I only became acquainted with Heart Of Oak fairly recently, at a Lion And The Wolf show in Chester, but was really impressed by his debut EP – which I’ve been listening to a fair bit since picking it up at the aforementioned show! Wanting to know more, I quizzed him on his influences and tastes. Check it all out below!
A song that influenced him
The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site
I could have picked just about any song John’s written, from Propagandhi on down. It’s all in the words. No matter how many times I hear it, I will always be in love with the imagery in those lyrics. There’s just not enough time or words to describe it, it’s just magic. I have always felt that I am a writer over a musician – I’m a pretty crappy guitar player and I’m okay with that, but I fight every day to be a better writer (and I hope I’m getting somewhere with it). John’s a huge influence on that. I think a lot of songwriters think they’re great poets, but in truth, there’s probably only a handful that could truly straddle both art forms, Samson is one of them. Also, I think one day I’d really like to make a record with a pedal steel, but it’s hard not to bump into every country cliche on the way so I probably won’t.
A song he wishes he could have written
Gregory Alan Isakov – Stable Song
Another songwriter I could have picked about a billion songs from, but this is one of the earliest and most simple in his catalogue. It’s just a simple A-B-A-B song, but those lyrics and that simple, sparse instrumentation are where I’m headed with the next record. It’s just his voice, a couple of guitar tracks and a banjo and I think there’s a little something in the background filling it out, and it’s gorgeous. Then you have the lyrics, Isakov is one of those dudes who I think gets overlooked in terms of how good he really is with words. They wouldn’t work as standalone poems like Samsons, they’re straight song lyrics, but there are lines in there that just hit you in the face with the imagery and just plain beauty of them. If I could go home at the end of the day having written a lyric like “now I’ve been crazy couldn’t you tell, I threw stones at the stars, but the whole sky fell” I’d be a very, VERY happy man.
His favourite Heart Of Oak song
It changes about once a week, but right now it’s probably Better Weather. That songs been with me for a long, long time, but it still means so much. It’s a song about and for my family, but also about me and how far forward I’ve moved. It’s a solid (at least for me) positive song, whether it sounds that way is another matter. Plus it’s so much fun to play around with, I’m not one of those people that can play the song the same way every time, and Better Weather is one of the more “playful” songs in the set.
A song he’s been listening to a lot recently
Pinegrove – Audiotree Session
So, as with every other person in the entire world, I’m absolutely bowled over by the new Pinegrove record, it’s just so good, but there’s this audiotree session they did a few weeks ago, I was on tour when it got released, and in this big old break in the song Cadmium, dude goes all ‘Mariah Carey’ with his voice and I swear to god I’ve played that version of that song, and that particular break about a thousand times since it came out, it’s just perfect, this perfect, natural, live, free, vocal part, it’s super soulful and just, well, fucking incredible. I can not express to you how much I long to be able to do shit like that, but I guess you need a band, to get lost in the song and stuff, who knows. It’s magical though.
His all time favourite song
I can’t, I just can’t. I could make a playlist maybe? It depends on the day and the mood and the subject and so many, many things. It’s going to be either a Bon Iver, Weakerthans, Otis Redding, Tom Waits or Peter Gabriel, maybe a Magnetic Fields song? No idea. Even if I come up with something, it’s going to change the second I make that decision. Let’s just say my life is basically one long “High Fidelity-esque top-5 marathon”, so it’s virtually impossible. Pedro the Lion just started playing on the stereo and maybe it’s one of Bazan’s songs? Maybe I Am Always the One That Calls, I love that song so, so much, but it’s not my favourite, or it is, right now, at this second it is. Soon Enough by The Constantines. I think that might be it.