25 Years & 25 Songs: The Songs that Have Influence Me 

September Grass – James Taylor

This was one of the few secular albums my parents owned/played when I was a kid (we were a Christian household and my parents only really listened to worship music). This album is one first records I have memory falling in love with. To me, it sounds like home.

It's A Great Day To Be Alive – Travis Tritt

When I was a kid, I went to a camp in North Carolina called Falling Creek. Everyday after breakfast, the counselors would do skits and sing-alongs on the front porch of the dining hall. This song was one of the standards of the camp songbook. It’s a fun and clever song and still puts a smile on my face every time I hear it.

What I Got – Sublime

My older brother, Hunter, preference of music was a big influence on my own. Growing up I would borrow (steal) albums from his collection. Sublime’s self-titled was one of those albums. This song was my favorite from that album and it was one of the first songs I learned to sing and play on guitar. It’s one of my dad’s favorites as well. Well...the clean version, anyways.

All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was one of the first classic rock artists I listened to. He was one of the artists that initially got me interested in playing guitar. This song (originally written and performed by Bob Dylan) is in my opinion one of the most poetic songs written and is truly brought to life by Jimi. 

Scar Tissue – Red Hot Chili Peppers

I was introduced to the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Middle School by my friends Alex and Kyle and they were one of my first favorite (non-Christian or classic rock) band and their Stadium Arcadium Tour was my first real rock concert. Scar Tissue is by far my favorite song by them.

Big River – Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was my first conscious endeavor into Country music (which I had previously written off) and this song taught me that country music could be filled with emotion and hurt. I distinctly remember being affected by the opening lyric “I taught the weeping willow how to cry."

Butterfly – Mason Jennings

When I was thirteen I went to surf camp (because I was an awkward white teenager and why not?). The counselors were your stereotypical blonde haired beach bums and this was the one song they played every time they drove us anywhere. It’s so simple in it’s production and chord progression but so good.

The Weight — Thrice

During my teenage years, I was really angsty (sorry Parents) and was into Metal and Punk. Looking back at it, although it was a large part of my musical influence growing up, most of that influence didn’t hold over into my songwriting. There are a couple albums however that did stick around and Beggars by Thrice is one of those records. This song is more than just a hard rock triumph; it is musically intriguing and has lyrical complexity and depth. 

Inaudible Melodies – Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson is one of those artists that people love to hate on and I sometimes feel embarrassed saying it but BY GOD, I love me some Jack Johnson. He was the first artist who I feel in love with his whole catalog. I studied his writing and learned a lot from his music. This song is my favorite of his, lyrically clever and intelligent with a perfect groove. 

Hard Sun – Eddie Vedder

In high school, I was assigned to read Into the Wild for class and like the slacker I was, I decided to watch the movie instead. It became one of my favorite movies and books. More over I fell in love with the soundtrack, especially this song. The soundtrack written and performed by Eddie Vedder especially for the movie and it is so perfectly fits the story of the movie.

Eleanor Rigby — The Beatles

A shameful admission: I did not listen to a full Beatles record until freshman year of college. I had heard some of their hits before, but it wasn’t until I took History of Rock n Roll (yes that is a class and yes it was awesome), that I listened their records. When I first heard this song, it enthralled me. It is such a genius track, with beautiful orchestration, unique production and obscure yet poetic lyrics.

And It Spread – The Avett Brothers

I was introduced to the Avett Brothers during summer break of my freshman year. Like Jack Johnson, I quickly fell in love with their whole catalog. My love became obsession, as they are still the band I’ve seen most live. This is my favorite track from my favorite album, I and Love and You. It’s simple, haunting and emotional. 

Don't Carry It All – The Decemberists

The Decemberists are a band that took me a long time to get into. My best friend in high school, Eric, loved them and introduced me to them (he’s responsible for introducing me to many of my favorite indie bands). It wasn’t until I heard The King is Dead did I really get into the band. This is song is a perfectly executed uplifting folk song. 

Nashville – Noah Gundersen

To this day, I have no idea how I discovered Noah Gundersen. But he quickly became one of my favorite artists while I was in college. This song feels effortless, combining poetry and pop sensibility. Noah has been a big influence on a lot of my new music I’m currently working on. 

Vienna – Billy Joel

There are few albums I consider near perfect. The Stranger by Billy Joel is one of those albums. This song is my favorite from that album and in my opinion one of the best songs ever written. The music is complex and the lyrics are timeless. 

Lost In The Light – Bahamas

I found this song years before I discovered any of Bahamas albums and is still my favorite track. It was also a huge influence on my song “Our Last Morning." I love the story of heartbreak in this song, captured so beautifully by the unique production. 

Gravity – John Mayer

Another near perfect album for me is John Mayer’s Continuum. Although I had heard of John before, I was really introduced to his music by my best friend and guitarist, Joe. Gravity to me is such an incredible song in every way. The lyrics ring so true and the music is almost celestial (At this point I’m running out of descriptor words for all this amazing music). It’s perfectly simple and drifts along all the way through. John was a huge influence on my EP “What I Need to Say” and continues to influence my writing.

I'm Amazed – My Morning Jacket

I’ll admit, I’m not a huge My Morning Jacket fan. Evil Urges is their only record I really like. And even more so, this song is miles above the other songs on the record for me. it’s just a perfect rock song in every way. 

Low Rising – The Swell Season

Glen Hansard is one of my favorite songwriters, but to me his best work came out of his collaborative project with Markéta Irglová, The Swell Season. This song is my favorite from them and one of my all time favorite time songs. I can’t even pinpoint why I love it, I just do. 

Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tom Petty is another artist I got into way later in my life that I am proud to admit. But when I fell, I fell hard. Petty is one of my biggest writing influences, especially musically. This is one of first songs of his I heard. It’s simple but powerful. I do my own version of it and have played it at almost every show in the past year or so.

Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen

Tom Petty might be my musical influence but Bruce Springsteen is my lyrical influence. He tells such detailed elaborate stories in mere minutes. Born to Run really changed how I looked at songwriting. Thunder Road captures the essence of that album, drawing you in from beginning to end. Bruce was also a big influence on my song “Word & Sound."

Either Way — Wilco

Wilco was another musical game changer for me. They’ve been a huge influence on all of my music. Oddly, I don’t remember how I first discovered them. Their album Sky Blue Sky is so close to perfect for me and this song is one of the best on it. It's beautifully melancholy and musically captures that. 

Traveling Alone – Jason Isbell

As John Mayer once tweeted: "Jason Isbell is the best lyric writer of my generation. He lives at a level where even great writers can only visit.” Jason has had a profound influence on my current writing and he is one artist I can’t stop listening to. I didn’t immediately love his solo debut Southeastern, but once I did fall for it, it was on repeat. Traveling alone has had a noticeable effect on my lyric writing and is one of my favorites from him.

Oh My Sweet Carolina – Ryan Adams

I remember first hearing Easy Tiger by Ryan Adams in College and not liking it. Back then I used to discard an artist when I didn’t them off first listen. It took me years to rediscover Ryan and he’s been one of my main influences ever since. Much like Bob Dylan, Ryan has so much music and is so diverse that each of his album is like discovering a new artist. Heartbreaker was one of the last Ryan album’s I discovered and has become one of my favorites. This song is definitely my favorite from the album and has one of my favorite lyrics of all time: “the Sunset’s just my light bulb burning out."

Most People – Dawes

I remember hearing Dawes’ When My Time Comes on a Discovery Channel commercial in college. That was the only song I knew from them until their second album Stories Don’t End came out. Their lead singer, Taylor Goldsmith, has such a unique way with words and describing people and situation. This song showcases that writing skill as well as the bands musical prowess. Dawes also continues to release better and better albums and my favorite song changes often.