Songwriter JOHN SHIPE Shares 5 Inspiring Albums + New Single, Thoughts and Prayers
by John Shipe
I haven’t been asked “who are your influences?” in years. Once you’ve taken command of your craft and found your voice, you no longer think of them as influences, but as colleagues. You cross a threshold, and start trusting your instincts. That said, upon reflection, I recognize certain, long-ago listening experiences as crucial to my creative fate (whether I remained a fan of them or not.)
John Denver – Rocky Mountain High
As a teenager, I consumed Prog, ArtRock & Fusion exclusively. So how did I end up writing Folk & Country as soon as I picked up a guitar? It goes back to age 7, and this album, my first musical solid food. The epic title cut notwithstanding, I was more entranced by the sustained melancholy of “Prisoners,” and the drama. (Oddly, I never acquired another John Denver album.)
Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps
I learned to play guitar by covering every Neil song, not realizing that he was shaping my approach to lyrics — the interplay between earthy realism & stream of consciousness. “Thrasher” epitomizes the saturation of imagery & symbolism I indulge when I slip into my imagination. Big, serious feelings and multiple interpretations.
Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
The beauty of Lucinda Williams leaning into her own natural voice — relaxed, even on a rowdy song. She kicks my ass on “Joy,” while never oversinging. It’s almost a childlike primal expression of a grown-up experience. “You took my joy, I want it back!” Absorbing her made me a better singer and changed the melodies I compose. Her honesty gave me permission to be more vulnerable–even autobiographical.
Michelle Shocked – Short Sharp Shocked
As I shed my Prog & ArtRock skin, and began writing in Americana genres, this album hit me with “Memories of East Texas.” Her vivid recollections prodded my first real breakthrough in detailed storytelling (a cathartic autobiographical ballad I called “Shadow Over Mill Creek Road.”) In those rookie days, I had to imitate. I figured that if I imitated female artists, I’d be so widely off the mark, no one would know I was imitating.
Jesus Christ Superstar
My family’s Easter Sunday music. Bottomless pathos and ceilingless drama. It’s echo still nourishes me when I take on big subject matter — the challenge of impeccably matching the composition and lyrics to the heaviest themes. You can’t come up short, or you fall on your face. JCS has led to risk-taking in my songwriting, no doubt. (BTW, like all aspiring rockers, I wanted to be Judas, and actually auditioned with the opening number “Heaven on Their Minds.”)
Uncomfortably squeezing my formative listening into just 5 albums, I can’t help honorably mentioning Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years, and his incredible heart-hurting “My Little Town.” I’ve been trying to write a song like that for a quarter-century.
John Shipe – Thoughts and Prayers
+ Love Ain’t Easy
Artist photo courtesy of Public Display PR
Produced by Tyler Fortier (Keyboards & Drums)
John Shipe – Vocals, Piano & Guitar
Tim McLaughlin – Horns
Jerry Abelin – Bass
Erik Berg-Johansen – Strings
Produced by Tyler Fortier
Halie Loren – Vocals
Bryan Daste – Pedal Steel
Mike Walker – Organ
Jerry Abelin – Bass
The single, Thoughts and Prayers, is a hauntingly beautiful piano ballad reminiscent of Nick Cave’s Gothic slow-burn grandeur. It is written about the outbreaks of gun violence that have been plaguing the nation. Here, John lays out the narrative in a stirring first-person to second-person phone conversation. “This way I can handle socio-political subject matter by telling the story from the point of view of a person who doesn’t think he’s smarter than anybody else. I just felt the protagonist’s emotions, and the language came out easily,” John says. (Courtesy of Public Display PR)