My Biggest Influences
Subject to constant change every couple of years, these are the 50 artists that best represent the shape of my songwriting. For multiple reasons, listed below, these acts have shaped the way I write songs and view the world at large based on ambition, when I first heard them, and ability to inspire. Within my music I am positive you can hear the seeds they planted.
Keep in mind that this is not a list of what I think are “the best” artists. There are plenty of acts that I think are great or even better than some of the acts listed below (Sonic Youth, The Kinks, Talk Talk, Mercury Rev, Royal Trux, Tribe Called Quest, Oneida, Bruce Springsteen, Calexico, Al Green, Mark Kozelek, Joanna Newsom, Brian Eno, Nick Cave, Arcade Fire, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, many more) that don’t influence my songwriting as the artist below.
Steve Albini – his amazing, stripped down production method that has produced someone the most amazing albums ever written….is the reasons most people love him. I do love that about him, but as a songwriter in the bands Big Black, Rapeman, and Shellac, he creates a form of rock music that can only be described as “mathematically sound.” He is the son of a rocket scientist, and thank god he chose to do music!
Tim Buckley – What a voice, of couse, the less famous father of Jeff Buckely has. But also, what a great streak of compelling music he wrote and created in the mid to late 60’s and early 70’s. A true original.
Camper Van Beethoven – quirky and original, while maintaining a beautiful outlook on music and life. The way CVB approaches music is a genius mix of satire and love.
Can – Perhaps the most interesting of the rock bands to come out of Germany, their sometimes-baffling experiments created some of the most amazing rock music of all time.
Neko Case – Blessed with one of the great female voices in all of rock music, she is still very underrated in terms of what a great songwriter she is. She also has genius tastes in collaborators.
Cat Power – I don’t know if she ever made that one genius album that stands apart from the rest, but her tale of how she moved to New York to make music form the south constantly inspires me. Her songs also radiate with a strange minimalist passion that is unique and hypnotic.
The Chills – A band that was too scatterbrained to make a great record, but has a SLEW of catchy melodic pop rock that puts most 80’s rock to shame. From New Zealand.
Leonard Cohen – A poet that didn’t really get into music until his late 30’s, Cohen is at once the greatest lyricist of rock music and one of its most perplexing figures. A Jewish Canadian monk that went from being shy and reserved to being perhaps TOO out spoken about love and life J
De La Soul – De La Soul are the most interesting rappers around, and have the most defiant flows. Just listen to how they say, the, words! Of some of their best songs. They are also extremely anti commercial for a band with such a squeaky-clean image. Fascinating to no end. This rock band changed my life.
The Dream Syndicate / Steve Wynn – a fascinating figure with 20 something albums to his name (most of them worth a listen), Steve Wynn is the perfect mix of Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Neil Young, with some kind of melodic genius thrown in from Alex Chilton.
El – P – The Beastie Boys proved to me the white boys could rap with the best of em, but it took Jamie Meline to truly prove that there is a true kind of art to it. El-P has proved time and time again that hip-hop is still about the music, just listen to Cold Vein with and without the rappers and you will see what I mean (there is an instrumental version). Perhaps the Brian Eno of rap music as his music constantly recreates itself, his songwriting and flow are also killer.
Husker Du / Bob Mould
Rickie Lee Jones
The Mountain Goats
Mary Margaret O’Hara
Pere Ubu / David Thomas
Jonathan Richman – even though Modern Lovers only had one proper album, the album changed my life and basically started punk rock and promoted straight edge life style (don’t drink, don’t smoke, no sex without love). Everything that The Sex Pistols one album gets credit for should be applied to the Modern Lovers self titled, which was better and recorded 3 years before it!
Slint / For Carnation
The Tragically Hip
Tv On the Radio
Yo La Tengo