In no particular order, these are some of the artists who have either influenced my career or their songs have had a huge impact and made it into my favourites list. This is far from a complete list so I may have to do another one at some point!
Who could fail to be entranced by the vocal virtuosity of a voice that sounds like runny honey. I was introduced to the ‘pop’ music of Ella at a very young age and although I became a lover of Jazz, was never such a fan of the darker tones of Billie Holliday. I especially love the combination of Ella’s voice with the songs of Cole Porter, perfection. Thank goodness this wonderful lady was given a chance in the music industry despite a difficult start in life.
Tori burst onto the scene in my teenage years, not long after I started playing piano. In her early career Tori Amos had an absolutely mesmerising presence and beautifully fused her classical training with contemporary songwriting. Here was a female virtuoso that a teenage girl could look up to. It was all about guitars at the time so having a mainstream pianist to emulate was a big deal and I spent many hours trying to learn her songs.
Alanis was another artist that arrived on the scene during my teenage years at a time when there were so few female artists to look up to. Finally we had an Indie artist instead of the usual stream of Pop singers. Her songs were perfect for expressing teenage angst and I still feel that every song on ‘Jagged Little Pill’ is a classic. That album got me and countless others through some tough times.
OK, strictly speaking I got into his band first although he has turned out solo material since. However he was one of the biggest influences during my early career and maybe the reason that I developed a love of funk. Although very mainstream in the 80s, listening to earlier recordings taught me a lot about arrangement and the space between notes being just as important as the notes themselves. Mr Lindup is the main reason I own a Yamaha KX88 and why in the early days I surrounded myself with banks of keyboards and modules.
I actually picked up my first keytar before discovering Patrice Rushen but then found that I had the perfect role model. Back then she was doing mainstream pop without sacrificing the funk levels and musicianship, something that I tried to emulate in our early Back2Funk shows. Her skill level on the piano now is phenomenal and she’s a highly respected jazz musician amongst her peers.
I might have discovered the world of Funk via mainstream chart bands and artists but when I started to delve deeper into who had influenced them, I began to discover the greats. Herbie could turn his hand to traditional Jazz, Funk, Fusion and Hip Hop with ease and as a keyboardist I was fascinated with this discovery of new techniques and tricks that could be used. Cue many years spent learning chord substitutions, Lydian, Mixolydian scales, etc.
As a keyboardist / vocalist, Stevie just had to make the list. He’s influenced countless musicians of all genres, whatever instrument they play, due to his prolific songwriting skills, musical talent and studio production expertise. Stevie’s work has spanned generations and he can still turn out relevant music today.
One of my all time faves, Bev is a nice girl from the West Midlands with a powerhouse voice. Back in the day when I first started getting into the local funk scene, she would be heavily played on pirate radio across the Midlands and friends would get me to listen to her tracks. I became hooked on her debut album ‘The B Funk’ and ‘Flava Of The Old School’ rooted itself in my head for years after.
Stefanie Sun YanZi
At the time of stumbling across Stefanie Sun’s music I’d grown really bored of the usual output from the UK music industry. My first trip to Hong Kong resulted in the discovery of the KTV music channel (much like MTV in the days when it played music but also with lyrics for singing along). Despite not understanding a word in those early days, I was blown away by the arrangements and beautiful melodies and ended up buying all of her albums. There’s always at least two stunning songs on each album (often many more) and I have more favourites than I could name in a Top 10 list. Her use of falsetto is also gorgeous – definitely an artist worth listening to.
Another West Midlander on the list, Scott is a fantastic songwriter and vocalist that deserves a lot more recognition than he gets. I first encountered him at a small, intimate gig before he hit the big time and instantly knew he was going to be a success (in fact I offered him a deal on the spot but you can’t compete with the likes of Island Records!) Scott has a voice and fingerpicking style that harks back to the era of Robert Johnson. His debut album and especially the track ‘Elusive’ will probably never leave my Top 10 favourite tracks of all time, it’s just stunning.