In short, Essentials is an ongoing series that provides artists the opportunity to discuss a specific topic while giving their fan base a chance to connect with their various interests and inspirations. But in this case, we are totally okay with things getting weird and/or uncensored. With a new EP out in the ether (hear “Benefits”) and a tour mapped out for October, we got TWIST’s Laura Hermiston to shed some light on her favourite songwriters of all-time. Just FYI: Her five picks are outrageously groovy.
I’m new to exploring all of John Cale’s music. He was a founding member of The Velvet Underground and his career spans experimental rock, drone, classical, avant-garde, and electronic music. He produced and collaborated with Lou Reed, Modern Lovers, Manic Street Preachers, Patti Smith, Brian Eno, Kevin Ayers, Siouxie And The Banshees, Animal Collective, and Happy Mondays. Paris 1919 and Vintage Violence are also two of my favourite albums of all-time. I think they’re masterpieces.
Prince was a multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, bandleader — he transformed funk, soul, pop, and rock into his own. He had 30 Top 40 singles and five number one singles, and I love that all of his lyrics are about sex. His voice is iconic.
“I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.”
Dolly Parton is way cooler and smarter than she gets credit for. She was just a prolific songwriter. I find it a little sad that most people don’t recognize that instead of her image sometimes. Writing came natural to her. She did thousands of songs and hit singles, including “I Will Always Love You”. Her work is timeless and I love her vibrato soprano voice.
ABBA’s BJORN ULVAEUS & BENNY ANDERSSON
Bjorn and Benny had a cottage where they focused on making music and lyrics as catchy as possible. I like that they tried to make each song different, like what The Beatles had done before. I remember seeing commercials for deluxe CD packages for ABBA on TV when I was a kid and I hated it, but as I’ve grown to love the lush orchestrations in disco music, I’ve grown to appreciate ABBA.
This song in particular is my favourite because it keeps giving me ear gems as it plays. Also, the lyrics “If it wasn’t for the nights/ Somehow I’d be doing alright” is so simple, perfect, and relatable.
Leslie writes beautiful songs that are never formulaic and have a counter-intuitive structure. I just love the way she sings and shreds on guitar. She put out a new record [called Pleasure] and I love how DIY it sounds. Being a good writer to me isn’t about following trends or hiding behind a wall of production hacks that someone created on their laptop. It’s a reminder that good music is about having good songs.