Blog Post: Artists that inspired me to be a musician
Welcome to my music blog! This is my first ever blog (about my music at least). I thought I would give you an insight into my musical upbringing, the artists that make up the soundtrack of my life thus far, and have helped shape the music that I have written and performed throughout my career.
The first albums that I owned at around the ripe age of six were Listen Like Thieves by INXS, the Batman Soundtrack by Prince, and Bad by Michael Jackson. Straight off the bat, I think I had pretty good taste in music. But, I admit, I did like New Kids On The Block as well. To this day, I think Listen Like Thieves is the best album by INXS, and one of the best albums from an Australian artist in the 1980’s.
When I was 13, I was listening to Frogstomp by Silverchair, and I heard them being compared to Nirvana, so I bought Nevermind. I also bought the guitar tab book for that album, which I learned how to play guitar from. I actually used my brother Gareth’s nylon string guitar because I didn’t own a one at the time, I had a bass guitar, which I got bored of pretty quick. It worked out well though cause he got bored of guitar just as quickly.
The first live concert I chose to go to was Joe Cocker at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. I went with my Dad, Mike, and my uncle, Ben. They were both big fans of Joe Cocker, and I was, mostly because Dad played the album The Essential Collection non-stop in the car, and we drove from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast every second weekend. The concert was awesome! Oh man, his voice was so cool to me, so soulful and emotive, I just knew he was something special.
A few years later, I found my Dad’s vinyl records. I loved Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix. I soaked up what I could from listening to these records. I started extending my guitar playing by learning songs from these albums, I found guitar tabs on the internet to help, but I found listening and replicating what I heard to be the best way of learning new songs.
I really liked the Wayne’s World movies as a teenager. The characters in that movie embodied how I thought I would be when I grew up. And the soundtrack had some great songs, most notably Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. The sequel had a dream sequence featuring Jim Morrison with a “weird naked Indian”, and it was pretty funny. It was around this time that Oliver Stone’s The Doors film was released, which I truly thought was an amazing movie, and I was taken by Jim Morrison’s menacing, yet fragile baritone voice. And his poetry was one-of-a-kind. I learned that Jim Morrison was a Sagittarius, like me, and thought I had found a like-minded soul in him. I also really enjoyed the music of The Doors, the jazz & blues influences, the extended solos, the psychedelic sounds of Ray Manzarek’s organ, the howls of Robby Krieger’s distorted guitars. And the sensitive, nuanced intricacies of their softer songs. I often think, what if Jim Morrison hadn’t died, what might have he done with all those talents if he had lived a full life?
I remember clearly, my Mum, Jeni, told me about a young singer she’d heard on the radio called Jeff Buckley. She said, “He really has a fantastic voice, I think you would like him a lot.” She had heard him singing Corpus Christi Carol on ABC Classic FM. And she was certainly right. When I heard his album Grace, it truly made an impact on me. I think it was hearing Jeff’s voice, and the way it made me feel, that decided it for me, I was going to be a singer-songwriter. I also really liked his guitar playing with open tunings. Some of his songs, like Dream Brother have a wonderful atmosphere and ability to lift me up and transport me to a mystical “other-worldly” place. I also really like his album Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk. It’s very different to Grace, it certainly didn’t have the same glossy finish. But I like it’s gritty, almost punk-rock aesthetic. I used both of these albums as references when making my album Between The Colours in 2010.
I remember hearing The Beatles songs on 4KQ driving to music lessons with my Mum and brother. I actually said to my Mum, “I don’t get why everyone thinks so much of The Beatles, they just wrote cheesy pop songs.” Her response was something like, “Well at the time they were actually considered to be quite rebellious, and they have been very influencial on other songwriters.” Again, she was right. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I really listened to The Beatles and understood how creative, fun, and inspiring their music is. Their songwriting was unique, the way they used the recording studio as an instrument, and their orchestration, I studied it all. I came to view The Beatles music as the blueprint for all contemporary music. I also realised that I had been enjoying their songs for longer than I thought, in the cover versions that other artists had done. For example, With a Little Help From My Friends by Joe Cocker was one of my favourite songs, from one of my favourite TV show, The Wonder Years.
There are plenty of other artists that have inspired me to be a musician, for example: Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog), Bob Dylan, Ben Harper, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Them Crooked Vultures), Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog), Nick Cave, Ryan Adams, Jeff Martin (The Tea Party, The Armada).