The earliest song I can remember: The Cure – ‘Love Cats’
My home life as a kid was never very musical, my mum was a single parent and would work very hard to support me so i’d spend a lot of time over at my grans and of course kicking about outside with pals, so i don’t ever recall a time records were being played in my house until I bought my own much later on, so i’m not sure when I first heard this track, but I remember being very young and being instantly drawn to the chorus, it’s catchy and easy to sing along to when i didn’t have a grasp of picking out lyrics yet and I remember loving how it sounded a little sinister after the really up-beat and major key pre-chorus, which really appealed to me as I was heavy into halloween and spooky things as a kid (and I still am!)…perfect ears for the cure I guess! I also remember asking my mum what it was called, and upon hearing the word “cats” within her reply, proclaiming this my favourite song as I was such a fan of animals.
First musical love: The Notorious B.I.G – ‘Juicy’
As I started to form my first real tastes in music I gravitated towards R&B and hip hop. I loved the production without really knowing it at the time, the beats, the hooky samples, the warm vocal ranges and the catchiness and intelligence of the rapping flows, this track is one of the first I remember loving, this love has stayed with me forever and led me to a variety of artists i’d fall in love with musically, from the aggression of early Dizzy Rascal, to the beauty and ambidexterity of Frank Ocean and a lot more in between, all so different but all grown from the same roots.
Heartbreak & New horizons : The Starting Line – ‘Three’s a charm’
Whilst at high school I obviously started to meet new people and started going to parties and hearing newer music, I became good friends with some guys in the year above who were in bands and they started to introduce me to American pop punk bands, at first it didn’t really grab me, I couldn’t really relate to songs about skateboarding & California as I was a teenager who played football in scheme in Perth, so it seemed cheesy and false, however following the inevitable break up of a first high school sweetheart, my mate let me hear this track which was less about the jovial, punkier side of the genre, and more about heartbreak and emotion…It felt sincere, because I could relate and although it’s easy to look back on these times as trivial, at the time it was a great source of pain for me, as it is with anyone growing up. This music spoke to me, and my love of “Emo” was born.
Realisation of a passion: Reuben – ‘Stuck in my throat’
Roll on a few years and I’d left school, with college in my sights and a few years listening to, writing and performing the Emo music i’d learned to love, I was introduced to this band called “Reuben”. It was heavier than i’d been into before and as with pop-punk originally, I was pretty closed minded to anything too distorted, not yet understanding or respecting different genres and the talent and different skills required for them, however Reuben were different. The album “Racecar is Racecar backwards” was littered with the emotive lyrics and vocal melodies i’d grown to love, but also contained controlled aggression within it’s delivery and some production which still stands as one of my favourite albums of all time, this track is a perfect example of all of that and I can truly pinpoint it to being a song which took me from thinking of music as a hobby to realising I wanted to document all of my emotions and utilise all of my creative abilities to try and construct something that may give someone else the feelings that this record gave me someday.
Blurry years: Glassjaw – ‘Tip your bartender’
With my new found appreciation and hunger for exploring music and genres further, I stumbled upon “Glassjaw” I was hooked immediately on Daryl Palumbo’s ability to both scream & sing with equal excellence and the music was moody & angsty but yet full of triumph, this opened my ears to even more music but in particular the heavier genres and let my own career towards this path. These years in heavier bands led to a much more active social life as I played more shows and went further afield with it, I also started drinking more heavily to help with my insecurities of trying to deliver a captivating performance to my audiences as a frontman who both screamed and sang, therefore this period of my life took me down so avenues which weren’t my proudest, or most memorable, this obviously wasn’t the genre to blame but more the false arrogance I was striving to achieve through Dutch courage, which I felt was necessary for that role, it’s a part of life sometimes, to get things wrong and as long as you learn and grow from the experience it’s ultimately a positive one.
Moving on: MGMT – ‘Time to pretend’
Following the aforementioned period of my life, I grew apart from what was, at that point, the longest relationship i’d had in my life. I wasn’t a considerate person at all times and selfish would be the word to summarise most of that time, however I did had realised that the relationship had run it’s course for me, and even though that meant causing more pain for someone who was an innocent party in a young man’s journey through immaturity, it would be worse off to fein love and continue things with a half heart. We moved apart and literally the first day of being on my own again for the first time in years I picked up the MGMT album as it had just been released, I rinsed that album for weeks on repeat and the lyrics mixed with my feelings at the time just felt like a release and a relief from the guilt of feeling as if I was having to put a front on for months and pretend my feelings were something they were not, I knew in the end it would be better for us both, and it was, this song and album were the soundtrack to the whole period.
Solace at my lowest: The Smiths – ‘There is a light that never goes out’
Whilst enjoying a bit of freedom in my early twenties, I had a period of hitting things pretty hard, obviously a massive part of these days were full of laughter and good times, however there comes a price with excess and a constant burning of the candle at both ends. Things got pretty hollow…chemicals added to this, I started to go down some darker routes and feel a bit lost for a while. I’d loved The Smiths for a long time and my flat mate at the time shared this passion, so this exciting, yet at times lonely, time is littered with Smiths songs in my memory…I started to suffer from anxiety and depression, which wasn’t helped by over zealous boozing most nights, however a new relationship formed during this period, and eventually this turned into the most important of my life and the girl I’ve been with for over seven years now…during a drive together one winter night, I took stock for a moment at the turning of the page, “There is a light” was playing, as cheesy as it may sound, it felt like it was meant to be, driving in the car, not wanting to go home to be anywhere other than right there with her, feeling like things were going to be good again, and they were.
Finding my feet again: Arctic Monkeys -‘Cornerstone’
I had a period of musical inactivity amidst the more difficult time in my life, I’d been in a band where heaviness and bravado was the order of the day and thought less about the care and construction of my craft. That band was fractured and we were all hot headed, fuelled on alcohol, bummed by shit gigs and even shitter tours and it came to a head, all I wanted to do was forget about music and have fun for a while however my brain had a different agenda and it was the first time I learned that music wasn’t just a choice for me it was almost an addiction, I know how cheesy that will sound to those who don’t feel this way, but I’ve met a lot of people who completely relate. I wanted nothing more than to shut my brain off but all I could do was create…I had always been into the Arctic Monkeys for their Garage Indie and punky vibes however it was at this point I started to truly listen and appreciate the genius of Turner as a lyricist and songwriter, finding beauty in the ordinary, painting explicit pictures of his surroundings and recounting them in a no—holds-barred yet beautifully poetic way. I started to approach songwriting differently, and went on what was my most prolific run of writing to date at that time, however I had no band, I recorded things myself, to give to my girl to listen, she convinced me to upload them to BBC introducing, I did this and got some plays and great feedback, people called for a band and I put one together, it was the best thing I’ve ever done, I genuinely don’t know who i would be and what I would be doing with myself if it wasn’t for music, other lifestyles just seem pretty alien to me and I can’t go two minutes without thinking about the next move for the band, that’s what I mean when I say it’s more than a passion, at times it can be manic, but it’s also my release so i’ve no choice with music and creating, it’s just something I need.
Pastures new & a reminder of home: The Cribs – ‘I’ve tried everything’
I remember the first time I heard this track and just thought “perfect”. The Cribs are famous for their love/hate relationship with their home town of Wakefield, they love it because it’s where they grew, where the people they love are from and where they made their earliest memories, however it’s also a small town with limited opportunities and a small town mentality from many of the people they encountered whilst growing up, every single part of that sentence is how I feel about my home town of Perth. It’s so love/hate it is laughable at times. It’s hard to associate with this feeling if you grew up in Glasgow, Manchester, London etc, and it can seem a cliché subject from us “small town folks” but it can be a real struggle growing up and trying to pursue anything a little different in a place like Perth. On the other side of the coin it’s the home of those who are most loyal to me and the place of so many fond memories, therefore the conflict in emotions when thinking of my home is vast. I moved to Glasgow from Perth in 2012 and this song became a bit of an anthem within the decision making period, re-affirming why I would make the move and head off on a long tour at the time, to come back to a big city with no job, no friends other than my girlfriend and basically start from scratch, it’s not too far away on a train but there were plenty moments of loneliness within a city where you know nobody when you have been living in a city (the size of a town) where you know everybody, but the choice was one I’ve never looked back on and this song puts a smile on my face every time i hear it.
Current feels: ‘Xanny Bar’
I’m constantly on the look out for new music of any genre, I love hearing new ways to tell a story, different chords to bring a song to life, rhythms and tempos that surprise me and in particular, a voice that can just break your heart, i love all music but sad songs are relatable and invoke a real awakening to the strongest of emotions from within, Aaron Maine aka “Porches” is the king of this in my opinion. The first song I heard from him was this one, on a live stripped back performance on youtube whilst listening Basement live performances and doing band admin work. As soon as I heard the beautifully unusual chord structures and then his fragile yet stunning voice, I immediately stopped what I was doing and was fixated in this video, I immediately started searching for more, checking out his debut album “slow dance in the cosmos” and watching every live video I could find. His new album “Pool” is also a work of brilliance. I love the honesty in his voice and lyrics, presenting his art with flaws intact and the records really have that sense of association with the accessibility of his lyrics. I really envy his ability to present something so beautifully yet so bare and stripped back, it’s inspired me to try to do the same moving forward, i pride myself at always being able to learn from experiences and I credit listening to this artist and in particular this song, for being a catalyst in helping me see that things can be just as effective, if not more, when un-complicated, as long as the essence of what is there is strong enough, although not the same genre of music, this is how i approached my most recent writing sessions and truly feel i am writing better material than i ever have before, it’s given me more license for honesty and to be truer to myself than i ever have previously. As long as i hear this song i will remind myself to continue to have this desire to seek out new sounds and to keep learning, which will hopefully continue to push myself further with my own writing.