St. Vincent shares the soundtrack of her life
From John Coltrane to Kendrick Lamar, the artists and albums that shaped the life of the guitar virtuoso and Record Store Day 2017 ambassador.
Independent music retailers will celebrate Record Store Day for the 10th consecutive year on April 22 by offering limited-edition releases and in-store events. The event’s organizers typically choose an ambassador to drum up excitement — previous designees include Dave Grohl, Jack White, and Chuck D — and for 2017, they tapped Annie Clark, the singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso better known as St. Vincent.
“I’ve been involved in Record Store Day in the past,” Clark tells EW, recalling her participation in a 2015 RSD-affiliated talk with members of the B-52s in Brooklyn. “I got asked to be the ambassador and accepted the challenge.”
To promote the event, Clark filmed a side-splitting Funny or Die clip where she played a “gullible simp” who hires “a fancy elocution coach and Qaddafi stylist” upon mishearing that she has been named the ambassador to Recorstorda— and only learns of her mistake upon marching into a music shop on Record Store Day. (In real life, Clark says that from a 2017 slate of special releases by artists including David Bowie, Prince, and The Smiths, she’s most excited about a 12″ reissue of Air’s 1997 songs “Le soleil est pres de moi” and “J’ai dormi sous l’eau.”)
As St. Vincent, Clark has earned renown for deftly fusing genres spanning classical, kraut-rock, power-pop, and more. Ahead of Record Store Day, she connected with EW to break down her personal and musical touchstones, from John Coltrane to Kendrick Lamar.
And regarding the follow-up to EW’s 2014 album of the year, St. Vincent? “It’ll come out this year,” she confirms.
Read on for the soundtrack of Clark’s life.
THE SONG THAT REMINDS ME OF HOME: “Amarillo by Morning,” George Strait
When you say home, I’m thinking of Texas — that’s what I consider home. I used to hear “Amarillo by Morning” by George Strait a lot growing up; it’s a classic country song.
THE FIRST ALBUM I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY: I Am an Elastic Firecracker, Tripping Daisy
I had been a fan since their first record, Bill, which was getting local radio play [in Dallas]. And then with their next record [Elastic], they started getting nationwide radio with the single “I Got a Girl.” A fun fact is that I ended up playing in the Polyphonic Spree, which was members of Tripping Daisy re-formed into an acid-gospel choir.
THE SONG THAT INSPIRED ME TO PLAY GUITAR: “All Along the Watchtower,” Jimi Hendrix
I was in the sixth grade when Forrest Gump came out, and I remember hearing Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” in it. A friend’s dad showed me his ’60s white Fender Stratocaster, like the one Jimi played, and taught me a couple [riffs] from [the song]. I was totally hooked. I was already obsessed with music at that point and I just wanted to be Kurt Cobain. But after that brush with the Stratocaster, I begged my parents to buy me an electric guitar.
THE CONCERT THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Sufjan Stevens, Kings Theatre, 2015
Sufjan Stevens playing his beautiful, heartbreaking record Carrie & Lowell at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre [in 2015]. I’ve cried many times at concerts — you know, you get emotional — but I started crying and then it passed the point of being able to control the crying. It’s one thing to stoically shed a single tear. It’s another thing to reach a place that’s so deep and fundamental that you feel like you could cry forever.
THE CONCERT I’D SEE IF I HAD A TIME MACHINE: John Coltrane, New York City, 1965
I would’ve loved to have seen John Coltrane around the period of [1965’s] A Love Supreme at a smoky club in New York.
THE RECORD I’D SAVE IN A FIRE: Evening Star, Fripp & Eno
I’m not a vinyl collector in the sense of having really, really expensive [records]. So, what’s a record that I spin more than anything? Evening Star, by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno.
MY MOST PRIZED VINYL RARITY: You’re the Guy I Want to Share My Money With, Laurie Anderson, John Giorno, and William S. Burroughs
My favorite part about vinyl is picking something based on the cover because people are dressed like spacemen or something. And then the discovery. This one, the combination of these three people, embodies New York City at a certain time.
MY FAVORITE POP STAR: Madonna
I was a conscious person in the late ’80s. And I loved Madonna from that period and the early ’90s. It was pre-internet, when you had to immerse yourself in a culture in order to appropriate it and bring it to the masses. I remember seeing the videos [from 1992’s Erotica] and finding them supersexy — before you know what sex is. I liked her BDSM phase.
MY FAVORITE RAPPER: Kendrick Lamar
Every generation, if they’re lucky, has one of those people who’s a visionary and says something so meaningful. Kendrick Lamar is that dude.
THE ALBUM THAT TRANSPORTS ME TO ANOTHER WORLD: Low, David Bowie
I want music that takes me someplace else, like the second half of Low. Stuff that reminds you of things that matter, instead of pure escapism. It just floors me.