For this Under the Influence piece we’ve chosen folk artist Katie Blount. The London-based singer-songwriter is set to release her debut album titled Dark Water on January 31st. The album was self-recorded and produced. “She built a home studio and made a vocal booth from an old doctor’s screen she bought on eBay. ‘I tried to keep the production as simple as possible, only adding what the song needed and leaving the rest to breathe.’” She’s a modern day poet and storyteller setting her written works to music.
The track ‘The American Song’ “…tells a story of escape, freedom & sorrow. It came from an experience she had in America as she travelled by train for three days straight, on a road trip that had no particular direction. Someone told her their whole life story as they headed south. The story was full of casualties from a past they had not yet surrendered. While everyone on the train was trying to escape a hurricane and so a story of freedom and escape from the inside and out was born. Talking about ‘The American Song’ Katie said ‘Even though our stories may be different what we feel is the same.’”
You can Pre-order/save Katies album here: https://lnkfi.re/darkwaterprerelease
Check out Katie’s three most influential album choices below….
Gareth Balch – 20th Century Refugee
I first discovered Gareth Balch on Myspace. There aren’t many singer-songwriters you hear nowadays that have the capacity to completely knock you sideways when you first hear them, but that’s what happened when I played the few songs he had uploaded at the time. The first song I remember hearing was ‘To A Falling Of Snow’, the melody instantly drew me into its melancholy sadness and I played it over and over again. But it was his lyrics that really stood out to me, I had been a fan of Joni, Leonard and Bob up to that point but when I heard his songs I realised there was a whole other level you could reach lyrically. I think they are the best lyrics ever written and they have made me strive to reach for something more, something deeper and to experiment with the way I express a feeling. I realised that if you really feel and see what you are trying to say, that’s when you can reach something that in the beginning you may have thought was impossible. Some of my favourite lines are: ‘When the heart is just a rhythm muscle running’, ’While autumn scattered dreams with rage’, ‘And death reminds you why you lack direction’, ‘The safety net I strung without the wire’ and ‘A thief stole my beggar and your murderer died in my bed’.
The way the album has been recorded has also had a big influence on my own production. I liked the way he used simple musical elements like an old fashioned drum machine sound on ‘Dirty Point Of View’ and an electronic-sounding saxophone that gives ‘William and Sophia’ a haunting atmosphere. In this day and age of overproduced digital sounds its refreshing to hear something home-made but also classier than most people could ever achieve. This was something I thought about when I came to produce my album. I tried to consider what instruments were going to bring out the atmosphere and temperature of the song.
It’s an album of diversity lyrically as well as musically. You have ‘The Ladies Lament’ the funny but ultimately sad song. ‘The Gallery’ which is driven by its words and draws you into many perspectives. Then there’s ‘To A Falling Of Snow’ and ‘There’s A River’ with their striking melodies that instantly capture you and ‘Ranting On The Pile’ which is unlike any other song on the album. This is something I tried to consider when I was writing my album, how to make it diverse, but really I learned I just write what I write and then hope at the end that the songs will marry together. If you want to become a great singer-songwriter just listen to this album, it will tell you everything you need to know.
Joni Mitchel – Blue
I first discovered Joni Mitchell when I was fifteen. A friend of mine at the time came into school and handed me the Blue Album. That moment is seared into my memory. I listened to it so many times I lost count, it got into my soul. It was then that I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I wanted to become a singer-songwriter. She opened up a door for me that I didn’t know was there, a door that led me into the world of who I was. It was through that door that I realised I wanted to do the same, I wanted to open up myself in song so that others could connect to what they were feeling.
The first thing that hits you when you listen to a Joni Mitchell album is her uniqueness. She doesn’t sound like anyone else and if you hear her on the radio you only have to hear the first couple of bars and you know it’s her. I loved this about her and it inspired me to find my own uniqueness my individuality that was mine and mine alone. Her voice seemed to hold so much emotion the sorrow, the sweet and the bitter. I loved the way her melodies were unpredictable and meandered around sometimes. I felt that this was how I naturally sang too that my voice lent itself to bend and twist into unexpected places. She helped me to understand who I was as a singer and what kind of songs I wanted to write. She made me feel like we knew each other and that I had a place to belong at the tender age of fifteen, when I felt like an outsider.
The album flows seamlessly. There isn’t a song that you would want to skip and the tempos work together flawlessly. It sounded like no other album I had listened to before. The strange instrumentation like the dulcimer gives it a slight sense of mystery. It is diverse too, in its use of melody. ‘Blue’, ’River’ and ‘A Case Of You’ are all songs that have a longing and a deep sense of wistful sorrow. Then there’s ‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’, ‘This Flight Tonight’ and ‘California’ which are more story-driven. It’s a perfect album with all the elements you need to draw you in and keep you listening over and over again. That’s exactly what I wanted to do, to write an album where people felt compelled to keep listening. She was the first singer-songwriter I ever listened too and much like a first love, has left the deepest impression.
Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Leonard Cohen
This album was my first introduction to Leonard Cohen when I was seventeen. His words took me into another world, a world of reflection and meaning. He offered me the intricacies of his heart, of love and pain. There was so much in it, that you could listen to it over and over again and find more each time. He made me want to write songs that were deeper, introspective and full of mysteries. His songs slowly unwind inside you, you may not totally understand them on the first listen, but that doesn’t matter, you’re intrigued, you’re curious, you want to know more…So you keep playing his mysteries over and over again until slowly they become a part of you and you understand what they are pointing to within yourself. ‘The Stranger Song’ is like this a slow unwinding into your heart, ‘His golden arm dispatching cards but now it’s rusted from elbow to the finger’. I also loved his intricate guitar playing. At that time I had only just started to play the guitar and many of his songs seemed too difficult. Over the years I loved his playing more and more. He is still influencing me now in terms of wanting to become a better finger-style guitar player.
This album has a great combination of melody and words with songs like ‘Suzanne’, ‘So Long Marianne’ and ‘Sisters Of Mercy’ being more melody-driven and then songs like ‘The Stranger Song’, ‘One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong’ and ‘Master Song’ driven more by the words. Sometimes Leonard Cohen’s songs aren’t always an easy listen, so this album was a great introduction to him. Other albums I listened to later on, made me realise that you don’t have to write an album that is necessarily easy on the ear. Songwriting is a form of self-discovery that can unfold and form many different kinds of songs. It didn’t matter if they were particularly catchy or not. This is what he offers you. His words are the most inspiring element of the music and they force you to become a better writer. I believe this is one of Leonard’s best albums. Unlike a lot of other artists, he shows consistency in his ability to write lyrics. As later he writes ‘Bird On A Wire’, ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ and ‘Hallelujah’. I’d love to be consistently putting out great material throughout my life and I hope, with Leonard’s guiding light, I do.