||Who are your greatest musical influences?
Generations on both sides of my family have been involved in education and have often taught and performed music. They have also done music in many recreational ways, such as singing in church and community groups.
From the time I was young, I have been singing solos and making up my own songs. I tried to take piano lessons a couple of times, but I could never make myself practice. Singing and composing have always been my things.
When I was young, my Mom and Dad listened to popular artists like Abba, John Denver, Cat Stevens and The Beach Boys. I liked these artists (and still do!) but I was especially influenced by a couple of lesser-known albums. The first of these was called "Spaced Out Bach." It's awesome stuff... classical music just jazzed up a bit, and sometimes played on synthesizers and other modern instruments. There were some numbers from other classical artists such as Mozart mixed in there as well. We used to call it "The Drum Record" even though there were no drums on it; I suppose because it had 'such a great beat and you could dance to it'. Some purists might shudder at the thought, but it got us kids introduced to classical music at an early age.
Another early influence was Marvin Payne. This was a guy who has done really a lot of what I am doing, writing and recording his own music and trying to sell it without signing with a big record label. In his own words, he said:
I make up songs in the afternoon,
And peddle records late at night,
When there ain't no money and there ain't no moon,
Well it's hard to feel all right,
When they say, come back after payday,
Come back in the fall,
Come back when Hell freezes over,
Don't come back at all!
(and later on in the same song he writes:)
Well I went on down to Hollyweird
To try to make it in the world of song
I met me an agent, and he said, "Son
Your tunes are all too long!
Oh and what's more than that, they're all too fat
From the core out to the peel
And I don't like apples and I don't like you,
And how does that make you feel?"
He wrote about everyday things like relationships, experiences with his children, and a lot of stories and metaphors from the scriptures and church history. Like him, my songs are very 'meaty' with a lot of text and not a lot of inane repetition like popular music typically has. His music would probably be best categorized as 'folk' because of his primary focus on acoustic instruments like guitar, harmonica, fiddle, banjo and piano. My music is based primarily on sequenced stuff and uses rock and orchestral instruments. Still, his melodies and subject matter have been a constant influence for good in my life from my early years until the present. Marvin is still out there singing songs and helping others record their own music from his cabin home in Utah. He's got to be somewhere in his 60's by now. I have met him once or twice and emailed him about the same. I've seen him perform 'The Planemaker' live and seen him in concert once with his son Sam. Nice guy.
As a teenager I started discovering my own tastes in popular music and I liked and listened to a lot of great 80's bands that used a combination of electronic and acoustic instruments, but the ones I gravitated towards were the ones that didn't get played absolutely to death on the local stations in Silver City, New Mexico: Johnny Hates Jazz, The Cars, Erasure, Alphaville, Howard Jones, Information Society, Pet Shop Boys, Cutting Crew, Pseudo Echo, Scritti Politti, U2, The Bangles, Wilson Phillips, Depeche Mode, Thompson Twins, 'Til Tuesday, Robin Gibb, George Michael after he stopped being famous and of course, almost everything that Weird Al Yankovic ever did. I was also in choir all through high school (2 years all-state choir) and so developed a strong appreciation for choral music and show tunes. Towards the end of high school I discovered doo-wop from the 50's and 60's and had to go have a talk with my parents. "How come you never told me about all the great music from your teenage years?"
I used to occasionally DJ dances in high school as well, so I kept myself pretty current on what was happening in the world of top 40.
In college I really got into a cappella music - both modern and barbershop, and I got the chance to begin really performing doo-wop as well as choral styles. I have started appreciating some country music since it has become basically the same thing that acoustic rock was in the 80's, but anything with a steel guitar gets immediately turned off.
Mostly today I don't listen to music that much because when music is playing it completely pulls my focus from whatever I'm supposed to be working on. I can't do web programming or anything that requires thinking while listening to music. Of course if I'm editing a video or audio project then it has to be quiet so I can hear what I'm working on. I love the outdoors but when I'm there I don't want to listen to music because it intrudes on the peace of nature. I do sometimes listen to music when I'm driving, but because most of the things I work on require my brain's full-time attention often I drive in total silence so I can just have a chance to think about whatever I want. I live in a small town so I'm rarely in the car for more than 5 or 10 minutes. On road trips, after an hour or two in the car I run out of stuff to think about and then I can listen to music. BUT THERE IS ANOTHER DOWNSIDE: any time I spend listening to music is time I can't spend making up my own!