5 Albums That Shaped Singer/Songwriter Emma Swift

Emma Swift


by Emma Swift


Here are some records that have meant a lot to me over the years. By no means is this a top five but when I was asked to put this list together, these jumped from the pile of lifelong obsessions. I have strong feelings about each and every one. They’re in my bones, in the chords I find, the notes I hang on, the words I choose. I hope this resonates and inspires some to seek this music out…



I heard this when it first came out, back in 2011, when I was living in Australia. I was romantically decimated, restless and thinking about moving to America. I yearned for new landscapes, strange accents, cheap beer and unending highways. The song featured here, “Riding For The Feeling” resonated so much at the time my skin tingled with every listen. It still makes me cry. I love the Wurlitzer keyboard and Callahan’s low, mesmerising baritone:


What if I had stood there at the end

And said again and again and again and again and again

In answer to every question?

Riding for the feeling, riding for the feeling

Riding for the feeling, riding for the feeling

Riding for the feeling, riding for the feeling




The first time I came across this record I was 13 or 14 but it’s taken me years to appreciate it. I think you have to be a fully grown woman to “get” an album like this one and it’s sublime, angry closer “Why’d Ya Do It?” Faithfull is so raw and possessed with rage it sounds fresh with every listen to me. I’m always picking up on different bits of phrasing, words being spat and sung. I’ve exhausted a lot of my old ’70s favourites but ‘Broken English’ remains on high rotation.




To me, this magnificent, stoned, downer of an album is Neil’s masterpiece. I bought the reissue when it came out in 2003 and it hasn’t been far from my stereo or mind since. I covered “Motion Pictures” with Robyn Hitchcock in 2015 for Record Store Day and often strum through “Vampire Blues” or “See The Sky About To Rain” when I’m looking for something to write but the muse isn’t coming through.




What a desolate gem this one is! Alongside Lucinda Williams’ ‘World Without Tears’ ‘Heartbreaker’ is one of the first albums I heard that made me want to be a songwriter. I was in my early 20s when it was released and I promptly went out and destroyed my heart at every possible opportunity. Later this month I’m playing a tribute to this album in Nashville at a cool little venue that’s just down the street from where Ryan Adams made the record with Ethan Johns, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings amongst others. I’m currently debating how much money is too much money to spend on a vintage Morrissey shirt to wear for the occasion. I have a feeling I know what Ryan would do…




I’ve learned more about singing listening to Karen Dalton, Tammy Wynette and Linda Ronstadt than any music teacher could offer. I just die listening to Karen’s voice. It’s pure, unfiltered sadness. I love the crack in it, the sexy rasp, the lived in sound. I’ll admit there are tracks on this record that I always skip – I’m not interested in “When A Man Loves A Woman” for example. But “Something On Your Mind” is a damn near perfect opener and “Are You Leaving For The Country?” makes for an equally perfect closer. Repeat, repeat.



Other albums I could have gushed about but you get the idea:


Bob Dylan – ‘Blonde on Blonde’

Gram Parsons – ‘Grievous Angel’

Lucinda Williams – ‘Essence’

Silver Jews – ‘Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea’

LCD Soundsystem – ‘Sound of Silver’

PJ Harvey – ‘Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea’

The Lemonheads – ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’

Gene Clark – ‘No Other’

The Smiths – ‘Strangeways Here We Come’


My next official release will be a 7 inch single with Robyn Hitchcock, produced by Norman Blake from Teenage Fan Club. Due out late 2016! – Emma



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