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  • Flex Staff

5 Songs I Love w/ Fourth Born

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Last month, Fourth Born released his latest single "About Happiness." The track is an indie-folk take on "the cost of everything we'd ever lost," featuring beautiful banjo, acoustic guitar, and mandolin. In the vein of Pinegrove, Jeff Buckley, and Noah Kahan, it has received widespread praise from both press and listeners alike.

Fourth Born is the solo project of engineer/producer James Stephens, who fully writes and composes releases on his own. Based in British Columbia, he works out of his cedar wood cabin, utilizing its natural sound sources to further the ambiance of his recordings. We sat down with Stephens to discuss what music inspires him, and can be heard in his forthcoming album Heartbreak Retreat.


1. Deep in Love - Bonny Light Horseman

"'Deep in Love' and the entirety of this album inspired me deeply when I first heard about it a few years back. The concept of this album titled Bonny Light Horseman was basically to rewrite some old folk songs with a collection of modern outstanding songwriters. Featuring Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson of the Fruitbats, and Josh Kaufman. I'd say this was the seed for me to write a folk album of my own. What better way to write a folk album than completely naturally. That's what folk is all about, isn't it? Natural human emotion paired with organic and natural instruments. No autotune. No software or sound treatment. Just a cabin in the woods. Secluding myself into the wilderness all on my own; completely leaning into heartbreak and documenting it as I drudged through. The entire notion seemed traditional to me, in and of itself, and served as a source of profound healing regarding my own personal patterns and pain. Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver of course, comes to mind as well. Huge influence with this album."

2. Death With Dignity - Sufjan Stevens

"Carrie and Lowell- another beautiful album which inspired me years before even a shimmer of light was brought to my own album of grief. Sufjan Steven's wrote this album after his mother passed away from stomache cancer. The bittersweet outtakes of Stevens' childhood surrounding his cherished memories of his mother always captivated me to the core."

3. Signals - Júníus Meyvant

"Júníus Meyvant is the stage name of an Icelandic singer songwriter that I'd latched on to a few years back. Upon writing 'About Happiness' I could hear the light hearted bounce similar to their song 'Signals' - in fact, as I was writing the song - I was so concerned that it sounded too much like 'Signals' that I had to re-listen to the song just to be sure I wasn't committing blatant copyright infringement. I then realized there wasn't really enough of a resemblance to make a case. Different time signature all together. Although, you can definitely hear the influence of this artist in 'About Happiness'."

4. Late July - Shakey Graves

"Shakey Graves has been a huge influence on me since I heard his composition 'Late July' a good while back. I immediately learned the impressive number and performed it frequently at gigs. His guitar playing has left an impact on my own playing style. And his unique style of songwriting has also left an impression on me. It's weird getting inspired by someone else's uniqueness. It's meant to inspire you to be unique yourself, I think. But in this case I think I definitely adopted some guitar techniques from Shakey Graves into my own music. While trying my best to stay true to my own sounds which I'd intended on sculpting out. There's a clear resemblance to 'Late July' in the guitar playing in the song 'I can, I can, I will' which is track no. 4 off of the Heartbreak Retreat album."

5. Wake - The Antlers

"Another album which has very much inspired me. Hospice by The Antlers is a beautifully written concept album about a relationship with someone dealing with a terminal illness. There are allusions toward abusive relationship dynamics as well. Such a powerful album through and through - you can really feel the pain in this one. I specifically used the song 'Wake' as a general reference point for track no. 2 off the album; which is titled: 'Who.' ''Wake' was a direct influence while writing 'Who.' I wanted to capture the melancholic emotion of heartbreak the best I could. And The Antlers are true masters of captivating deep and solemn emotions through their music. Easily one of my favorite bands."

Listen to "About Happiness" on all streaming platforms.

Follow Fourth Born: Website | Instagram | Spotify | Facebook | YouTube


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