

By August 2018, just after a year and a fifty percent, he hit rock base. He contemplated techniques to just take his existence.

“I was attempting to figure out a way to eliminate myself that was a great way, but there is no excellent way,” he said.

Instead, he grabbed a Yamaha acoustic guitar he bought in the 1990s. He commenced to participate in. He’d enjoy for 15 minutes at a time, getting breaks from his creating deadlines. Before long, Jim Baumer would play for hrs at a time. Soon after a 12 months or so, he was producing and recording tracks.

“It saved his life,” Mary Baumer stated.

Born in 1962, the elder Baumer grew up in Lisbon Falls, the son of a union paper mill employee and a remain-at-property mother. He normally dreamed of enjoying audio, but hardly ever truly did. His musical aspirations collided with baseball, where he excelled as an ace pitcher. One particular of the very best in the condition, he attended the University of Maine on a baseball scholarship.

Teammates nicknamed him “Cosmic” since he would give astrological pronouncements ahead of games, impressed by the Cosmic Muffin sketch on the radio station WBLM.

Just after he blew his arm out in college, he dropped baseball and drove with Mary to Indiana, the place he did a small stint at an Indiana bible faculty in advance of turning out to be disillusioned and quitting faith. Their son was born quickly after, and the loved ones moved again to Maine.

Jim Baumer located that parenthood did not go away much time for audio either, but he came to share a bond of musical appreciation with his son, a precocious kid who appreciated sports activities, literature and punk rock tunes.

“Jim was the small league father, the hockey father,” Mary Baumer reported. “He drove Mark to the 4:30 hockey follow rather of doing his new music. He was the baseball coach. The guitar stayed in the basement.”

These days, Jim Baumer is enjoying a Gibson Night time Hawk with a hollow-system — just like Neil Younger — and a little amp, producing and recording tunes in the basement, juggling a element-time get the job done routine.

The kind of tracks Jim Baumer writes are weirder than your usual barroom fare. He performs a slack, lo-fi indie-rock, steeped in yrs of desire in the do the job of idiosyncratic singer-songwriters like Dave Doughman of Swearing at Motorists, Marc Bolan of T. Rex, Will Toledo of Vehicle Seat Headrest and Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices. At gigs, he’ll combine those up with handles, often cheeky types, of Radiohead, R.E.M. and Madonna.

Are living tunes audiences are rough to occur by in the pandemic, but Jim Baumer has performed his most effective to obtain them. With a number of hours’ worth of product, he’s put in the last calendar year emailing reserving brokers at townie bars, open mics and farmers markets. He performed 45 gigs because venues reopened, and tapped into a community of other region songwriters for strategies.

Writing and playing tunes can be therapeutic. Several of Jim Baumer’s tunes hover all around his son’s demise without the need of being on the nose. Other individuals, like the remaining observe of the EP he produced final winter season, are a apparent ode to his son. But news of his reduction, documented on his website alongside his songs, frequently preceded him. As he networked, Jim Baumer located solace with other musicians who experienced similar losses or who also observed hope right after thinking about suicide.

He nevertheless thinks of himself as a writer, but of a unique style.

“I employed to assume that if I could craft the fantastic 2,500-phrase essay, I could change the planet. Now I considerably desire producing three-and-a-50 percent minute music,” Jim Baumer mentioned. “The factor about producing is that you publish an report and it is performed. You publish a tune and you can perform it a thousand times.”

It is the writerly element of Jim Baumer’s operate that his spouse appreciates — she’s not often a supporter of the music.

“Is he the ideal guitar player ever? No,” Mary Baumer stated. “But he’s a actually fantastic and heartfelt author and he’s taken it to the upcoming amount.”

Mary Baumer explained she’s often comforted by the know-how that Mark would have wished his moms and dads to move on with their lives. For Jim Baumer, creating songs is a journey he’s last but not least ready for.

“If Mark could see me now, he’d be so … joyful for me,” he reported. “He’d be like, Yeah, this is what you meant to do with your existence. It is Alright that you figured that out in your late fifties, because now you can do it for 20 yrs.”

Kenneth Proto

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