When I first told you about Vince Grant almost a year ago, he’d just release his album, My Depression Is Always Trying to Kill Me, a heady title that’s sparked a conversation about mental illness that’s severely overdue and warranted. Now, his new video, “Oceans II,” takes a track from that album and translates it into a visual that’s compelling and demonstrative of both the music Grant makes and the movement he’s spearheading.
We wanted to delve further into his musical processes, so we asked him to tell us about five influential songs and were pleasantly surprised to see some of our own faves in there also.
1) “Heroes” by David Bowie
To me, this is one of the most emotionally powerful songs ever written. The musical hook and melody combined with the poignant, poetic lyrics is nothing short of epic. Love the way the track builds in both sound and emotion, and it’s something I try to achieve in my songs as well. Bowie
starts off singing in subdued fashion, but by the end he is almost screaming in desperation over a stirring, heart-rending musical crescendo. It kills me every time. After already being taken by the song, I discovered the backstory of him moving to West Berlin, where he wrote “Heroes,” in order to battle his drug addiction. He was seeking a sanctuary where he could write and record. This made the song even more meaningful to me than it already was. I chose this live version because even though he starts off joking, he quickly gets into it, and you can just see the intensity in his eyes, on his face. As the song progresses, you can see and feel the band feed off his energy and the result is spine tingling. I had tears in my eyes re-watching this again. I can’t believe he’s really gone.
2) “Bad” by U2
This song shares many of the same qualities as “Heroes.” It starts off softly and over time builds to an incredible emotional climax. In the beginning, Bono sings softly over the Edge’s incredible riff and Eno’s distinctive arpeggios that create one of he most identifiable musical hooks I can think of, but as the song moves on, the rhythm section slowly increases the intensity and the band picks up until Bono is belting out the words over a wall of sound. What I like about the famous live version off of “Wide Awake in America” is that after the climax, the song comes down and gets quiet again with Bono almost whispering at the end as the band seems to almost trail off in the background. A magnificent and dramatic use of dynamics that drives home the raw feeling of the song even further, and the lyrics dealing with heroin addiction make the song, on top of being a musical masterpiece, even more special to me. The live version gives me the chills almost every time. Using dynamics to bring out the emotion of the lyrics is something I strive for.
3) “Heroin” by Lou Reed
Musically captivating and lyrically moving, “Heroin” is another song that starts quietly, but unlike “Heroes” and Bad,” it is punctuated with multiple climaxes as it fluctuates between a whisper and a scream. A brilliant use of dynamics that accentuates the plaintive and evocative
lyrics. By the end though, both the band and Reed are cranking it out to the point where you feel like they might derail from the emotion of it all. The lyrics also follow a dynamic range of their own starting off as almost a love affair and devolving into more sinister waters as they become more stark and mournful as time goes on. And I love it that it’s so long. I’m a sucker for long songs that take me on an emotional journey and “Heroin” delivers. I try to do the same in my songs. Good examples of this would be “Edge of the World” and “Sweet Addiction,” which clock in at a healthy seven and 10 minutes respectively, My favorite, favorite version of “Heroin” is off the live album Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal.
4) “This is the Sea” by The Waterboys
I usually write on acoustic guitar, played all the acoustic tracks on the EP, and usually play acoustic live, especially when I’m playing solo shows, so I love the acoustic, 12-string strumming away on this cut. Also, I really like the water imagery, which I’m prone to. Growing up in
Chicago near Lake Michigan, living in NYC literally surrounded by water, and now living in LA by the ocean, water has a big influence on me and is a source of inspiration. Three of the tracks on my EP employ some type of water imagery, especially the track that I did the new video for, “Oceans II.” But back to “This is the Sea,” which is just an amazing song in my opinion. The marriage of the lyrics, melody, and music is magical and the emotion that Mike Scott conveys through it all tugs at my heart. The lyrics dealing with disappointment and trying to move on really speak to me, a theme I also try to address in my songs. This is another song that employs great dynamics that bring out Scott’s mournful and poetic lyrics as it ebbs and flows like the water he so passionately sings about. For me, songwriting is all about passion and emotion, which this song captures for me.
5) “Black Metallic” by Catherine Wheel
Another long song that uses dynamics going from soft to loud and back again. It has one of my favorite breakdowns of all time in the middle, which goes almost completely quiet after a raucous guitar solo and then slowly winds its way back to full volume. Rob Dickinson’s voice goes very quiet over a syncopated beat with stray guitars and then the whole band roars back to life.
Almost every one of my songs has a breakdown in it, either in the middle or at the end. I just can’t seem to help myself! I think it’s because it adds such a dramatic quality to a song and gives it an epic feel. I’m struggling with my emotions while writing and things do, for better or worse, tend toward the dramatic. A synthesis of poetry, melody, and dynamics that get at the heart of
emotion is the lightening in a bottle I’m after. I have to say this was a tough assignment. So many great bands, so many great songs, so many great songwriters. It was hard to choose, but these songs have definitely influenced me when it comes to songwriting.
Check out Vince Grant’s video for “Oceans II” here: