The Mynabirds: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

The Mynabirds: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

While the rest of the country in turn freaked out and celebrated in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, Laura Burhenn (a.k.a. the Mynabirds) got to work on her next record, Be Here Now. The album features nine songs dealing with everything from Standing Rock to the Muslim travel ban, functioning as what Burhenn calls a form of “emotional journalism.”

“It’s so tricky because you think, ‘Oh, well, everyone’s going to go write a political record,” Burhenn tells TIDAL. “Everybody’s talking about it. What else is there to say?’ For me, I tried to do something I’ve been calling emotional journalism. I thought of each song as a color in a spectrum of a rainbow and tried to sit with each feeling as it came.” 

In the wake of the album’s release, Burhenn stopped by TIDAL HQ to talk about a few records that brought her to this point in her career.

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Tori Amos, Under the Pink

I grew up in a religious atmosphere, playing piano, singing and felt really disillusioned by that whole world. So when I heard that record for the first time — someone passed me the cassette tape in a drama club or something — I remember thinking that it was wild. What she was singing about was the most punk rock thing I had ever heard and the fact that she also had this background in classical music but that she had gotten kicked out of music school because she played by ear and didn’t read music. I thought, ‘Here’s this role model.’

I grew up around D.C., so punk was kind of my world. So to see someone who looked very much like a pop star doing it in this witchy way that was rooted in classical music… it was taking the system and turning it on its head.

I’ve gotten to meet her a couple of times. When I first met her, I was on tour in South Africa and she was also on tour. Backstage, I couldn’t believe it, my fifteen-year-old self was meeting Tori Amos. She was so kind. I met her again backstage at the Greek Theatre in L.A., and when I was leaving, she put her hand over heart and said, ‘Stay in touch. We’re sisters.’ I just died. Every part of my inner-child exploded.

PJ Harvey, Rid of Me 

I remember turning on 120 Minutes and hearing ‘Man-Size’ and, again, someone passed me this PJ Harvey record. And I thought, ‘Who is this amazing woman?’ Totally punk rock. Not in the way that I would think of it, in the style of the music, but she had these incredible feminist expressions — speaking out against the establishment, claiming her own femininity. I love the song ‘50ft Queenie’ and not buying that 7” when I saw it in the record shop is still one of my greatest regrets.

Nina Simone, The Essential Nina Simone

I was handed a best-of record of Nina Simone when I had just started writing my own songs [at] 14 or 15. I remember I put on the record and I thought, ‘Oh, someone gave me the wrong record. This is a man.’ I sat with it and I was overwhelmed by her voice. I loved how she spoke truth to power through her music.

David Bowie, Hunky Dory 

It’s my favorite. I feel like it’s such a weird record; it’s such a weird collection of songs. He went on to do really left-of-center pop music, straight-ahead pop, so many things in his lifetime — it’s incredible. But that one feels like a songbook. It’s like the David Bowie Songbook.

I love Bowie. I was crushed last year [when he died]. We were all crushed. The day he died, I had flown back to Omaha and this beloved restaurant downtown had caught on fire and burned down. They fought the fire all night long — it was sub-zero temperatures. And then the next day, there was this shell of this building covered in the most beautiful icicles. Just charred out. And I thought, ‘Well, this feels appropriate.’

Leonard Cohen, The Best of Leonard Cohen 

I feel like he was the master of using the fewest words and saying the most. He wrote in this kind of Zen, haiku way. Truly masterful use of language. I always loved the fact that it wasn’t about the music; it was about telling a story.

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