Rice Owl appears on musical spinoff of ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’ franchise

Amid the red roses and musical talent on display on ABC’s newest reality show, “The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart,” is a familiar face — Rice’s own Gabe Baker ’14.

THE BACHELOR PRESENTS: LISTEN TO YOUR HEART - The power of love knows no bounds as ABC further expands its hit-making Bachelor franchise with an all-new Bachelor Nation series, "The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart," set to premiere MONDAY, APRIL 13 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EDT). (ABC/Maarten de Boer)

Gabe Baker. Photo credit: ABC/Maarten de Boer

Baker is one of 20 contestants embarking “on an incredible journey to find love through music” on the latest spinoff of the long-running “Bachelor” franchise, according to the show’s website. Although he majored in engineering and played football during his time at Rice, he said music has always been a big part of his life.

“I’ve lived a very musical life,” said Baker, who works as a community engagement specialist for the Harris County judge’s office. “Growing up, my parents were very musical. I picked up the cello in the fourth grade, and my older siblings also played stringed instruments, and we had a little trio of us kind of doing things together. There was a lot of music in the house together as a family, but then also just in church and different things … and through the years I think my role with music just continued to grow.”

Baker admitted he’s never seen the original iterations of “The Bachelor,” and was actually contacted by producers who encouraged him to apply for the new show.

“It was an intriguing thing,” he said of the spinoff’s premise. “That sounded pretty cool to me. And I’m one that is always open to just exploring something new. You never know what opportunities could lead to more opportunities from the connections, new relationships, friendships or whatever comes from it, you know? So that’s kind of where I was at. And I’m obviously open to finding love. So yeah, it sounded cool.”

The show was recorded over a few weeks in late January. Baker called it “a pretty fascinating process.”

“It was such a fun experience, for sure,” he said. “I mean, you’re in this big house with a bunch of people that share the same passion that you do. You have this strong commonality and, obviously, everyone knowing the premise of the show and why you’re there, it removes a lot of other kinds of expectations and makes things pretty clear. So you could just be there and embrace it.”

Baker said his Rice experience helped prepare him for this unconventional time in his life.

Gabe Baker chats with Chris Harrison, host of "The Bachelor Presents: Listen To Your Heart." Photo credit: ABC/John Fleenor

Gabe Baker chats with Chris Harrison, host of “The Bachelor Presents: Listen To Your Heart.” Photo credit: ABC/John Fleenor

“One thing I loved about my time at Rice was the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life,” he said. “That was really a thing that I came into my Rice experience really focused on, taking advantage of not being closed in just one community.”

Baker lived at Brown College for his four years at Rice, and tried to be involved in a lot of activities and develop different relationships. He said he’s always had a “heart to create community,” which has prepared him for different life experiences.

“When you’re coming into something new, you can choose what to make of it — you’re literally there to create community,” he said. “And whatever that community turns into for you personally, it’s up to you.”

Baker said that always being “camera ready” took some getting used to, but he found it important just to relax, take the experience for what it was and be himself. Speaking of “camera ready,” Baker said that in real life, longtime “Bachelor” host Chris Harrison is “as poised as he comes across on television.”

“He’s just a super-duper pro,” Baker said. “Super kind, super personable. Right away, he knew all of us like the back of his hand and that was pretty cool. This is his space, you know? I think it’s just pretty cool to watch him work in the live settings. Like, ‘Oh, wow, you’re really good at this!'”

Although Baker couldn’t spill details about his time on the show — his fellow Rice Owls will have to tune in to the remaining episodes, which air each Monday at 7 p.m. Central time, to see how things end for him — he said he was grateful for the experience and the relationships he was able to form throughout the show.

So what can we expect from Baker after his stint on reality television?

“You can expect the same adventurous spirit that I’ve maintained thus far in my life,” Baker said. “That’s probably the most broad way to express it. I think I’m really getting some great clarity with a lot of different things in my life. I’m really open to exploring my talents as a musician but also still moving forward with a lot of my where my heart is — serving others and being a part of certain communities. I do have some fun plans in mind and we’ll see how they come together and where things go.”

To watch episodes of “The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart” online, visit https://abc.com/shows/the-bachelor-presents-listen-to-your-heart.

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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.