Jay Buchanan - The 10 Records That Changed My Life

Rival Sons' Jay Buchanan
Rival Sons' Jay Buchanan (Image credit: Kevin Nixon)

Born into a family of musicians, including a mother who sang in church, Jay Buchanan didn’t ‘discover’ music in a sudden, Damascene revelation. Practically from birth he was immersed in old blues, folk, funk and soul, much of which would eventually feed into his own music with Rival Sons. In retrospect he agrees that everything he’s listened to has influenced him. “And that includes the music that I can’t stand,” the singer says, “all the shitty pop music, it’s all informed who I am as an artist.”

Selecting a neat list of 10 life-changing records, therefore, wasn’t easy.

“I’m telling you, music was always really exciting to me,” he enthuses. “And there was no creative flashpoint where I discovered it. I always sang, there was always music in the house, my family are all musical, we have friends who’d have parties and everybody played music – all of my parents’ friends were musicians.”

These days his trips back home are just as tuneful: “When we get together now we have these long, beer and whiskey-fuelled hours of jam sessions. We play everything, old blues standards, torch songs… We have fun.”

Rival Sons’ new album, Hollow Bones, is out now via Earache Records.

Joni MitchellBlue

“I got into this when I was really young. My mum used to sing Joni Mitchell songs and my father would play guitar. So it always felt like home. And her narrative on this record specifically, it’s a breakup record; there’s a couple of happy songs but it’s a very introspective record. It is unplugged but there’s still a lot of fantastic instrumentation, and more than that there’s a lot of space – breathing space. She had a very bare bones, honest, naked style of narrative. That was a huge influence on me.”

Jimi Hendrix & Otis ReddingAt Monterey

“On one side you had Otis Redding, and on the other side you had Jimi Hendrix. Talk about a fantastic record! I got that one when I was about 12. It was a live recording, and knowing that this was really happening, and it wasn’t just made in the studio, left a huge impression on me. The performances from both artists are amazing. I listen to Otis Redding a lot, but even Jimi Hendrix; some people said he was a horrible singer, but I don’t think so. I always thought his cadence and his flow was very graceful. There was something very shimmery about the way Jimi Hendrix sang.”

Bob DylanBringing It All Back Home

“I’d pick all of ‘em if I could. The first one I heard was probably The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It’s very stripped down, it’s acoustic, songs like The Times They’re A Changin’ had a huge impact on me. But with Bringing It All Back Home you’ll have a song like It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), which is so intense. It felt like lightning when I heard it as a kid. And the production on that whole record is just fantastic. I’m highly influenced by Bob Dylan, not just as a lyricist. It’s a study in truly just aspiring to be yourself. He did that more than most. Even though he was very mysterious I think he was just trying to live his life and be good at it.”

PrinceSign O’ The Times

“It’s just fantastic. He was of course highly influenced by everything from Jimi Hendrix, Funkadelic, Parliament, Sly And The Family Stone… and he was obviously a highly individual entity from beginning to end, but with all of these influences that he wore on his sleeve. The writing was so good. I remember hearing the title track on the radio when I was only in fifth grade or something, and that blew my mind. I got my money together and went out and bought the cassette. You had that song which was really heavy, and the other accompanying single U Got The Look – which was way more of a classic funky Prince song. Wonderful.”

Sly And The Family StoneFresh

“I’m a big fan of Funkadelic, and I’m a huge Sly And The Family Stone fan which leads me onto this next one. Fresh is an incredible record. It had a huge influence on me; basically listening to the sound of a band start to lose its mind! That’s a big one. I went much further from there and explored all their records, and they’re all fantastic, but there’s a certain darkness to Fresh that’s so subtle and so appealing. Songs like In Time, Babies Makin’ Babies…that entire record is mind-blowing to me. I love it.”

Van MorrisonAstral Weeks

“This was my first Van Morrison record. I think I was about 19, I’d been singing in bands since I was 12. Everybody loves Brown Eyed Girl but Astral Weeks was the one they had at the record shop, so I got it. And it blew my mind; the amount of space and the flow of consciousness on that record. I can’t overstate his influence on me as a writer and vocalist. When it comes to the blue-eyed rock’n’roll singers, if Van Morrison had wanted to stay in rock’n’roll – instead of venturing off and doing Astral Weeks and all these other records – he could’ve crushed these other guys with one hand. But he just decided he didn’t want to be a rock’n’roller.”

Leonard Cohen - ALL of them

“I can’t pick out a specific one, but Leonard Cohen’s entire collection has had a huge impact on me. I love the way he turns a phrase, the way he writes lyrics, and as he got older, I love the way his voice changed and became so authoritative and deep. There are these artists whose voices change so much with age; people like Leonard Cohen, John Prine, Joni Mitchell was another… I love that. There’s nothing better than an old voice, it sounds like bone or something.”

Shenkar (or L. Shankar)Raga Aberi

“He’s a [Indian-born] violinist, and that album had a profound influence on me. That’s still a record I put on. People know him as the electric violin player who did In Your Eyes for Peter Gabriel, and other Peter Gabriel songs and film scores as well. But it is an amazing record, [Indian tabla player] Zakir Hussain is on that record. It’s a different side of my music taste, it’s very reflective, it’s all instrumental; there are no vocals. It’s incredible.”

Nina SimoneThe High Priestess Of Soul

“But I also thought of Baltimore or Nina Simone Sings The Blues… all of her records. Her energy and delivery was completely different from anyone else’s. From those old bluesy, soulful female singers, Nina Simone is the big one for me. I listen to her all the time; she’s in my regular rotation, no matter what I’ll always go back and listen to her. I go back to her much more than, say, Aretha Franklin – who is fantastic of course, but the production style was more manufactured, whereas Nina Simone is so wild and so dark. She sounded like a caged animal that could break through at any time.”

Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin

“I grew up on blues music, coz we always had that around the house – from the old Chicago to the delta blues… Led Zeppelin’s first record was the first thing I’d ever heard from them. My sister had a cassette which she’d borrowed from a boyfriend of hers, and I’d just steal this music. I’d take it coz I always thought ‘I need this more than she does’ or ‘he does’! The whole record was good, I liked it, but what I really liked was Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. It stuck out because it’s a ballad, and I went ‘fuck! This is good!’ That song got a lot of play from me.”

Rival Sons – Hollow Bones album review

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.