Soundtrack Of My Life: St. Vincent

Guitar hero, Iggy Pop fan and "tiny nihilist"

The first song I remember hearing

John Denver – ‘Life Is So Good’

“The chorus goes: ‘Life is so good / Life is so good these days’. I was probably four or five and it would send me into a violent rage: I was just a tiny nihilist, a tiny goth. I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re full of shit, John Denver’. It was my mum who put it on with her girls, driving around thinking, ‘This will calm them down, this will be a nice thing we can all sing along to’. But it drove me crazy. Even then, I was like, ‘If your life is so good, first of all, the lady doth protest too much. Also, I’m not really sure that’s a subject for a song. Keep that to yourself, John Denver’.”

The first song I fell in love with

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The Doors – ‘Riders On The Storm’

“I first heard it on a long car trip through the American Southwest. It starts with the sound of the rain: I have vivid memories of driving through New Mexico with it raining outside, listening to ‘Riders On The Storm’ and lightning striking in the distance, and seeing the silhouette of the plateaus. That was probably a terrifying memory. That’s probably why it’s kind of lodged in there, because of the adrenaline.”

The first album I ever bought

Tripping Daisy – ‘I Am An Elastic Firecracker’

“I bought it with my own money at the Sound Warehouse when I was 13. Someone must have gave me the money, but I remember going, ‘I bought this, this is mine’. [Tripping Daisy] were from Dallas. They were like hometown heroes, and this was their first big national debut record. It’s hard to know if it got special attention and love on Dallas radio or if it was a national hit, but there are some great songs on there. Prophetically, I ended up playing with members of Tripping Daisy when I was in The Polyphonic Spree.

The first gig I went to

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Tuck & Patti, Bay Area, California

“My aunt and uncle, jazz musicians Tuck & Patti, were playing a gig and I was probably five. We were visiting them in the Bay area. And, um… they opened for Bill Cosby. Yeah. So that was my first gig. He did some stand-up, and I think Bobby McFerrin also played. I remember falling asleep on something that seemed like a pew, but I don’t remember if [the venue] was a church. Not the first to fall asleep [there].”

The song that reminds me of home

Pink Floyd – ‘Comfortably Numb’

“When my best friend’s parents were gone, we would get stoned on skunk weed and lay out by the pool, and she’d play ‘Comfortably Numb’ over and over again. For a 15-year-old’s stoned mind, that’s quite a song to journey with.”

The song I wish I’d written

Iggy Pop – ‘Nightclubbing’

“It sounds so good. It’s so sleazy, it’s dark and funny. I mean, there are so many songs, but that’s the first one that came to mind.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

St. Vincent – ‘Candy Darling’

“This is self-referential, and I don’t mean it this way, but for some reason whenever there’s silence I hear the beginning of ‘Candy Darling’, which is the last song on ‘Daddy’s Home’. There’s something really sepia-toned in the melody that I find comforting. Writing that record, I felt like Candy Darling was an archetype: like I’ll pray to a Virgin Mary, I’ll pray to a Candy Darling. I think it’s become a mantra for me.”

The song I can no longer listen to

John Mayer – ‘Gravity’

“When you go into a new venue, the person doing sound [who is] travelling with you will put on a song so they can gauge the sound of the room. I had a sound guy who would play John Mayer‘s ‘Gravity’, so every time we’d be warming up backstage or getting to the venue: [sings in Mayer’s voice] ‘Gravity’. I just thought, ‘What a milquetoast…’. A lot of people will play Steely Dan in a venue to test because it’s perfectly mixed; it’s pristine. I understand walking into a venue and putting on ‘Haitian Divorce’, but I do not understand putting on John Mayer.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Jacques Brel – ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’

“It means ‘Don’t leave me’, which will be ironic [laughs]. But also, I can’t listen to Jacques perform ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ without weeping uncontrollably.”

The song that makes me want to dance

The Pointer Sisters – ‘Automatic’

“You hear it come on and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is gonna a be a good time’. And when I say dance, I do mean shoulder dance.”

St. Vincent is set to embark on a UK tour this month, including a slot at Glastonbury Festival

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