“It's easy to form misperceptions about musicians," says Dream Theater keyboard titan Jordan Rudess. "Some people who know my career might think, ‘Oh, he’s a prog-metal artist.’ They hear the chops and the crazy leads, and they assume that it starts and ends there. But that’s never been the case with me; I listen to so many different styles of music, and I draw inspiration from all kinds of artists."
Throughout his early childhood, Rudess' world was dominated by classical music (at the age of nine he began studying at Julliard). By the time he reached his teens, he had started listening to The Beatles, who proved to be a gateway drug to discovering more progressive bands and, eventually, electronic music. "From a young age, I never really drew the line between what I should or shouldn't listen to," he says. "My mind has always been very open to all kinds of music."
On stage, Rudess is no shrinking violet – he attacks his keyboards with the same kind of manic intensity as his boyhood heroes, Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman. When it comes to his own offstage listening habits, however, he sometimes goes for the softer, gentler sounds of acoustic-based singer-songwriters.
"This might surprise people, but I’ve always loved music that is very peaceful and soothing," Rudess admits. "Actually, what I like about a lot of the classic singer-songwriters is, their music gets right to the point: The chords are simple, the melodies are strong. The personality of the artist really comes through because the vibe and the emotions are very direct, which can make the music feel very personal."
On the following pages, Rudess runs down his five favorite not-so-guilty pleasures, everything from the mellow country rock of Neil Young's Harvest to the blues-boogie radio jams found on The Edgar Winter Group's They Only Come Out At Night. "In whatever genre you want, there's so much great stuff to be found out there," Rudess says. "For me, it does come down to that thing: 'If you like it, it's good music.' Sometimes things are really just that simple."