Playlist: First Aid Kit's Folk Heroes

Swedish sisters' most influential artists...

The title says it all, really. Fresh from playing Latitude on the weekend just gone, First Aid Kit have put us together a playlist of their folk heroes. Which is very nice of them, indeed.

Also very nice, to the tune of a 9/10 review on these pages, is the Swedish pair’s new LP, ‘Stay Gold’. The third studio set from sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg came out in June, went to number one in Sweden and an impressive 11 in the UK, and is reviewed here

Over to the girls – right after the clip for their own ‘My Silver Lining’.

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Townes Van Zandt – ‘Kathleen’ 

“We can’t talk about folk heroes without mentioning Townes Van Zandt. There are few musicians who have inspired us like he has, truly. ‘Kathleen’ from ‘Our Mother The Mountain’ (1969) was a big inspiration for the production of our latest record, ‘Stay Gold’. The way the eerie strings seem to answer to the lyrics, punctuating the sorrow and creepiness of the song. There is a darkness to Townes Van Zandt’s music that is always present. This song is so frightening and so beautiful all at the same time, which is precisely what makes it so great.”

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Joanna Newsom – ‘Good Intentions Paving Company’

“Sensational, mind-blowing harpist? Check. Novel-like, fascinating lyrics? Check. Songs that make you wonder why you ever even try to write songs because they will never ever be this good? Check. The way Joanna Newsom writes her songs has always been a mystery to us, which only makes us love them more. She can start at one place and then take you on a journey some place completely different, without you hardly noticing. We love everything she’s done. Starting out on a smaller scale with shorter, simpler (but still as amazing) songs, to her masterpiece ‘Ys’, and to her latest record(s) where this song is from: she keeps on surprising us and we hope she will continue doing so for years to come.”

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Paul Simon – ‘Duncan’

“We’ve been the biggest Simon & Garfunkel fans since forever and we think most people understand why. Paul Simon is one of the greatest songwriters in the world. Period. We got to play for him and meet him two years ago, when we took part in the Polar Music Prize ceremony in Sweden. It was one of the scariest and most nerve-racking experiences of our lives! Luckily, Paul was positive and very nice to us. It was surreal. ‘Duncan’ is a song from his eponymous solo record. The first lines are just classic: ‘The couple in the next room are bound to win a prize, they’ve been going at it all night long…’ We really like storytelling songs. The flute is just divine, even though it’s like seriously way off pitch, it creates an amazing mood, kind of like in (Simon & Garfunkel’s) ‘El Condor Pasa’.”

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Jenny Lewis – ‘One Of The Guys’

“We saw Jenny Lewis live in 2008 when we were 15 and 17. It was a huge moment for us. It was fascinating, visually and sonically. Jenny has a captivating energy on stage. She’ll look at people in the audience and hold their gaze for a long time while singing to them. She seems like a total superstar and at the same time it feels like you’re sharing secrets with a close friend. She’s inspired us as songwriters, to be more daring, personal and honest in our songs. We were honored she asked us to sing on the title track of her new record, ‘The Voyager’.  We can’t wait to hear it when it comes out. We love her latest single, ‘One Of The Guys’. Once again she manages to break our hearts (in the best way) while singing an up-beat pop song, produced by none other than Beck. Hurray!”

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Gillian Welch – ‘I Dream A Highway’

“Gillian Welch is one of the coolest musicians out there. There’s something effortless about her, especially when you watch her play live. When you add Dave Rawlings’ sweet harmonies and brilliant guitar playing, it’s pure gold. We play this song when we’re traveling and missing people we’ve had to leave back home. It always makes us calm and makes us want to fall asleep. Usually, we’ll just play it on repeat, which takes a long time since it’s 14 minutes long... Yet we just can’t get enough.”

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Neko Case – ‘I Wish I Was The Moon’

“We finally saw Neko Case live for the first time when we played the Sasquatch festival together in May. She was, as expected, just incredible. She has such strength and integrity in everything she does. ‘I Wish I Was The Moon’ is one of those songs that completely hits you right in the gut when you hear it. You cannot help to be moved, and wish too, that you could be the moon.” 

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Buffy Sainte-Marie – ‘Little Wheel Spin and Spin’

“There is a performance of this song by Buffy Sainte-Marie which is very unnerving to watch but that just adds to the brilliance of it. It’s powerful. It’s crazy to think most people don't know who Buffy is when she’s written countless classic songs. Her most famous one is ‘Up Where We Belong’ – the original Buffy version is actually really sweet – and she’s written many others. As a woman, it is definitely good to have a role model like Buffy Sainte-Marie, who’s never shied away from saying how she feels and always doing things her own way. We actually covered her protest song ‘Universal Soldier’ when we recorded a single with Jack White in his studio in Nashville.”

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The Carter Family – ‘When I’m Gone (Will You Miss Me)’

“How could we not mention The Carter Family? Their influence on country and folk music has been immense. The biography about them is one of the best books I have ever read. It’s both funny and sad, but always intriguing. How A.P. travelled all around America collecting old songs for them to record and therefore making sure all these songs didn’t disappear with the people who had once been taught to sing them, by their parents, who had been taught by their parents, and so on. How much Maybelle rocked that guitar and how she inspired so many men and women to do the same. How devastating it was to read of A.P.’s unrequited love for his wife, Sara. She was one of the first women ever to sing lead vocals in a band and how that paved the way for female singers after that. The song ‘When I’m Gone (Will You Miss Me)’ is almost spooky to listen to now that they all are gone, but it’s so easy to relate to. Don’t we all wonder how our loved ones would feel if we were gone, and if anyone would remember us?” 

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Laura Marling – ‘Master Hunter’ 

“In 2008, when Laura Marling had just released her debut album (‘Alas, I Cannot Swin’), we were just finishing our debut EP (‘Drunken Trees’). Back then we were happy to find that a woman our own age was making something similar to what we were doing. We saw her play at a tiny club in Stockholm and handed her our EP afterwards. We played a show together in Paris a couple of years ago and we had a lovely time. We saw her perform live in Stockholm last spring supporting her latest record and once again she completely blew us away. She is definitely one of the songwriters who’s inspired us the most through out the years.”

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Kate & Anna McGarrigle – ‘Heart Like A Wheel’

“Our dad introduced us to this record and we can only thank him ever so much. He listened to this record as a young teenager and fell in love with these two Canadian sisters’ songs. In 2007, when we started making music together, he was talking about them excitedly and now we are just as enamoured with them. It’s really cool to hear other sisters sing together, especially Kate and Anna because they do it so well. They’re great songwriters. Their songs are heartfelt and their harmonies sound effortless, but are actually pretty complicated. When we played in their hometown of Montreal last month we did a cover of this song on stage, it was so much fun.”

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Photos: Neil Krug

‘Stay Gold’ is out now. First Aid Kit online

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