Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on embracing having a voice like Neil Young

“I’d never even heard Neil Young, so I went out and bought 'After the Gold Rush' and was like, ‘Wow! It’s OK to sound like that?’"

Radiohead‘s frontman Thom Yorke has revealed how he learned to embrace having a voice similar to Neil Young‘s.

In an excerpt from Jason Thomas Gordon’s upcoming book The Singers Talk (via Rolling Stone), the singer discussed how he honed into his signature sound with the help of Young and Jeff Buckley.

Yorke shared that he always felt like his register was “uncomfortably high or awkward”. At 18, he created a demo and sent it over to a magazine which earned him a great review and the response: “‘Who is this guy? He sounds just like Neil Young!’”


“I went, ‘Who’s Neil Young?’” Yorke recalled. “I’d never even heard Neil Young, so I went out and bought ‘After The Gold Rush’ and was like, ‘Wow! It’s OK to sound like that?’ Because he’s slightly higher than me, but there was a softness and a naiveté in the voice which I was always trying to hide. Then, it was like, ‘Oh, maybe I don’t need to hide it.’”

He also explained how seeing Buckley also helped him embrace and get comfortable with his voice. “When we were doing the second record [‘The Bends’], I went to see Jeff Buckley before he died,” he said. “Again, that was one of those, ‘It’s OK to do that?’ And it reminded me of this vulnerable part of me that I was choosing to hide. I remember I recorded ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ on my own to begin with. Then, when we came together to listen to it, the others said, ‘We’ll use that!’ and I was, ‘No, no, we can’t use that, it’s too vulnerable. That’s too much me.’”

Yorke shared that he keeps his voice in shape with vocal warmups before their shows as well as bringing a chiropractor on tour to re-align his spine when his voice feels stiff.

Thom Yorke of Radiohead on 8/3/01 in Chicago, Il. Credit: Paul Natkin via GETTY
Thom Yorke of Radiohead on 8/3/01 in Chicago, Il. Credit: Paul Natkin via GETTY

“It’s quite an amazing feeling when your voice just opens up like that,” he said. “It’s mental. But this is what happens when you’re touring a lot, you have to have someone fix you up if you throw yourself around like I do.”


In other news, Yorke’s band The Smile recently released their single ‘Bending Hectic’. As per a press release, the new track is not taken from any upcoming project, and is instead a standalone single that has been highly anticipated by fans. It was recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London.

Also, the frontman’s son, Noah Yorke, recently shared a new song titled ‘Cerebral Key’.

Writing about the track on Instagram he wrote: “My first time in a studio for my own work, it was a great experience, and i am proud of the results. it has been a reflective and formative process to write and record this project for you, and i hope you enjoy it.”

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