Welcome to 2016! We were checking out The Rock’n’Roll Oatcake‘s blog the other week, and saw they’d had a chat with Josh Taerk, who’s one of our friends over here on EP. We asked Josh if it would be alright if we used it for our Essential Weekly Playlist, with appropriate credit. He said it was fine by him – so for something slightly different to our usual, we have Josh Taerk’s Mix Tape!
Mix tape: JOSH TAERK
Personally I used to love making compilations back in the 1980’s on good old C60 and C90 cassettes. I thought it would be good to bring it back with a few musicians and music fans, where they compile a virtual mix tape of the songs that mean a lot to them. In fact in this modern age a Spotify playlist can be made too.
For those younger readers a mix tape (to quote Wikipedia):
‘Usually reflects the musical tastes of its compiler, can range from a casually selected list of favorite songs, to a conceptual mix of songs linked by a theme or mood, to a highly personal statement tailored to the tape’s intended recipient.’
Josh Taerk released his latest album ‘Here’s to Change’ this year and it is well worth getting. Josh picks ten songs below and why they mean so much to him.
You can listen to Josh’s mix tape here.
- “Wonderwall” by Oasis: This was one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar. I was around 15/16 and at the time I wanted to be the next Slash. I was working at a summer camp and, during a break from one of our staff meetings, started playing this song on the guitar. A really cute counsellor from the Girl’s unit came over, sat herself right in front of me, asked what song I was playing; and after I told her, demanded that I start the song again and sing or she wouldn’t be able to follow along. 1) She was really cute, 2) I’m not one to back down from a challenge and 3) she was really cute; so I went for it. When I was done the song she looked at me and said “I didn’t know you were a singer!” I’ve been singing ever since.
- “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White Ts: It was the last week of camp the August I turned 17. Every year, at the end of camp the owners put on a banquet for the staff and that year my friend was in charge of the entertainment. He decides to model the evening after American Idol and, without telling me, signs me up. On the day of the banquet he comes over to me and not only tells me that I’m performing but also tells me that I’m the last performer of the night. I was known for singing around camp, but to small groups of friends. This was going to be in front of the entire camp staff! That night, my turn rolls around and I sing this song in front of 200 plus people. As soon as the last chord died out, the entire crowd went nuts. At that moment I knew that up on stage was where I needed to be.
- “Round Here” by Counting Crows: The first lines in this song are:
“Step out the front door like a ghost
Into the fog where no one notices
The contrast of white on white
And in between the moon and you
The angels get a better view
Of the crumbling difference between wrong and right”
The first time I heard these words, they immediately pulled me in. I felt the weight of what Adam Duritz was singing and at the same time had no idea what this was supposed to mean. That’s the beauty of songwriting; that’s the beauty of music. A good song is a story, a poem, a conversation between two people; whatever you as the listener need it to be at that moment. This song really inspired me to think about how my songs would be perceived and also inspired me to look at songwriting as a give and take between the artist and the listener. Meaning is created when the listener interprets your song so that it makes sense to them. It brings a whole other set of lives to this thing that you’ve created. It’s incredible!
- “For Baby” by John Denver: This song is important to me because it shaped me as a person, my values, my outlook on life and family. From the day I was born my Dad would sing that song to me every night. The song talks about being there for the ones you love, sharing in their ups and downs, and taking the journey that is life together; wherever that journey takes either of you. You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been, and this song reminds me of what’s really important in life; love.
- “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: After 9/11 Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band got back together and released this album and this song. In the wake of what happened this song spoke volumes to me about what music can do for humanity. This was not a song about differences, this was not a song about war, fighting, labels or politics. This was a song about life and the people that live it. It talked about the heroes that risked their lives that day, and those that didn’t make it back; but it did so focusing on the people, on how humanity reacted. Yes, there is sadness and yes, there are wounds that may never be fully healed; but the song dealt with these issues tastefully, compassionately, and with a glimmer of hope and faith. This song inspired me to try and see social issues from the perspective of the group that matters most; people, and to never loose sight of hope in the process.
- “Jelly Man Kelly” by James Taylor: When I was really young I loved the show Sesame Street and on one episode James Taylor came on and sang this song. I loved it and would ask my parents all the time if they could play the song by “Jelly Man” because, at the time, I had no idea who James Taylor was. I completely forgot about this, eventually fell in love with James Taylor’s music, and would listen to his songs constantly. One day pretty recently, my parents were going through old stuff of my siblings and mine in their basement and came across something that reminded them of this song. They re-told me the story, and I loved the irony that I was listening to James Taylor music long before I even knew who he was. You never know what’s going to affect your life and stick with you until it does.
- “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams: I love this song, and every time I hear it I can’t help but want to get up, grab a guitar, sing along and completely rock out to it. From the guitar riff at the beginning, to the soaring vocals in the chorus, the song is the definition of a rock anthem through and through; and feels like a rock song should. At the same time, the story running through the song deals with real life experiences. It’s about yearning for a simpler time, a lost love; dreams of becoming something more than you are. That, to me, is the perfect rock song, the combination of music that moves you and a story that does the same.
- “I Want You” by Bob Dylan: I love this song for a lot of reasons. First and foremost because Dylan is one of the most prolific songwriters, and a source of inspiration for me. Second, this was one of the first songs Dylan ever produced in Nashville Tennessee with the group of studio musicians known now as “The Nashville Cats.” The whole goal of these recordings for both parties was to expand on their definitions of music and go outside of their comfort zones, their genres, and make something unique and beautiful. This story really resonates with me especially because, when I went down to Nashville to record Here’s To Change, we ended up pushing ourselves and the music to places we never really thought about going before.
- “Hum Hallelujah” by Fall Out Boy: I was a huge Fall Out Boy fan when they were starting out. From the first album of theirs that I heard, Take This to Your Grave, to Infinity On High; I loved listening to their music because it was so unique and so well crafted. In a single song they would mix genres and styles of playing, move from regular time into cut time, back into regular time, speed the song up, slow it down; and it was all done in a way that really emphasized not just that part of the song, but the overall story. The lyrics were also always really unique. They would take cliché phrases like “The road of good intentions” and turn it on it’s head to make it new. In this song in particular they wrote:
“The road outside my house is paved with good intentions
Hired a construction crew, ‘cause it’s hell on the engine.”
- “Las Vegas Turnaround” by Hall and Oates: I am very grateful to call John Oates a mentor and friend. When I was looking for a producer for Here’s To Change, it was John that understood the kind of feel I was looking for and it was John that introduced me to producer Teddy Morgan. John is an incredible singer/songwriter, he is a fantastic friend, and is always there to lend a hand. I picked this song because I wanted to honour our friendship and honour John as a singer/songwriter; on top of the fact that it’s one of my favourites.