Vannessa Anne Redd’s debut album Behind The Wall, 10 songs of “Grunge Folk” written in the French countryside, was recently released. Vanessa has put together a playlist for us, explaining some of the influences for the record.
‘Behind the Wall’ is where I wrote some of the record but it’s become a metaphorical place too, somewhere we’re all connected to, a place to muse on life, to have a first kiss, smoke your first cigarette, somewhere to feel safe, be innocent, dream, be still, have sex, a place to hide away but ultimately it’s a place to transform yourself, a place to let go and feel free.
Here are some songs I listened to while making the record that take you behind that wall, made by people I would happily hang out with behind one. Now that would be a party.
Holly Golightly – Virtually Happy
I was lucky enough play on this album, hang out for the album recording in Toerag and go on a tour with Holly. She’s a real role model influence for me and inspired me on a personal level more than anybody else to do a solo record and use analogue gear as a framework for the record. She was there in the studio with her dog, getting on with it, no fuss, being funny and brilliant and nailing the songs in one take. I tried to emulate that ‘record an album in two days ethic’ ha ha.. I have always been, not virtually, but totally happy for that experience. Such a talented singer- songwriter.
T. Rex – Ride a White Swan
If you’re going to get transforming behind a wall, you can’t do any better than do it in a cape and “say a few spells” with Marc Bolan. He supposedly wrote the lyrics in his West London flat after being ‘spiked’ with LSD but it takes you right into the old English pagan countryside with his images. This was supposed to be the beginning of Glam Rock but again it’s such super simple instrumentation with just the two guitars and the claps, bells and simple strings following the melody. The Tony Visconti production a definite reference point for Marc Makarov and I. One for behind the wall, looking for salvation and finding the answers.
Joni Mitchell – All I want
When I used to go hitching in trucks I’d have Blue on the headphones and be walking around strange places and weird industrial estates, but even though I was in odd places I always felt very strong listening to this tune. It’s tuning into that feeling about trying to make someone’s life better when you’re in love with them “I want to make you feel free”. Her playing on the dulcimer brings out that Indian transcendental zither sound because the melody on that instrument’s played on the top string and the other strings make a drone harmony, a sense of cyclical repetition that I tried to get on a few songs on Behind the Wall.
Francoise Hardy – Suzanne
I found this version when I was listening to the Leonard Cohen classic looking for female versions and fell in love with it. Her female delivery twists the tale and the softness, along with her French translation of it, is so beautiful over the picking guitar and strings.
Spacement 3 – Losing Touch with my Mind
I’m a massive Spacemen 3 fan. They were really the first band who influenced my guitar playing. When you start out and you can only play three power chords you put loads of distortion on really loud so you can’t hear the mistakes. The relentless droning guitar, the four to the floor and that killer tambo are key loves of mine. I once heard this unbelievable noise hanging outside a rehearsal room in Fortress Studios in Old Street and was told it was Sonic Boom practising. It was the most mind blowing thing I had ever heard. So I’ve kinda stood behind a wall listening to them already. If you are going to hang out behind a wall and you’re looking to get free, you’ll definitely want a copy of The Sound of Confusion and a really good hi-fi.
Nina Simone – I Shall be Released
Bob Dylan wrote this song but Nina Simone’s version gives something more to it, it’s a release from oppression, about race and sexual equality, about a fight for a better life, a utopian fight for rights and freedom. You’re going to break that wall down with this one. What can I say, it’s Nina Simone, a Goddess will transform you in any way you like.
Nico – Fairest of the Seasons
The passion in this gives me goosebumps every time. Nico’s voice, maybe especially because I’m half German, resonates with me in a such a special and particular way. There’s something so uniquely Germanic about the brusque strength and depth of tone, the almost grating-ness of it that I totally adore. This song’s all about life’s musings, it’s full of philosophical questions about the state of human nature and relationship, lines like “And do I really understand the undernetting?” what a word. “Now that it’s real” yes everyone loves real.
The contrasting straight sweeps of the strings with the roundness of the guitar picking was an influence on my song Invisible Strings and the subtlety of the guitar and up front-ness of the string arrangement was a real help in mixing.
Syd Barrett – Terrapin
I was reading his biography on a beach in Formentera and also writing lyrics to Borderlands, from my album, when I came across a passage that was all about him being there too and writing songs on the same beach. It kind of weirded me out, in a good way, so now more than ever I feel a connection to him. I love his strumming, use of chords and the psychedelic imagination of his brain that literally metaphysically changes you as you listen. This recording, the fact that the main guitar was done in one take and how you can hear the strum of the plectrum, is so simple, hypnotic and laid back, and how there are lots of ‘mistakes’ on the takes make it even better, it’s an exact moment of time caught, flaws and all. Something to aspire to.
Elliott Smith – Needle in the Hay
This is probably one of my favourite songs of all time. It’s such a perfect piece of emotion about the pain of release, whether the transformation that was longed for in the song was fully realised or only temporary. I listened to it a lot while making this record. The way his voice is so trembling, heartfelt and so intimately in your ear makes it even more intense. His down strumming is grunge folk in perfection. Full on.
Moldy Peaches – Anyone else but you
I listened to this song as a reference especially for the last song on my record Proof. The delivery of the vocal is so cool and throwaway, apart from the way Americans pronounce “niche”, it’s such a sweet, perfect song but it has the word turd in it. Speaks for itself. This one is definitely a first kiss behind the wall tune.