The Killers frontman on the songs and albums that shaped him

By Ray Rahman
August 24, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Nearly a decade after establishing himself as one of rock’s vital voices, the Killers’ Brandon Flowers, 31, is set to deliver another set of snowcapped, arena-pleasing anthems on his band’s fourth album, Battle Born, out Sept. 18. In the meantime, the Nevada native — who lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Tana, and their three sons, ages 17 months to 5 years — sat down with us to talk about the songs that have made him sing, cry, and even sell tacos.

The first song I was obsessed with
”Missing You” John Waite (1984)
”I knew the words probably from when I was 3 years old. For whatever reason, that was the song that I gravitated toward when it was on the radio and I was driving around with my mom. It must’ve been played a lot. [Laughs]”

The song that always reminds me of home
”Peaceful Easy Feeling” Eagles (1972)
”I spent some time in Utah, so that’s why I have a bit of an accent, but I consider home to be Henderson [Nevada] and Las Vegas. I love the desert, so there are a few people for me who’ve captured that specific area, like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac and even Jackson Browne sometimes. I’ll hear that stuff and I’m just there. But if I had to say one specifically, it’d be this one. I hear it and it’s like — I don’t know, I can just see the sun going down in Las Vegas.”

The song that makes me think of my first crush
”What’s Love Got to Do With It” Tina Turner (1984)
”But my crush was on Tina Turner. [Laughs] That’s bad, right? I think it was the video.”

The first album I bought with my own money
Songs of Faith and Devotion Depeche Mode (1993)
”My mom had bought me a few cassettes, but I got a job at a place called Taco Time in Nephi, Utah. I worked there with my mom, and two of my sisters worked there too. So I was 15, and usually to buy music you had to go to Provo, which is an hour drive, but we had a truck stop. Basically Nephi was like a truck stop, it was such a small town. I was a fan of the kind of bubblegum, early-early Depeche Mode. And I didn’t know exactly how dark that they could delve, and I didn’t know that I would like it. But I bought it for I think $5 on cassette at Flying J. And it’s one of my favorite things, still. Later, we even got to work with Flood [a.k.a. Mark Ellis], who produced Songs, on our album Sam’s Town.”

The song that changed my life
”Just What I Needed” The Cars (1978)
”There are probably so many, but I go back to Nephi again, because you’re so influenced when you’re 12 or 13. I mean, there wasn’t even a stoplight in this town. But that song was just so cool to me. It made that town more tolerable, and it made that town cooler, and it didn’t matter.”

The first song I ever sang in public
”Don’t Look Back in Anger” Oasis (1996)
”I worked at a French restaurant in Las Vegas — it was in the Aladdin Hotel and Casino, and now it’s called Planet Hollywood — and we had a Christmas party at a Thai restaurant, and they had karaoke set up. That was actually the only time I’ve ever done karaoke.”

The song I like to sing to my kids
”The Cowboy’s Christmas Ball” The Killers (2011)
”We sing theme songs from shows that they watch: Mighty Machines, Curious George. But the Killers do a Christmas song every year for the RED Campaign for Bono, and this last one was called ‘The Cowboy’s Christmas Ball.’ They love singing that. It’s got this really strange old language — it’s from an old cowboy poem. So it’s funny hearing the kids sing all these weird words. And if we’re in the car, if the Beatles come on, I try to explain [the songs] to them, let them know that this is more important than other things. Or, like, ‘This is Elvis, this is the King.”’

The song that makes me cry
”This Woman’s Work” Kate Bush (1988)
”It just affects me, man. It was in [the 1988 John Hughes movie] She’s Having a Baby when I was little, and even then I knew, like, I really like this song. And now that I’m older, it just sticks with me. It’s perfect.”

The song I wish I had written
”Up the Junction” Squeeze (1979)
”What’s the big Squeeze song? ‘Pulling Mussels’? ‘Cool for Cats’? No, no — there’s another one…[checks iPhone] ‘Tempted’! [Sings] ‘Tempted by the fruit of another…’ So I had only known that, and I knew that [legendary U.K. radio host] Jools Holland was in the band. But I got satellite radio in my car, and I was like, ‘How the hell do I not know this?’ This was recently!”

The song I love to play live
”When You Were Young” The Killers (2006)
”We’re all proud of our first record, and some of those songs go down crazy great. But there’s something about this one that I think…it’s unreal that we were able to do it again. And I still have that thrill about that song. Because there was a lot of pressure on us, and I get that validation every time that we play it.”

The song I’ll always use my quarters on at the bar jukebox
”Suspicious Minds” Elvis Presley (1969)
”It makes me think of Las Vegas, and that’s never a bad thing for me.”

The album people might not expect me to love
Punk in Drublic NOFX (1994)
”I liked this when I was 14. I never quite fit into that [punk] category or corner or whatever it is, but I appreciate that craft.”

The song I most want to be remembered for
”A Dustland Fairytale” The Killers (2008)
”Musically and lyrically, I think it’s pretty imaginative. I’m happy with it.”

The song I want played at my funeral
”God Be With You Till We Meet Again” (Traditional)
”I don’t know if I have a witty answer for this one. There’s a common Mormon song — I don’t know if it’s Mormon, but it’s a hymn that Mormons play. There’s an optimism in it, and I love it. I don’t believe that when we die, that’s it.”

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