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'Vampire Diaries' star Michael Malarkey shares his musical influences

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Michael Malarkey is best known for his role as Enzo on The CW’s hit show The Vampire Diaries, but the actor isn’t always causing trouble in Mystic Falls. In anticipation of Malarkey’s EP release, Feed the Flames, on Oct. 12—not to mention Enzo’s return on tonight’s TVD—he put together an exclusive playlist for us using Rdio.

The playlist is compiled of the songs that have inspired his songwriting. As Malarkey puts it, “This music is for active listening. Preferably while driving across the country in a beat up Oldsmobile. Or on a Greyhound bus watching the ghost towns flicker by through the misty window. Or maybe just sitting in your den with your eyes closed and a stick of Nag Champa burning…”

Check out the playlist below, along with his reasoning for each pick.

Dr. Dog — “The Breeze”

“These midwestern boys seamlessly toe the line between indie folk rock and that Beatles/Beach Boy 60’s sound. This is the first track off their album Fate and it’s so good that you think the rest of the album couldn’t possibly follow suit … but it does. The harmonies are pure class and these are the kind of effortless lyrics that make me want to reach for a pen.”

Bob Dylan — “One Too Many Mornings”

“This is classic, laid-back-troubadour Dylan. I live for these kind of tracks. The mixture of the feelings of longing, melancholy, and hope are right on point with a lot of the stuff I write. I also just love the lo-fi sound of the recording; it feels like you’re in the room with him. Most of the stuff I recorded before Feed The Flames was all done straight into the laptop mic and it took me awhile to be able to appreciate the sound of good production as I’d grown so accustomed to that ‘basement’ sound.”

Tom Waits — “Tango Til They’re Sore”

“Tom Waits is actually the reason why I started writing my own music, specifically when I heard his album, Rain Dogs. The imagery in this song is twisted and the overall vibe has that signature barroom cacophony of this second-phase of his career. What I love about Tom is his relentless propensity for continuously carving out his own path in an industry full of mimicry. As much as you can hear his influences from Howlin’ Wolf to Kurt Weil on this album, his sound is unmistakably his own.”

Bright Eyes — “Lua”

“In my opinion, Conor Oberst is one of our generations greatest lyricists. I’ve been listening to him ever since he released Fevers & Mirrors which is one of my favorite records. His delivery is so intimate and and the imagery in his songs are intelligent and clever. This is one of those songs that inspires me to want to pick up my guitar, throw a couple chords together and see what happens … and other days it makes me just want to throw my guitar out along with the towel.”

Elvis Presley — “Love Me”

“I actually played Elvis in the Original London Company of Million Dollar Quartet. It was a big budget rock ‘n roll musical where we all played and sang live (no backing tracks or pits like most other musicals). While I was on the show, I appropriately delved into Gospel, Blues and Country which also positively affected my songwriting. After Million Dollar Quartet closed I took it upon myself to try to start playing live again. I love all of his stuff with The Jordanaires.”

Devendra Banhardt — “Little Yellow Spider”

“I can’t remember who played me this for the first time but I remember being pretty buzzed at a late night lock-in at a pub in London and being blown away but it’s freak-folk vibe. I remember it kind of reminded me of Vashti Bunyan. His stuff can be a bit far-fetched and fragmented at times but when he gets it right, he hits gold like he does with this tune.”

The National — “Slipped”

“I remember seeing The National open for Magnolia Electric Co. in Ohio about 10 years ago. They were touring Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers and I immediately was taken by the moody broody honesty of their show and bought their album. I’ve been following them ever since. This track is off their latest album and it’s The National at the top of their game. I’ve always loved his understated and poignant delivery.”

Iron & Wine — “Each Coming Night”

“Everything on this album has the sensibility of being written in a dim-lit study with a family upstairs sleeping. It’s quiet, sensitive and intelligent. This is kind of his version of Springsteen’s Nebraska but in the vein of domesticity. Many of my songs are also finger-picked and are quite similar in tone.”

Ryan Adams — “Call Me On Your Way Back Home”

“This reminds me of driving through the back roads of cornfields in Ohio in the summer nights with the windows down. I’m a sucker for a simple acoustic track that sounds good … especially with a cornfield backdrop.”

Gillian Welch — “Everything Is Free”

“Gillian is the real deal as far as bluegrass and mountain music goes. I first heard her and Allison Krauss on the O, Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, which was my first brush with the genre. It’s of those rare times when a film and a soundtrack meld together seamlessly and create an iconic statement of time and place. I find myself continually taking my hat off to the Coen Brothers for always getting this right. I actually reference this song on my EP in my little folk ditty ‘Lost & Sound.'”

Jeff Buckley — “If You Knew” (Live)

“Jeff Buckley is the master of covering a song and making it his own (‘Hallelujah,’ ‘Lilac Wine’—the list goes on). This one is a Nina Simone song from Live at Sin-é and his rendition of it will literally send chills up your spine. I highly recommend this entire album for an insight into how special it must have been to see this legend play live solo.”

Avett Brothers — “The Weight of Lies”

“These guys are huge now, but their album, Emotionalism, is their best in my books. I love the production. It sounds like they were all sitting around in a circle in a barn or something. The whole album is fantastic and this is one of my standout tracks. Great lyrics, harmonies and a catchy chorus.”

Elliott Smith — “Angeles”

“Melancholy is often misunderstood in music. It isn’t necessarily synonymous with sadness, as people often presume, but perhaps it is more something to do with a connection that artists have to the deepest parts of the human psyche that cannot be ignored once they have been explored. Elliott Smith was very familiar with this territory.”

My Morning Jacket — “They Ran”

“This is one of my favorite tracks off of The Tennessee Fire, the album that first made me take notice of these guys. Jim James has the most ethereal and haunting voice and this era of their career boasts a lo-fi country sound that I adore. I saw them for the first time just before It Still Moves came out, which was the album that really launched them into the mainstream, and Jim was wearing a top hat and this suit jacket that had a fake parrot sewed onto the shoulder.”

John Martyn — “Fairytale Lullaby”

“This is straight up trippy hippie s–t, but I’m a hippie at heart so we’re all good. This actually inspired a song called ‘Magpie Nightcar’ that I wrote a few years back—very dense and kooky lyrics, bridging on transcendental. Hippie s–t. Maybe I’ll share it with you one day.”

OCMS — “We’re All In This Thing Together”

“These guys kick ass. What I love about this track is that it calls life out on its hollowness but the sense of unity and hope shines through. So sing-along-able.”

Modest Mouse — “Lives”

“I’m a huge fan of music that is slightly messy around the edges and that’s part of what I love about early Modest Mouse. They were one of my favorite bands growing up. They always had the most clever lyrics, the kind you’d write on your bedroom wall. In this one we have ‘If I had a nickel for every damn dime I’d have half the time.’ Love it. Can they release a new album already?”

Nick Cave & TBS — “The Ship Song”

“Nick Cave is one of our last living music legends (along with Waits) and is a huge inspiration to my songwriting whether I’m aware of it or not. It was difficult for me to choose only one track of his as I could easily make a playlist of only his songs. Unfortunately, I still have yet to see him live. I never seem to be in the right city at the right time. Maybe one day I’ll get lucky. Anyways, this seemed to be an appropriate closing track for the playlist. You’ll be humming in your head all day and you’ll thank me for it.”