In a lot of ways, music influences my artwork more than anything visual. When I turn on these songs, in speakers or headphones, my brain clicks into place and I'm transported into the zone - flow state is immediate. And there is music I love that doesn't do the trick - Charles Mingus, the Pixies, Nirvana, Kanye West, or Springsteen. The tempo and mood have to be just so and then the painting gods smile upon me. These are the albums I return to over and over and over, year after year. There have been recent additions to the rotation (like Karen Elson, Steely Dan, Amy Winehouse, and Jason Isbell) but these are my trusty old reliable stand-bys.
Metamodern Sounds in Country Music - Sturgill Simpson
I first listened to this on vacation in Key West and it lit my brain on fire - Waylon Jennings collides with Radiohead. I spent my childhood years in Texas and there is something about hearing a deep twangy voice paired with a Telecaster that takes me back to the rodeo and state fair. Throw in some metaphysical philosophizing and you've got something special.
“That old man upstairs, though he wears a crooked smile. Staring down on the chaos he created. He said son if you ain't having fun then just wait a little while. Momma's gonna wash it all away. She thinks mercy's overrated”
Also recommended - his performance on Austin City Limits (available on YouTube), specifically Listening to the Rain and I’d Have to be Crazy
Time (The Revelator) - Gillian Welch
Pure nostalgia - Gillian seems plucked from a Coal Miner's Daughter alternate reality. Elvis Presley Blues is worth the cost of the album - "He was all alone, in a long decline. Thinking how happy John Henry was that he fell down and died."
Also recommended - Tear My Stillhouse Down, Caleb Meyer, Orphan Girl, Hard Times
Blacklisted - Neko Case
The iTunes description is tough to beat, so I'll just quote it here, “Part Patsy Cline, part David Lynch, Blacklisted is a tense, torchy masterpiece for which the label “alt-country” seems pitifully inadequate."
Also recommended - In California (Live) on Austin City Limits - my favorite song of hers.
Greatest Hits - The Band
Holy shit. If I could paint something that felt like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” or “The Weight” I would just call it a day and retire forever. There is a reason these guys are cited by so many musicians as a source of inspiration. David Chang has a portrait of them in his restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City. Martin Scorsese directed a documentary about their final concert. They were Bob Dylan’s band. And Robbie Robertson’s biography just makes me love them more. Music as method acting.
Acid Tongue - Jenny Lewis
“I went to a cobbler to fix a hole in my shoe. He took one look at my face and said I can fix that hole in you. I beg your pardon I’m not looking for a cure. I’ve seen enough of my friends in the depths of the God sick blues.”
Also recommended - Rabbit Fur Coat with The Watson Twins and anything from her band Rilo Kiley.