When I first told you about Vince Grant almost a year ago, he’d just release his album,Â 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.Â The musical hook and melody combined with the poignant, poetic lyrics isÂ nothing short of epic. Love the way the track builds in both sound andÂ 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 almostÂ screaming in desperation over a stirring, heart-rending musicalÂ crescendo. It kills me every time. After already being taken by theÂ song, I discovered the backstory of him moving to West Berlin, where heÂ wrote “Heroes,” in order to battle his drug addiction. He was seeking aÂ sanctuary where he could write and record. This made the song even moreÂ meaningful to me than it already was. I chose this live version becauseÂ even though he starts off joking, he quickly gets into it, and you canÂ just see the intensity in his eyes, on his face.Â As the song progresses, you can see and feel the band feed off his energy and the result isÂ spine tingling. I had tears in my eyes re-watching this again. I can’tÂ believe he’s really gone.
2) “Bad” by U2
This song shares many of the same qualities as “Heroes.” Â 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.Â 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 songÂ that starts quietly, but unlike “Heroes” and Bad,” it is punctuated withÂ multiple climaxes as it fluctuates between a whisper and a scream. AÂ brilliant use of dynamics that accentuates the plaintive and evocative
lyrics. By the end though, both the band and Reed are cranking it out toÂ the point where you feel like they might derail from the emotion of itÂ all. The lyrics also follow a dynamic range of their own starting offÂ as almost a love affair and devolving into more sinister waters as theyÂ become more stark and mournful as time goes on. And I love it that it’sÂ so long. I’m a sucker for long songs that take me on an emotionalÂ journey and “Heroin” delivers. I try to do the sameÂ inÂ my songs.Â Good examples of this would be “Edge of the World” and “SweetÂ Addiction,” which clock in at a healthy seven and 10 minutesÂ respectively, My favorite, favorite version of “Heroin” is off the liveÂ album Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal.
4) “This is the Sea” by The Waterboys
I usually write on acoustic guitar, played all the acoustic tracks onÂ the EP, and usually play acoustic live, especially when I’m playing soloÂ shows, so I love the acoustic, 12-string strumming away on this cut.Â 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 andÂ is a source of inspiration. Three of the tracks on my EP employ someÂ type of water imagery, especially the track that I did the new videoÂ for, “Oceans II.” But back to “This is the Sea,” which is just anÂ amazing song in my opinion. The marriage of the lyrics, melody, andÂ music is magical and the emotion that Mike Scott conveys through it allÂ tugs at my heart. The lyrics dealing with disappointment and trying toÂ move on really speak to me, a theme I also try to address in my songs.Â This is another song that employs great dynamics that bring out Scott’sÂ mournful and poetic lyrics as it ebbs and flows like the water he soÂ passionately sings about. For me, songwriting is all about passion andÂ 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.Â 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 writingÂ and things do, for better or worse, tend toward the dramatic. AÂ 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 wasÂ a tough assignment.Â So many great bands, so many great songs, so manyÂ great songwriters. It was hard to choose, but these songs haveÂ definitely influenced me when it comes to songwriting.
Check out Vince Grant’s video for “Oceans II” here: