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5 Songs I Love w/ James Spencer

Following the release of his latest single 'Black Dog', we caught up with singer-songwriter James Spencer to find out what influences his eclectic folk/ country-infused rock sound. If you enjoy James' picks be sure to check out 'Black Dog' at the end of the article.

1. The Way I Tend To Be - Frank Turner

"Frank is just great. He’s a real inspiration to me both musically and in terms of how hard the guy works. He’s a shining example of what you can achieve if you just go after something and never give up. I first saw him at Sonisphere 2014 back when I was really into metal. The lineup that year was very metal heavy but I was impressed enough to look him up after the festival and I’m very glad I did. ’The Way I Tend To Be’ is a song Matt and myself cover in our duo ‘Bicycle Repair Man’ and it’s one of my favourite Frank songs."

2. Big Love - Lindsey Buckingham

"More than any other guitarist Lindsey Buckingham has shaped the way I play. I have long thought that Buckingham is perhaps one of the most underrated guitarists around, particularly when it comes to finger style guitar. Years ago my sister asked me if I’d learn ‘Landslide’ by Fleetwood Mac and it is because of studying Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar part for that song in particular that I learnt how to Travis pick. The Travis pick then became the basis for quite a few of the guitar parts on ‘Lucky Man’ including These Darker Days’, and ‘Will I See You Again?’ as well as laying the foundations for a slightly different style on ‘My Hand & My Heart’. Given how important ‘Landslide’ was to my own musical journey, you might be wondering why I didn’t pick it. That’s largely because this version of ‘Big Love’ is perhaps the greatest solo performance I’ve ever seen."

3. Beeswing - Mad Dog Mcrea

"Richard Thompson’s Beeswing is a song I really wish I wrote. It is pretty much Thompson’s Magnum Opus and seeing clips of him playing it as a stand-alone solo piece is just incredible. That being said, I actually prefer the Mad Dog Mcrea version of the song. The mournful whistle and violin perfectly complement Michael’s vocals and it is a song that means an awful lot to me. If you never had that person who is your ‘Beeswing’ then you are incredibly lucky or unlucky depending on your perspective. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with Mad Dog on several occasions and I can safely say that hearing this live never gets old."

4. Nemo - Nightwish

"I’ve been a big fan of Nighwish since I was about 17 years old. Back then I was hugely into all types of metal but Nighwish were different. Their music sounds like it is a combination of film score and metal with some occasional folk elements thrown in. The main reason I love Nightwish is because almost all of their music is about telling stories and I have taken a huge amount of inspiration from that. When I released ‘The Winds Of Change’, the first single from Lucky Man earlier this year a lot of people told me that the dramatic feel of that song made it sound as if it could be in a movie and I suppose that is evidence of their influence on me.

‘Nemo’ is probably their most famous and radio friendly song and it is also a track that means a lot to me personally. Like some of my own music, it is about a personal struggle and the name ‘Nemo’ means ‘no one’. It’s about feeling lost, irrelevance to the world or feeling completely insignificant. Anyone who has taken the time to gaze at the stars or thought about the wider Universe will have likely pondered that at some point. It’s a natural and very human thing to feel, yet there is solace knowing others have had a similar experience and that you aren’t unique in feeling that way. ‘Oh, how I wish for soothing rain, all I wish is to dream again’ is a couple of lines I’ve always held dear because the song writer Tuomas Holopainen dared to dream again and subsequently they’ve become the greatest band in Finnish history. Dreams can come true."

5. Blackbird - Alterbridge

"For the last spot, I thought I should either pick a Green Day, Iron Maiden or Metallica song as all 3 have had a huge impact on me over those early years when my taste was very rock and metal heavy. However, I couldn’t overlook Blackbird by Alterbridge. I’m going to be incredibly bold and say that in my opinion, this track is perhaps the greatest song of the last 20 years. The drama, the storytelling, the solos, the vocals. It’s just sensational. The subject matter is very sad but it’s incredibly powerful nonetheless."

Watch James Spencer 'Black Dog'


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