Gimme 5! T.E. Yates Shares 5 Albums He Listened To During His Most Prolific Phase As A Songwriter

With ‘Gimme 5!’ we take a peek into the collections of artists we admire. The premise is simple: artists WE like share five records THEY love.

Thomas Edward Yates aka T.E. Yates is a gifted multi-disciplinary artist – singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, illustrator, animator – based in Bristol (UK). After a single in 2012 and an EP in 2013, he released his debut full-length Silver Coins and White Feathers (Debt Records) in 2017, followed by the EP Strange Weather (self-released, self-designed) late last year, with six songs from the same recording sessions. It’s richly orchestrated indie folk, with a well-thought-out structure and beautiful, sincere vocals. The video for Condition showcases Yates’ qualities as musician and creator, but Palace of Your Master is his personal favorite (for me Jack of All Trades is the track that stands out – just saying).

Given his versatility, we wondered what Tom’s influences are. He was kind enough to provide his response in some interesting stories.

T.E. Yates:

“The majority of my songs were written between around 2009-12, so I’ve decided to cast my mind back to some of the albums I was listening to a lot over this time period. Whilst this list certainly isn’t exhaustive – and I always struggle to whittle down my listening into a concise list – hopefully it provides a window into some of the music which I listened to a lot whilst writing these songs and, by extension, into some of the influences behind them.”

1. Neil Young || On the Beach
“I’d already been listening to singer-songwriters who emerged during the same era like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Tim Buckley before I came across Neil Young for the first time. I recall listening to albums such as Neil Young, Harvest, Harvest Moon and After the Gold Rush a lot – as well as the three Buffalo Springfield albums.

In around 2010-11, Stephen Ballinger (once of The Travelling Band) asked me to perform some of my songs at Trof in Fallowfield, Manchester (which has since changed hands twice). Before I went on stage, I remember Stevie putting a record on the decks – it was Walk On, the opening track from Neil Young’s 1974 album On the Beach. I instantly recognized that it was Neil Young but I’d never heard it before and I loved it immediately, so I asked Stevie what the song was and which album this was from.

I subsequently listened to On the Beach a lot. I love everything about this album – it’s a real journey and a compelling listen. The combination of pedal steel guitar and Wurlitzer electric piano on See the Sky About to Rain is wonderful and one I certainly don’t hear very often – one of many highlights for me on this fantastic album.”

2. John Cale || Vintage Violence

“I listened to John Cale’s 1970 debut solo album Vintage Violence a lot during this phase. I had the songs Gideon’s Bible and Ghost Story practically on repeat at times (it’s worth listening to just for these two songs even if the rest aren’t to your taste). In my view, it’s a masterpiece of an album but it doesn’t seem to be praised anywhere near as much as Cale’s work with The Velvet Underground (whose entire back catalogue of studio albums I listened to intensively before hearing Cale’s solo albums for the first time).

I recall reading somewhere that Cale’s albums were considered too experimental to be pop, yet too pop to be considered experimental – though unfortunately this is a reference I’ve been unable to relocate. However, I think this statement sums it up pretty well. This is something I love about The Beatles too, particularly from the mid-phase onwards – an ability to write timeless pop songs whilst also experimenting fearlessly, leading to pioneering results.

Vintage Violence is a beautifully crafted album, combining a melting pot of influences with outstanding musicianship and top-notch production throughout. Given Cale had just turned 28 at the time of this album’s release, the songwriting is precocious. A real joy of an album, in my opinion – and very much underrated amongst contemporaries.”

3. Calexico and Iron & Wine || In the Reins

“At that time, I was hanging out a lot with Louis Barabbas and Matthew Cleghorn of Louis Barabbas & The Bedlam Six (I was also one of the first signings to Louis’ label Debt Records, which called it a day as a label shortly after the release of my first LP in 2017 – the label’s final release). It was through spending time with Louis and Cleg that I started listening to Iron & Wine more often – though I’d first encountered Iron & Wine via listening to Sam Beam’s then-label-mates on Sub Pop The Shins, a hell of a lot, a few years beforehand. My friend and Victorian Dad bandmate (the band’s frontman and songwriter) David Rybka was really into Calexico, thus I’d heard Calexico a lot when I was in Dave’s company. So I was enthused to discover the first collaborative effort between the two artists via the 2005 EP In the Reins.

I listened to this EP a great deal over this time. I went to see Iron & Wine, with an expanded setup encompassing some musicians who were also regular features of Calexico (I remember Paul Niehaus on pedal steel) at Manchester Academy 2 in 2007 on The Shepherd’s Dog tour and I was spellbound. I was still listening to both Iron & Wine and Calexico a lot come 2009-11 and this EP was particularly magical for me. The instrumentation and setup from this live show and from this EP would be both influential and inspirational to me for my own music.”

4. Old Crow Medicine Show || Old Crow Medicine Show

“As with Iron & Wine, it was through hanging around with Louis and Cleg that I first heard Old Crow Medicine Show – and I listened to the eponymous OCMS album a lot during this time. I was running a regular night of live music at Big Hands in Manchester together with David Rybka at the time and I recall an occasion in 2009 – I played Wagon Wheel, the closing track from this album, whilst DJing after the last band’s set had ended. A guy came over to me and said “Hey! I played guitar on this song!” He introduced himself as Todd and we had a very friendly conversation, although I’d had a few pints by that point, as was customary for me in Big Hands those days, to put it mildly. It only properly dawned on me the following morning, during the inevitable hangover, that I’d met David Rawlings.

I’d probably appreciate this even more nowadays if I were to ever meet him again as he is a musician that I have a huge amount of respect for. They say that you should never meet your heroes but, even as someone who can particularly struggle with situations like this, I can happily say that David Rawlings is a really lovely bloke.

Since moving to Bristol four years ago, in addition to continuing with my own music, I’ve been learning and performing a lot of old-time music. Old Crow Medicine Show and this album were definitely a gateway into old-time string band music for me.”

5. Radiohead || In Rainbows

“After hearing In Rainbows for the first time after release in 2007, it immediately became one of my favourite albums and one which I listened to heavily over the next two or three years. I went to see Radiohead live for the first time at Old Trafford cricket ground during the In Rainbows tour in 2008 and I was really blown away. I recall that MGMT, whose debut album Oracular Spectacular I also listened to a lot – which, to my ears at least, is a sort of modern take on Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd – and Bat for Lashes were also on the bill.

Reckoner was the track which had the biggest impact on me initially – although there are plenty of splendid numbers throughout this astonishing album.

As I’ve touched upon when discussing John Cale, I warm to songwriters and bands who go on a bit of a journey. Radiohead are certainly a great example of this as their sound continues to evolve from album to album – you can definitely hear this progression and evolution in artists like Radiohead, The Beatles, Tim Buckley and David Bowie, as some prominent examples.”

“I’ve gone back and listened to all these albums and it’s been a very pleasant trip inside a time machine to what were happy days and, so far at least, my most productive and prolific phase as a songwriter. I hope that you enjoy listening to these albums as much as I did then (and again now) and that these might offer some inspiration to you too, as they did with me back then.”

T.E. Yates will perform at this year’s Glastonbury Festival on Thursday 23rd June (Small World Solar Stage, 1:15 pm), Friday 24th June (The Bandstand, 12:30 pm), and Saturday 25th June (The Bimble Inn, 1:30 pm). His Strange Weather EP is out digitally and on CD.

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