If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Russell Howard, whose latest release, City Heart, is out now. Visit his official site for samples of Russell’s music — after reading his Desert Island picks, of course!

The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

One of the few non-classical records in the house as a kid, Sgt. Pepper’s was my introduction to pop. Listening to this record was like stepping into an alternate universe and ultimately gave me the first twinge of “hey, I want to do that.” Listening to it now puts me back in that anything-is-possible frame of mind.

Counting Crows, August & Everything After

There is something powerful in the simplicity of this record. It’s a perfect storm of T-bone’s production, Adam Duritz’s wistful vocals, and just plain old great songs. A&AE came out in 1993, but I didn’t get a copy until 2001, after the band had released two follow-ups. Did I mention I was a late bloomer? When I did get ahold of it, it didn’t leave the CD player for weeks. There is a deep-seated angst that resonated with my 17-year-old self’s quest for self importance… and I imagine would resonate even more facing the isolation of a desert island.

Jeff Buckley, Grace

Another debut from the early ’90s, it took awhile for this record to find its way to me and even longer for me to warm up to it. At first I felt that the shifts from song to song were jolting and that the record didn’t hang together very well. For a long time I skipped straight to the standout tracks (“Last Goodbye,” “Lover,” “Hallelujah”) but on a flight home from college for Thanksgiving I listened all the way through. It was an epiphany and I haven’t listened to it any other way since.

David Gray, White Ladder

This record is where it all came together for me. I had spent my afternoons singing and playing along with the bulk of the ’90s greatest alt rockers, and then White Ladder happened. It was like David Gray had taken all of the individual elements that had inspired me and mashed them into something refreshing and compelling that allowed me to brush that Pearl Jam chip off my shoulder.

Ultimate Jump Little Children Mix Tape

This is a mythical item that I hope becomes a reality. Jump has so many great songs scattered across their catalog (mostly revolving around geography), and I fantasize about them all being on one super album. As so often happens with me, I didn’t get into Jump until they were nearly broken up, so if NASA would only finish that time machine I keep bugging them about…

Hear how all those influences came together in Russell’s latest single, “Home Sweet Home” — and then visit his site to order your copy of City Heart:

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