Illustration by Corrinne James.

Singer Common Holly is just getting started. “If After All,” the first single from her upcoming album, Playing House, has gotten rave reviews. Common Holly is on tour this month in Canada and will release Playing House on September 4. In honor of that milestone, we asked her to send us the songs that shaped her.

1. “Rabid Bits of Time” by Chad Vangaalen

This is one of the first of Chad Vangaalen’s songs that I encountered, which I subsequently recorded in my cousin Ken’s basement in London, Ontario (my introduction to the studio). After that, I declared Chad to be my number one inspiration and I have religiously followed his mishmash of beautiful, odd mysteries ever since.

2. “Flo Me La” by Nina Simone

A friend put this on in the car on a road trip years ago, and I was entranced. Something about the percussionist’s odd relationship to time, the tempestuous motion of the keys, and Nina, with her spiritual bellowing endlessly into the night in this perfect live performance.

3. “Plantasia” by Mort Garson

This weirdo record from 1976 is the soundtrack to my universe.

4. “Gottingen” by Barbara

My father is from Paris and so my family spent a lot of summers visiting the grandparents in France in the early days. Among many of the French artists I was exposed to, I found a particular affinity for Barbara. This song is about peace and forgiveness. Written in the 60’s in France, it extends a hand toward the children of Germany, with a forgiveness for the violence of their ancestors in the second world war.

5. “Girl From the North Country” by Bob Dylan

Someone I loved used to play this song for me. A few years after our time together had ended, I was on a six-week long hiking trip in Spain, and on my birthday I went to check my e-mails and saw that I had received a recording of it from him.

6. “Farewell, Angelina” by Joan Baez

When I started to play music, my grandfather used to always say, “I don’t know much about music, but I love Joan Baez. Do you know Joan Baez?” And I didn’t then, but when he passed away I took the opportunity to discover her songs, and this one (by Bob Dylan), I learned for him.

7. “Faust Arp” by Radiohead

My brother and I went to our first Radiohead concert for their In Rainbows tour at Parc Jean-Drapeau, a park on an island off of Montreal. That night it poured, and everyone was in their rain ponchos. But after the rain we had rainbows. And in Montreal, in the summers we have fireworks on Saturday nights, so we had rainbows and fireworks.

8. “Sea of Limbs” by Mal Devisa

I discovered Mal Devisa at Otis Mountain Fest (Elizabethtown, NY) a couple of summers ago. I can say confidently that it was the most inspiring performance I have ever seen. One young woman and her bass, absolute raw power. Her lyrics are fluid, confessional, her voice reminiscent of Nina Simone if she was a modern-day punk. The whole record, Kiid, had me in tears at least the first eight times I listened to it. I think Mal Devisa taught me the dynamic versatility of music in the power of her silence and her fearless emotional vocal range.

9. “Weed” by Porches

This is some of the best songwriting of our generation. One time after a Porches show in Montreal I went up to songwriter Aaron Maine, and after we chatted for a second, I told him that I perform a cover of “Weed” and he laughed and said, “That’s an old song.”

10. “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne

When I was in my puberty years, I used to wear armbands like Avril Lavigne. I might have been her number one fan, but also I feel like everyone that ever loved Avril feels that way. She was just a seriously awesome sixteen-year old that really knew how to rock out. ♦