What’s On Michael Portillo’s iPod: S.T. Manville

Here at Birthday Cake For Breakfast, we like to get to the heart of what an artist is all about. We feel the music they listen to is just as important as the music they make. With that in mind, we’re chuffed to have ex-Blakfish shouter S.T. Manville on board to talk us through inspirations behind his debut release of original material.

(Photo Credit: Joe Docker)

Counting Crows album August And Everything After (1993)

I think this album is probably the reason I started writing again. I would only have been 6 when it was released and they were never as big here in the UK as the States so I guess they were a band I was aware of but knew very little of their music.

It was only about a year ago that I listened to this album properly and I haven’t stopped listening since. I like a lot of their catalogue but this album is pretty much perfect start to finish. I know it’s been said many times but Adam Duritz is a phenomenal songwriter, he manages to perfectly mix introverted self loathing with beautifully detailed observations and wrap it up into an accessible narrative, not to mention how amazing his melodies are. Growing up, lyrics were never something I was interested in. I think I always saw them as a necessity as opposed to the point of the song. I think this album really reminded me what great song writing is and re-ignited my passion for writing ‘songs’ as opposed to just making music.

Mark Kozelek

I’m a massive Mark Kozelek fan. I love most of what he has done but I think the period of ‘Songs For A Blue Guitar’ and ‘Old Ramon’ the last two Red House Painters records, and ‘Ghosts Of The Great Highway’, the first Sun Kil Moon album, is my favourite. All three of those albums are amazing start to finish. There’s a line in ‘Void’ that I think sums up why I love his music better than I can:

“A guitar leans against the couch
Sometimes I pick it up and play
Loosen and stretch its ancient strings
Until it sounds the way I feel”

He seems to make music that actually has emotion, as opposed to just sounding emotional, if that makes sense?! Due to the subject matter ‘Make Believe’ is already nostalgic by nature, I guess I wanted the song to sound and feel nostalgic also, and Mark Kozelek definitely inspired that.”

Jason Molina – It’s Easier Now’ (Let Me Go Let Me Go Let Me Go, 2006)

Someone else I didn’t get into until relatively recently. I like the early ‘Songs: Ohia’ records a lot but I hadn’t heard his solo albums until a couple of years ago. I think all three solo albums are flawless, and I much prefer them now to any of the Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. stuff. The sparseness of the records is beautiful and allows the sadness in his voice to really cut through. I think this song best exemplifies that. The atmosphere of his records is something I try to emulate with my own songs.”

Willy Tea Taylor – ‘Life Is Beautiful’ (4 Strings, 2011)

The album ‘4 Strings’ is beautiful but I always find myself coming back to this one song in particular. He is a wonderful writer and the simplicity of this song reminds me that you don’t always have to be clever, sometimes just saying things as they come can mean the most. When I’m writing if I start to think it’s getting convoluted I use this as a gauge, it reminds me to find the simplest way to get the message across.”

Robbie Basho‘s album Visions Of The Country (1978)

My friend Trav (who actually made the Make Believe video) introduced me to Robbie Basho last year and I was kinda amazed I hadn’t come across him before. Especially when I read into his story, I grew up listening to John Fahey thanks to my Dad but surprisingly he didn’t have any Basho. The other thing that struck me was that everyone seems to only talk about his virtuosic guitar playing. Don’t get me wrong he is a good guitarist (even if us guitarists know how much an open tuning will help you sound better than you are…) but for me it’s his voice and songs that are the most incredible thing about him. He sounds like Anthony and the Johnsons singing over an acoustic Ghosts and Vodka track, and he was doing it in the 60’s/70’s. He’s just amazing.

The songs ‘Blue Crystal Fire’ and ‘Orphans Lament’ have been huge influences to me. Also if you check out the artwork for this album you’ll see that the layout of all my artwork so far is an homage to the wonderful Basho.”

Make Believe’ is available now! You can find it here – along with his debut release ‘Somebody Else’s Songs‘, an album of punk covers.

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