Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

6. The Beach BoysPet Sounds

For me, this is very much a hallmark of where I was able fit in musically in my career. When I started out I was in Montreal, but went to New York periodically and failed miserably with what I was trying to do. It was right at the time that Jeff Buckley was on the rise, and grunge, and that whole movement was incredibly heterosexual, incredibly nihilistic, incredibly guitar-based and very, very dark. I admired it, I’m not against that, but when I was dropped into that equation I was this gay piano-playing opera queen who wanted to be romantic and harken back to other more refined eras. What I was trying to do just didn’t make any sense in New York. People would often try to categorise me and say I was cabaret or that I should be doing Broadway. It was very complicated and I never figured it out.

Then I was signed to Dreamworks, by Lenny Waronker – whom I believe helped make Pet Sounds. I went to Los Angeles and suddenly realised that I was definitely more part of the Brian Wilson tradition. Whether it was him or Randy Newman or Van Dyke Parks or Harry Nilsson, there was a kind of spot that I could fit into. So I listened a lot to Pet Sounds. You can hear it somewhat on my new album, songs like the last track ‘Alone Time’, but all through my career there’s been a real concentration on harmonies and interesting chord changes and a dreamlike quality. I was able to find my niche through that tradition, as opposed to the East Coast. I have a lot to thank Brian Wilson for, he allowed me to inhabit my world comfortably, as opposed to when I was in New York and I was a total anathema to what was happening there. I can’t say that I listened to the album obsessively or that I’m obsessed with him and know all his work, but I definitely feel I am a Wilsonite.

Did you see the film, Love & Mercy, with Paul Dano and John Cusack both playing Wilson?

Yes, that was a brilliant film. I particularly liked Elizabeth Banks in it, she was great. And it also relates a bit to what I’m doing now – I moved back to Los Angeles and made this new album, and I think half of the songs were recorded in the studio where Pet Sounds was made. So I’m just very much part of that tradition.

PreviousNext Record

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today