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Gabe Baker listens to his heart on new Bachelor spinoff


Courtesy Maarten de Boer/ABC

By Kavya Sahni     4/21/20 6:59pm

Being on the screen isn’t new to Gabe Baker, a Rice alumnus (Brown College ’14) and cast member of The Bachelor franchise’s new music dating show: “The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart” on ABC, where contestants sing to and with each other. Baker has been on athletic competition reality shows before –– “American Ninja Warrior” and Netflix’s “Ultimate Beastmaster.” While the constant eye of the cameras did put him under pressure to perform on those shows, Baker said that being on “The Bachelor” brought a new kind of pressure.

“This was different, because you're being filmed all the time. And you're in a house with 20 other people, all with the same objective, basically,” Baker said. “It's almost like trying to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and really sticking with your guns of being yourself, and being honest and trying just to let things flow as they should.”

When Baker was at Rice, he had a lot on his plate: He was on a football scholarship, was involved in Christian ministry on campus and was part of the Black Student Association. In addition, Baker could be found practicing the cello for the Shepherd School of Music’s orchestra for nonmajors –– Gabriel Fauré’s “Élégie” is his favorite piece.

“I love music. It’s part of the languages of life for me, if you will,” Baker said. “For me, getting into these experiences is all about what I can learn about myself. The show is also about finding love and connecting through music, so really trying to experience that and seeing where that can take you.”

Baker has grown up with strong musical influences. One of his favorite songs to sing is Leon Bridges’ “River.” When Baker was younger, his parents, singers themselves, encouraged him and his siblings to explore music, as a result of which they all learned to play string instruments.

One of Baker’s strongest influences to pursue his musical growth is his brother, who chose to study music in college. While Baker said that music always helped him worship at church, he started digging deeper and investing more in songwriting only after he graduated from Rice. The producers of the show reached out to Baker after seeing musical content he had posted online.

“My life has definitely taken some fun, interesting turns along the way,” Baker said.

Baker loved that everyone had a shared passion for music on “The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart.” According to him, it was the basis for a “beautiful strong community that [was] created almost immediately.” Along with this love for music, connections between cast members deepened over the course of the show, as they were there looking for love. Baker enjoyed being able to use music as a medium to connect and create relationships.

“Every day was a new adventure. You're there figuring it out together, you and everyone on the cast,” Baker said. “I think it was the unpredictability of the experience [that] made it so fun.”

Baker said that although he doesn’t regret his decision to be on the show, there were points at which he realized how new and different the experience was. His doubts dispelled as he got over his initial nerves.

“There could be some times of feeling like, ‘Oh man, maybe I shouldn't have put myself in this kind of unique situation,’” Baker said. “But I think that as the days continued on, I was learning a lot, having a lot of fun.”

Going into the show, Baker said he was “definitely looking for love” and to connect with someone who would help him grow and make him better. For him, being self-assured in knowing who he is is a very important part of being in a relationship.

“What are your values, what are your goals and is that relationship that you’re working to create going to help you work towards those goals in a positive and a powerful way?” Baker said. “It has to start with knowing you, and extending beyond that in order to include someone else that is compatible with that.”

Baker didn’t date anyone while he was at Rice, but he’s been in two serious relationships since. He’s never felt the need to rush or jump into something [he wasn’t] ready for when it came to romantic relationships.

“I have a very limited dating history, if you will, but all of them were so meaningful to me and have really shaped me into who I am, and knowing myself and knowing what I’m looking for in future dating relationships,” Baker said.

Baker said his time at Rice was “adventurous and explorative,” and described the simple pleasures of hanging out with his friends and sharing traditions with them at Brown.

“Brown defense whenever Baker 13 came around for Halloween was always a fun thing to be a part of, as crazy of a tradition as that is,” Baker said.

Baker said that he looks back at his decision to stay on campus for all four years as a great decision. He thoroughly enjoyed his time on the football team, but said that “giving [himself] so wholly to something” was definitely a challenge.

“My experience on the football team was awesome. You spend lots of your time and effort and mental energy and physical energy there, and so you build an incredible camaraderie with everyone on the team, the coaches, the staff,” Baker said. “That is just an experience and a community of relationships that continue to pay its dividends now in my life.”

At the end of his junior year, Baker experienced a moment of “worlds colliding” –– when he broke a bone in his hand, he realized how much the world of football is intertwined with his musical interests. He was forced to take a break from cello classes while his hand recovered.

“There’s a lot of different stresses and strains you put your body through,” Baker said. “That has an impact on just how you’re navigating everything else outside of football.”

After Baker graduated from Rice, he gave playing football professionally a shot. When that didn’t work out, he started working as a civil engineer at Roadway Design, a civil engineering consulting firm. But Baker knew that he eventually wanted to shift into something less technical, more centered on people.

That opportunity came from a Harris County judge –– a professional connection he had formed at an internship organized by Rice. Now, Baker does policy work and is a community engagement specialist for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. He said he’s grateful to be part of such directly impactful work, especially during these times.

“I love it. I love serving people in a direct way,” Baker said. “I love interacting and being able to understand the levers that the government can pull in order to meet needs.”

Capitalizing on creating relationships was important to Baker even when he was at Rice. Learning about himself and investing in the community was one of the biggest things he took away from his time at Rice.

“Post your time at Rice, the biggest thing that you don't wanna be saying is that, ‘Oh, I still don’t know about myself,’” Baker said. “You may not know what you want to know exactly, but as long as you get to a point of self-actualization, the better off [you are].”

When asked about where he currently is in his search for love, and how his thoughts on dating have changed after being on “The Bachelor,” Baker said that we’d have to stay tuned in to see what happens through the show.

“My thoughts on dating and relationships? I think they’ve kinda maintained a similar perspective that I’ve had,” Baker said. “If anything, they’ve been reaffirmed in some ways.”

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