What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
This is a hard thing to for me to decide. Being a music fan from early childhood, trying to pinpoint the one recording that really changed my life is almost impossible, but I'm going to have to go with Big Star 3rd. I had just moved to Oxford, MS in 1988, and it was a very inspiring time for me as a musician. It seemed I discovered something new daily that blew my mind. Oxford at that time was really happening with all the great writers and blues musicians in north Mississippi and Memphis. A friend turned me onto that record one afternoon and it absolutely blew my mind.
I had never heard anything so beautiful, sad, weird, ethereal, and raw. The more I listened the more I became obsessed with it. I literally listened to that album every day, which didn't do wonders for my angst ridden, early-20s, mental state! However, it opened up my mind to the idea that, with songwriting, the sky is the limit. It was okay to REALLY show my insides—the inner turmoil, hopelessness, anger, sadness, or whatever emotion I was going through at the time. I related to that record. Jim Dickinson's production was so weird and unlike anything I had ever heard. It molded me as a songwriter to this day, I believe.
Alex Chilton was coming down from Memphis a lot to play in Oxford around that time, sometimes with Tav Falco and The Panther Burns and sometimes with his own band. The band consisted of some of the best musicians anywhere: Jim Spake on sax, Doug Garrison on drums, just to name a few. I was terrified of Alex, at first, but he really took to my twin brother, John, and I. He was so nice, encouraging, and gracious. We came home from a road trip once with our band, The Hilltops, and found him sitting in our living room after one of his shows in Oxford. Talk about a thrill. Watching those shows was like going to the best music school there was!
Laurie Stirratt plays bass in Blue Mountain, one of the best bands in this or any other country. Formed in Mississippi and immersed in the same regional culture that informed the work of writers such as Larry Brown and Barry Hannah, Blue Mountain plays a rootsy mix of rock, country, and blues that never goes out of style. For their current tour, Stirratt and Cary Hudson (her ex-husband and Blue Mountain co-founder) have teamed with Marah's David Bielanko and Christine Smith to play meterial from both bands, including a bunch of new songs. Tomorrow night's show at Windup Space promises to be a free-wheeling and memorable evening. Doors open at 9 pm. The Blue Mountain/Marah combo also appears tonight, at IOTA, in Arlington, Virginia. And if you're not familiar with Blue Mountain, but a bassist named Stirratt definitely rings a bell, you're thinking of Laurie's twin brother, John, who's in Wilco.