Music shapes our identities and changes our lives. It brings back our memories and stirs up our emotions. My Song Stories asks music professionals and indie artists questions about the songs in their libraries. Today, Rhian Jones, a freelance music business journalist, shares the artists and songs that have impacted her life and career.
By Kyle Bylin, author of Song Stories
Describe who you are, what you do, and what music you like.
I’m a freelance music business journalist who lives and works in London. The UK is where I was born (Worthing, specifically), but I’ve lived in various parts of the country and spent a three-year stint in Oman as a child. My favourite bands are No Doubt, Paramore, and The 1975. Amy Winehouse is my No.1 in the singer and songwriter stakes, and I have a lot of listening time for Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Lianne La Havas, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Jessie Ware. There’s clearly a strong disposition towards female voices in that list!
What song evokes vivid memories from your teenage years?
Green Day — “Wake Me Up When September Ends”
American Idiot was released when I was 14, so right at the beginning of my teenage years. The album brought Green Day a legion of new fans and I was one of them. A few music snobs in my school were very critical of that since they’d been fans of the band before. It was the first time I became familiar with the concept of a band "selling out"! Nevertheless, I think that whole album and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” in particular is an absolute masterpiece. It was the song that made me want to learn guitar because of the very simple but effective melody it starts with. I looked up the tab on Ultimate Guitar and practiced until perfect.
What song in your library has a personal or deeper meaning?
Amy Winehouse — “Love Is A Losing Game”
I listened to Back to Black a lot during my first teenage break-up and that song is perfect for melancholy wallowing. Myspace was big at the time and I had it pinned to my profile for a while, and directed the guy in question’s attention to the fact. Despite my efforts, my ex-boyfriend did not give me the emotional declaration of lifelong love I wanted, and I spent the next six months totally heartbroken and convinced that love indeed is a losing game. In more recent years, I’ve flirted with the idea of getting the song title tattooed somewhere small in memory of the incredible Amy. Not that I believe in the sentiment anymore, but in my very limited perspective of the path she took, perhaps love, and self-love in particular, really was a losing game for her.
What song influenced your taste in music in a significant way?
No Doubt — “Sunday Morning”
Rock Steady was released when I was eleven and I listened to the album via my older sister. My mind was blown. I went to the CD shop with money earned from my paper-round, bought No Doubt’s entire back catalogue, and found “Sunday Morning” amongst many more gems. The song is melodic and light enough to facilitate a sing and dance-along, but with enough alternative elements, like Gwen’s rockstar tone, the heavier guitar parts, and ska beat, to be considered “alternative.” In bands, it’s that combination of quality lyrics, pop melody, and prominent guitar, bass, and drum parts that I’d continue to be attracted to forevermore.
Describe the strongest experience with music you’ve ever had…
Listening to Amy Winehouse’s first album Frank. The whole album gives me chills and never gets boring. The honest, poetic, and relatable lyrics, unique voice, and jazz accompaniment are what makes it so great. The fact she wrote it before getting embroiled in the business of music and fame makes it even more poignant. She had such a raw untouched talent. It’s exactly what music should be.
How would you describe music's role or importance in your life?
It’s complicated! As a music business journalist, I write a lot about the companies and people behind the monetisation of music, but very little about the music itself. I find the industry fascinating but it can sometimes take the magic out of music for me as a fan. When life gets in the way and I forget how good music makes you feel, it can really affect my mood. However, an incredible song, gig, or album can instantly change that. Some of those reminder moments over the last few years include witnessing The 1975 play a tiny show at Bushmills Festival in Ireland, Lianne La Havas performing Gone at the Mercury Music Prize ceremony, a recent breath-taking gig by Lissie at Omeara London, and the divine voice of Anna Pancaldi.
Kyle Bylin is the author of Song Stories: Music That Shaped Our Identities and Changed Our Lives, a collection of essays about songs that impacted people's lives. Read an excerpt here.