Gabrielle Aplin: the 10 records that changed my life
She's only 21 years old, but acoustic folk-pop sensation Gabrielle Aplin is clearly an expert on the music of he '60s and '70s. When asked to compile her picks for "the records that changed her life," she leaned heavily on discs that predated her birth, some by almost three decades.
“I do like a lot of older albums, but it’s not as if I had to go back and study them," Aplin says. "My parents were listening to these records, so I discovered them very naturally; in fact, I didn’t even know they were older albums or ‘classics’ until much later. To me, they were new at the time. I didn't have any preconceptions about what I was hearing."
Aplin describes her listening habits as "across the board, really; I don't stay within any one genre. For me, it all comes down to a great song with a great voice. But it doesn’t actually have to be a perfect voice: As long as the singer can convey what the song is about and the emotions behind it, that’s all that matters. I do like artists who are confident enough to be themselves, though. I like original ideas, original sounds.”
An increasingly packed tour schedule requires Aplin to carry her favorite music with her on an iPhone, but on those rare occasions when she's at home, she loves to sit down and lose herself in her vinyl collection. "Vinyl has become trendy," she notes, "but I see a real upside to it: Young people are discovering or rediscovering the joys of the album. They listen to one side, flip it over and listen to the second side. There's nothing trendy about that. It's sort of timeless, really."
Aplin's first full-length LP, English Rain, has been certified gold in the UK. An EP of the same name has just been released in the US - it can be purchased at iTunes. For more information and tour dates, visit Gabrielle Aplin's official website. On the following pages, Aplin runs down the 10 records that changed her life.
Joni Mitchell – Blue (1971)
“What a cool record. I discovered Joni because of my mom, who actually looks a little bit like her. Joni has so many brilliant albums, but I especially like Blue. It speaks to me lyrically, musically, emotionally – it’s just a complete experience.
“When I first heard it, it was as though I saw myself in Joni. I started reading up on her, and I was struck by the fact that she wrote poetry and put it to music, which is what I do. I’ve really been inspired by her as an overall artist – she paints, she draws, she writes, she makes music. All of her mediums are intertwined, and that’s something I try to work toward.”
Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982)
“My dad is a massive Bruce Springsteen fan, so I grew up listening to him. I love a lot of Bruce’s music, but when I heard Nebraska it stood out from everything else he’s done. It’s very simple and direct and honest.
“I love the starkness of the record. Without the band, without the production, it’s Bruce and a guitar, and he completely captures your attention with these incredible songs. This made a big impression on me when I was trying to write these sort of massive songs. I realized that all I really needed was the bare bones of the song and that everything else got in the way.”
Feist – The Reminder (2007)
“This is such an amazing record. Feist is a great, very classic kind of pop songwriter. She almost reminds me of an artist from the ‘50s or ‘60s; her songs are incredibly catchy, but she doesn’t compromise anything to production. It all sounds quite natural and unforced.
“The musicians are fantastic too. It’s nice to hear an album where the lyrics are great, the voice is great, and the playing is great. You feel like you’re listening to something real.”
The Beatles – Revolver (1966)
“I was really draw to Sgt. Pepper when I first heard it – I just thought it was so weird and colorful. It’s amazing that such a huge band could be so bold and experimental. The Beatles pushed through every boundary there was. I’m a massive John Lennon fan – everything he did inspires me in some way.
“Revolver came before Sgt. Pepper, but it sounds as if it could have come out today. It’s so fresh and current, not only for the songwriting but for the recording as well. I can’t believe it was made such a long time ago. It shows how timeless music can be if you just follow your instincts and do it right.”
Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends (1968)
“I’m obsessed by Simon & Garfunkel – they’re my favorite duo. My boyfriend [Alfie Hudson-Taylor] is in a duo with his brother, and they listen to a lot of Simon & Garfunkel, Beach Boys – stuff with great harmonies and lyrics.
“I got a copy of Bookends on vinyl, and I couldn’t believe what an incredible album it is. It’s one of those records that is very well put together from start to finish. Sometimes people have great songs, but they just bash them out, which does them a disservice. The arrangements here are thoughtful, but they breathe; there’s still a lot of personality in each part.
“I saw Paul Simon recently, and he’s still got it – one of the greatest songwriters ever. And Art Garfunkel is one of the greatest singers of all time. His voice is like velvet. He gives everybody something to shoot for.”
Nick Drake – Pink Moon (1972)
“This is my favorite album of all time. I’m a big fan of American and Canadian singer-songwriters, but I kind of got into a lot of older English ones as well. I was inspired by Nick Drake’s story before I even heard his music, but once I did get to listen to him, I was really moved and blown away.
“With this album, it’s as if he’s letting everybody in on what was going on in his life. It’s very personal, very special – it’s got its own vibe. The music is really hard, almost impossible, to cover: I’ve learned the guitar parts perfectly and I’ll sing it just like he does, but no matter what I do, I just can’t get it to sound right. Nick found something that was so unique, that was so his own, and it just can’t be imitated.”
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)
“Sometimes being a great pop album is enough. All the songs on this album have stood the test of time. A lot of them are very personal – they're about relationships – so you can listen to them on that level, or you can just like them as awesome songs.
“It’s one of those records that really inspired me as a singer-songwriter. You hear something by a group of people who are just so exceptional at what they do – it's bound to push you. And Fleetwood Mac are phenomenally talented; they’re brilliant writers, singers, musicians, with such beautiful chemistry together.
John Martyn – Solid Air (1973)
“I came to John Martyn through Nick Drake – I learned that they were good friends, actually. What I love about John, in addition to his playing and songwriting, is his experimentation with sounds.
“He worked with delays and electronics and stuff, but he was still very much a folk-based singer-songwriter. At this time, a lot of artists in his genre were writing about the movements and things that were going on socially, but they didn’t explore a lot of different sounds in their music. John went more ‘outside’ all of that. He was a very daring musician.”
Bob Dylan – The Times They Are a-Changin' (1964)
“This was right around the time when artists were kind of wrapped up in themselves. Bob Dylan put himself into his songs too, but on this record he was writing about what was happening to other people and the world around him. He was almost a movement unto himself, in the way that people viewed society differently because of music.
“He’s had so many phases – there’s so many great periods to pick through. But you know, he could be a beautiful singer too. Make You Feel My Love is one of my favorites. He didn’t sound like he was trying too hard with it; he just let it sound very natural, and that’s why it worked so well.”
Coldplay – X&Y (2005)
“It’s one of the more recent choices on my list. I think it’s destined to be one of those classic albums that's around forever. It’s full of very strong songwriting, but it also shows Coldplay as being uniquely themselves. I always like it when a band or artist perfects a sound that makes them unlike anybody else. That’s what they do here.
“It’s the record that’s the most ‘them.’ I think they can try to experiment with their sound and their approach here and there, but this is the core sound of the band. It’s them at their most natural, and it’s something they can always come back to.
“Coldplay are so successful that some people think it’s cool to say they don’t like them. I don’t think that’s true, though, really. Whenever a Coldplay song comes on the radio, people are into it.”