J Roddy Walston and the Business: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

J Roddy Walston and the Business: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

J Roddy Walston and the Business is out with their fourth studio album, Destroyers of the Soft Life, Friday and it’s a really good time. We know summer is over and all, but we encourage you to blast this with the windows down all the same on some Indian Summer day melting into fall.

Before the album’s release, TIDAL spoke to Walston himself about some records that shaped how he hears and makes music.

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Nirvana, Nevermind

I remember my brother came home with that tape and put it on and within the second it started playing. It was terrifying and sounded just really disturbing to me and dark. I think I was in fifth grade. We just kept turning it up, and by the time we got to the second song, I was like, ‘You’re going to get in so much trouble for having this.’

I wasn’t able to really process what the guy was saying or what the music was about; I just knew it wasn’t something that we should be listening to. Then it ended and we were like, ‘We’re starting this over again.’

I’ve listened to and loved a lot of music before that, but that was probably the first album that made me feel like we were doing something wrong — but I liked it.

Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti 

I was just casually walking along, thinking I understood what I thought about music, and then a co-worker [at an architecture firm where I built models] turned on this album. There was a big stereo in the middle of the room and people came in and stacked up their CDs. [Physical Graffiti] opened up my ears to hear [funk] in a new way. It was the most funky, sexy music possible, but just really fast and really loud.

It sparked a fire inside me and sent me down a whole thing where I was just obsessing over other funkier music that I probably never would have thought about listening to had I not gotten into Physical Graffiti. I also processed it like, ‘Well, what if I turned up this funky bass part and played it faster and louder?’

Randy Newman, Sail Away 

Randy Newman was someone who I had had a casual experience of seeing on re-runs of Saturday Night Live doing ‘I Love L.A.’ or ‘Short People’ or something — being like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is interesting — this character sitting in front of a sort of rocking band doing a funny song.’ That was what I thought of Randy Newman.

I had gone through a kind of Dylan-y phase and was looking for something else to scratch that itch. A buddy of mine who turned me on to a lot of great music said, ‘Hey, I think you’d really dig this record.’ That kind of sent me down the rabbit hole and I finally landed on Sail Away.

Between that and Good Old Boys, I was like, ‘How’s this guy out in L.A. nailing the complexity of being a person in the South? How had he crawled inside these characters so well and sort of distilled one hundred years of American experience down to one song or one chorus?’

Randy Newman became a guiding light for me, and that record set me loose or set me free — you should say what you need to say in a song even if there’s going to be consequences. Even if someone mistakes you for the character and then therefore thinks you’re a monster.

Big Star, #1 Record 

We had just met this band on tour, and at the end of the set, they played this song and it just blew my hair back. After the set, I was like, ‘That last song was incredible!’ And I just kept going on and on and they were like, ‘That wasn’t our song. It was a cover by Big Star.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that was embarrassing. Let me run right out and get this record.’

Big Star does it all and does it in an amazing way. The ballads are soul-crushing. The rocking songs are the blueprint for power pop. The lyrics are great; the vocals are great. The playing is great. They were a perfect band and that was a perfect record.

Radiohead, OK Computer 

I remember the first single coming out and being like, ‘Oh, I dunno, that’s pretty weird.’ And then some buddies of mine went and saw them play and they had a complete mind-melting, revolutionary experience: ‘Music is like this now.’

I didn’t get to see them on that tour because I hadn’t given the record a chance yet. I was 16 or something, so I was an idiot. I then dug into the record. Here’s a band taking all the things that are going on in the world and the music and synthesizing it together and creating something new. It was the first record I sat and said, ‘What were they thinking when they did this?’

That record was the one that made me think, ‘Bands aren’t just four guys with guitars — this is a collective of people making art together.’

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