Chad Gosselin is the guitarist and singer from Boston indie rock band The Big Lonesome. The band has toured all up and down the east coast and beyond, released an EP back in 2014 and working on a new record for release this year.
As the title of this feature would indicate, we asked Chad for 5 songs that made a profound impact on him as an artist and writer. What Chad has to say about these influences is far more interesting than me introducing it…so read on friends.
Heart Shaped Box – Nirvana,
So What – Miles Davis
I Still Miss Someone – Johnny Cash
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart – Wilco
Gold Star for Robot Boy – Guided by Voices
RLR: So…this is a pretty varied list and before getting the list back I had an idea that something like Nirvana and J. Cash would come back (as odd as that pairing is). For Nirvana, this is a very common nostaligia, or “first real band”, or moment of rebellion type music for folks our age. What is it for you? Do you still go back to records like Nevermind and In Utero these days? In Utero doesn’t get as much love as Nevermind…a shame.
CG: Heart Shaped Box. So this was it. I remember kids in fourth grade listening to kiss 108 and knowing all the words to whatever saccharine hit was being pushed to us, but I just never cared. I was much more into collecting baseball cards and Nintendo; until I heard fucking Nirvana! I still remember the feeling in my chest from the raw power of a simple detuned guitar riff blasting through a crappy guitar rig. There was emotion in this; something tangible. The words didn’t make sense to me, but I struggled to find a meaning. This was the beginning of me realizing that music can be art, as well as being accessible for its audience.
The thing I love about Heart Shaped Box in particular is the alternate tuning. When I started writing my own songs, I explored drop d, ½ step down, dadgad and a few others before I just started making my own. There is sonic exploration in those that still seems limitless and vast to me. It’s hard to not write a riff or two when you do this.
RLR: In you and your music I see a lot of trying to stretch your musicality and I guess it makes sense that Miles Davis or jazz of some sorts would seep in. When did that come to you? Was it early on or something that developed later? And with Cash, was that a parental influence or older generation influencing or did that come with exploring your own music?
CG: So What. Fast forward a few years. I’m 16 years old, and had discovered the Grateful Dead by now. I was really attracted to modal music, but was really not doing anything of taste with it. I tried out for my high school jazz band because the idea of playing guitar instead of going to my environmental science class sounded infinitely better. As standard fare, we started with some simple jazz tunes. So What is a staple for this stage of musicianship, but I was blown away by this song for several reasons:
1) It’s not necessarily chordal based, but is laid out more horizontally than vertically.
2) its minimalistic in its nature. It does virtually nothing for harmonic movement.
3) Miles in his first trumpet solo sort of hangs on one note, often. This is the first time I really got attracted to a drone quality in music. I really like to get lost in one note being played while other things are changing around it. There’s something about playing something static that builds so much tension in me.
4) This was the first time I became aware of playing “wrong” notes. Going back to Miles’s solo again – during the section in d minor, he solos over e minor for large chunks of it. What a concept! I’m playing wrong notes forever.
CG: I Still Miss Someone– I was in the passenger seat of my old friend Ian’s caddy, (the working one, not the one for parts) traveling down the road and and headed towards Nashville sometime in the early morning. We had been traveling straight from his parent’s home in Western MA and were entering the delusional part of the trip that inevitably happens from spending sixteen hours in a car, with only small stops here and there to refuel on Gatorade, beef jerky, and gas station coffee. We both brought our giant CD wallets (this was 2002, pre-Ipod days), and had exhausted our “top 5s” on each other. I was trying to find something to catch my ear in the early morning and excite me back to a state of semi-conscious. When I got to the back of the book, I came across Johnny Cash’s Live at San Quentin. Being the “enlightened” musician I was with open ears and a closed mind, I promptly went into a rant of how much country sucks, and how whatever I liked at the time (most likely something involving Duane Allman – I believe it was currently the Layla album) was far superior. Ian stopped me in my ignorant college-educated musician tracks, and asked me if I had ever listened to any country. Well…. No. But like, when you play a country song backwards, you get your wife back, your dog back, and blah blah blah.
Then, it happened, the rawness of the electric guitar, the defiance and rebellion; but much different than Nirvana. No doubt though, this guy was honest and did not give a **** about what you thought. The opening guitar line, however brief, stayed in my head and was the soundtrack to my first trip to Nashville. As soon as I got home, I sold my hollowbody, and tried to find my first proper telecaster.
CG: I am Trying to Break Your Heart- April 2002, Lowell, MA. I just got back from class when my hipster roommate was lighting up. “Dude, you have to hear this! They sound like if the Beatles were making music NOW!” I wanted to hate it. I’m going to hate it. Wait, damn, how are they making that noise? Wow, the drums are playing the melody; that’s really interesting. Alright, I guess the singer has a unique voice, and these lyrics on first listen are memorable and poetic. I’ll just shit on the guitar solo after this break. Oh wow, its a really simple piano solo instead. Goddamnit, this is my favorite band now. Damnit.
RLR: Guided by Voices also seems like it may have been a coming of age kind of experience? What sort of influence did the band have on you?
CG: Gold Star for Robot Boy– After the April 2002 incident, I basically only listened to Wilco. It got me in touch with my original music goal – to write songs, to express myself honestly, and to push the creative envelope. In fall of 2012, my cousin Travis was visiting from Portland, OR, and we had a discussion about punk rock. I never really listened to much of it, and what I heard never grabbed me. I had an iPod laying around that I never used, and told him to load it up with records, and I would slowly go through it. I got through about ten records of so before I came to ‘Bee Thousand’. There were so many songs on this record! Most of it was under 2 minutes, (some even being less than thirty), and all of it was memorable. It felt like someone went through their catalog and cut out all the unnecessary parts; long solos, third choruses, intros, outros, interludes, and just left the meat of the song. What the listener is left with is a perfect song, with perfect lyrics. Gold Star for Robot Boy changed my entire approach to songwriting. Remove all filler, mean everything you say, and move on quickly to the next song.