Callie Angel: A match made in music

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado
Peggy MundingerCallie Angel, a local group fronted by the duo of Gary Baines and Carolyn Golbus, performs Tuesday, May 3, at Belly Up Aspen.

ASPEN – As matchmaking stories go, this one approaches legendary.

She has been looking for a particular type of guy. Sitting over pizza at Taster’s in Snowmass Village one day, she specifies for some friends just what she is seeking. Someone suggests she should meet a certain somebody, who seems to fit the bill.

Ten minutes later, who should walk in but that very him. He, too, had been looking for a woman, and she appears to be a perfect match. One short week later they start getting down to intimate exchanges, and recognize instantly that this partnership has serious potential.

That was more than four years ago, and the two are still together, and more thrilled than ever about their prospects.

Now here’s where it gets crushing – at least for those who crave a happy tale of amorous coupling: This isn’t a romance.

She is Carolyn Golbus, who was and remains married, with three kids. He is Gary Baines, who was and remains single. But the two are pursuing a future together, thanks to their shared musical ambitions. And now, Golbus and Baines welcome to their world their baby: “Center of That Day,” an album credited to Callie Angel (Golbus’ stage name) that features instrumentation and production by Baines (under his own pseudonym, Wade Waters). They introduce the album with a free CD Release Party on Tuesday, May 3, at Belly Up, where they will perform with a full band.

As with many good couples, Golbus and Baines provide something to one another that each, on their own, was lacking. Golbus was a singer with a background in musical theater; she know little about playing an instrument, and even less about the process of making an album and getting it out to the world. Baines had been performing from the time he was a teenager, but the duo he had been playing in had come to the end of its road, and he needed creative refreshening. “I was looking for someone new to play with. I wanted a female partner,” he said.

While Golbus and Baines bring different qualities to the union, the relationship is built on a shared vision. Both are thinking big about where the music can go.

“We’re baby-stepping our way into a bigger life,” said Golbus, a 47-year-old with strikingly light blue-green eyes. “Both of us wanted careers in original music.”

“And we wanted to do it on a larger scale,” added Baines, 51. “We wanted to do Belly Up; we want to play Vail, Red Rocks, the Hollywood Bowl. She asked me once, What’s your ultimate goal? I said, To play the Grammys, for that whole crowd.”

• • • •

While Golbus and Baines shoot for the sky, they also show a grounded grasp of what it takes to get where they are aiming. For one thing, there is a sense of humility. While they talk about Red Rocks and awards shows, they see the Belly Up gig as a major score, a coup for a little-known local act. “Center of That Day” – a blast of chick-rock that puts one in mind of Chrissie Hynde, Sheryl Crow and 4 Non Blondes – reflects feelings of gratitude, rather than outsized ambition. “Friends Like You” and “Thank You for Callin’ to Say Nothin'” are earnest expressions of thanks. The title song hints at perseverance and a commitment to hard work: the lyrics begin, “Woke up at dawn just to get it started”; later, Golbus sings, “We made ourselves a deal that we’d play till the end.”

The way the album came into being reflects that sense of patience. After that initial meeting, Golbus and Baines got together to work up a set of cover tunes; under the name Eclipse, they would go on to play their versions of Johnny Cash, Jimmy Buffett, Lucinda Williams and Doc Watson songs in clubs and at parties around the valley. At the same time, Golbus started writing – and writing, and writing.

“I started writing songs – and I couldn’t stop. I like to write – poetry, journals. Combining it with music was fun,” Golbus said. “But I knew five chords; it was very simple songs. By some freak of nature, all these songs would come out of my head. People would say, How can all these songs come out of a person who knows five chords?”

To get those songs recorded, the two settled into Mauka Productions – the studio that occupies most of Baines’ tiny Snowmass Village apartment. “It’s 700 square feet – and 350 of it is the studio. You take one step through the foyer, and you’re in the recording studio,” said Baines, who had never made an album before. “If it’s not the recording studio, it’s my music equipment – keyboards, guitars set up everywhere.”

The recording studio underwent a major change in the middle of making “Center of the Day.” Baines purchased the digital audio software platform Pro Tools, and spent nearly a year learning how to use it. The time off was merely a bump in the road in what has been a rewarding process.

“I’d play one long guitar track, then talk about the feel of the song,” Golbus said. “I’d come back and there’d be a drum line, a bass – real music. It was like he took my music and made a song of it. It was like Christmas all the time.”

“I’d put in 10-hour days, come home at 6, and work on it till 10 at night, putting in new tracks, deleting tracks, really working it,” said Baines, an electrical engineer whose day job is managing all communications systems for Pitkin County. “When something like this is your passion, not just a whimsical thought, it’s not work. You make every track count.”

• • • •

Baines grew up on an Idaho dairy farm, and started playing music when his family, a group of bluegrass pickers, realized they needed a guitarist. He liked picking bluegrass, but rock ‘n’ roll was becoming an irresistible force, even in small-town Idaho. “The other kids were behind the woodshed, sneaking cigarettes,” he said. “I was behind the woodshed, sneaking rock ‘n’ roll.”

Out of high school, Baines joined the Coast Guard. Listening to his memories, it sounds more like a string of nightclubs than a branch of the military. “That’s where I really learned about music,” he said. “I played in Greenwich Village, Seattle’s U District, in Hawaii at the Fog Cutter, on Oahu. I got to know musicians and I went crazy: ‘Whoa, show me that again – is that a barre chord?'”

After living in Washington state, playing in bands and solo gigs, Baines came to the Aspen area to take a job with the Federal Aviation Administration, installing equipment on Red Table Mountain.

Golbus came from different worlds. A Southern California native, she was drawn into acting. At UCLA, she studied drama and sang in bands on the side. She put her stage pursuits on hold as she raised a family of three children. But after moving to Aspen, in 1996, she eventually drifted back into theater, starting with the role of the Baroness in Aspen Community Theatre’s production of “The Sound of Music.”

She also started singing in rock bands. “I’d sit in at rehearsals and go, ‘Of course.’ It feels so at home, even in a genre I didn’t grow up with,” she said. Golbus also began testing her writing skills, and watched her bandmates pick up the scraps of music and turn them into songs. “I was a girl who started writing songs on the back porch, and then these guys in the community came along and said, ‘Oh, that’s good stuff; let’s do something with it. But Gary’s the guy who ran with it.”

With their first album only barely released, Golbus and Baines already know their next step. The two are roughly halfway through a second album, to be titled “Nashville Bound.” Where “Center of the Day” focuses on Golbus – it’s mostly her lyrics, her vocals, and her picture on the cover – Golbus says the second album will have “more of a duo feel – like Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler.”

That’s reaching far, of course. But Golbus and Baines say they are in their partnership for the long run. “We’ve both worked with people that, if things aren’t happening fast enough, they go away,” Golbus said. “They drift into other things. You know the tortoise and the hare? We’re the tortoise – little by little.”

I asked the two when they thought “Nashville Bound” would be finished, and Golbus joked, “Fourteen years. We’ll be at Red Rocks by then. Hopefully I’ll still be hot.”

I also asked who Golbus’ vocal influences were. She hesitated, then gave a half-answer. “Chrissie Hynde is the only songstress that people say I sound like. I’ve heard that one before,” she said.

“But I don’t talk to too many people about who I sound like. Maybe, someday, we’ll be having more of those conversations. We’ve had this vision for so long. And I feel like we’re just getting started.”


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