Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.
Tim Hart, Boy & Bear: Denison Witmer – ‘Are You A Dreamer?’
Dear Are You A Dreamer?,
I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since I first heard you. It’s fair to say that when I did, my life changed. There’s no way you could know this, but my first listen to your perfect compilation of folk goodness coincided with my first ever trip overseas. To America. I guess this was meant to be.
My friend Steve bought a CD from a bargain bin in Michigan, I met him in Florida. Pensacola I think. Or Fort Walton. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. The point is that we then road tripped all the way up the East Coast and I listened to you all the way. That’s not entirely true. After the first two days, I got a limit of two listens cover to cover per day.
I guess you are the reason I got back into folk music. When I was young I liked Simon & Garfunkel. But in high school, I got waylaid by Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains. But when I heard you, the big wall of grunge that had blocked my heart from really loving music began to crumble. It was like Berlin in 1989. East and West were united and I found folk again.
Through you, I went on to find other amazing albums. All of Sufjan Stevens’ albums, The Innocence Mission, Rosie Thomas and, indirectly, artists like Sam Amidon and Laura Marling. I even played drums for Laura. I’d buy you a beer to thank you if I could because that was an amazing experience.
I still think ‘Little Flowers’, your opening track, is one of the best songs I have ever heard. The use of imagery, the effortlessness of the vocal and unusual drum sound are a perfect match, kind of like medium rare steak, chips cooked in duck fat and a glass of really good Cabernet. That’s not to say that the other tracks aren’t worthy of mention, but it’s just that this was my introduction and remains so vivid in my memory that it’s the first thing that springs to mind when I think about you.
I hope you’ll excuse the hyperbolic nature of this next statement, but I’d go as far as to say that, if I hadn’t ever have heard you, I don’t think I would have given music a real shot. I guess it’s really of little consequence to you, but whenever I feel the need to write something more upbeat, or am feeling the walls of over-compression and slick vocal production closing in on me, I turn to you. And I always think I will.
In 2008 I was living in Switzerland. I wrote about 50 songs. I never released any of them. Why? Because they all sounded like watered down B-sides from you. All of them. I was trying too hard to emulate your brilliance. Eventually, of course, I realised there was no way I’d ever summit that proverbial Everest. So I gave up and decided to be myself. I hope that’s ok with you. I feel somehow it is.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but do you know what probably my favourite part about you is? That no one really knows about you. You haven’t become iconic. Nor have you been seen as the next bastion of the hipster discovery service. You just quietly stayed you and thus remained my — and I’m sure a few other people’s — little secret. A treasured, sacred, beautiful little secret.
You will always have a place on my shelf or on my smart phone no matter what version of IOS I’m running at the time.
All my love,