St Vincent: soundtrack of my life

Annie Clark, aka St Vincent, tells of a Texas childhood of road trips and sunny days sharing music with friends

"We're just scampering down memory lane, aren't we?" says Annie Clark, the exuberantly talented singer-songwriter who makes music under the name St Vincent. In the 29-year-old's lyrical telling, her upbringing in a Dallas suburb was an idyllic one of road trips and long, sunny days by the pool, accompanied by a reliably eclectic soundtrack. "Texas is great for long car rides and that's how I ever experienced music," she recalls. "Then finally getting my own car and driving around with a six-pack of Keystone Light in the back praying you didn't get stopped by the cops. Suburbia has its charms." St Vincent's third album Strange Mercy is out now.


The Royal Scam by Steely Dan (1976)

I grew up in Texas and we used to go to Padre Island, eight hours in the car down to the beach. The resort was built up in the 1960s and 70s, but my family were going there in the 1980s and 1990s so it was a little run-down and not very fancy. My dad used to love Steely Dan, the Stones, Jethro Tull and all that. There was always Steely Dan going in my dad's car, but I remember The Royal Scam in particular because it has "Kid Charlemagne" on it. There's that weird, deconstructed Larry Carlton guitar solo, which I finally learned in the last couple of years – it's just a fantastic guitar solo, probably the only one I know.


"Fancy" by Reba McEntire (1991)

One of my favourite things about country music is that, at least until recently, you could always count on a solid story, a punchline and a pun. I think it has that in common with hip hop, where they're not afraid of wordplay and I really appreciate that. When I was a kid, we would drive up between Dallas and Tulsa quite a bit and we'd always pass through Kiowa, Oklahoma, where Reba was born. There was a big sign that read, "The birthplace of Reba McEntire" and we'd listen to "Fancy", such a wonderful song.


Ten by Pearl Jam (1991); Pick Up by Solex (1999)

This one has to be divided into two parts. From the age of 10 to 13, the record that went everywhere with me – I guess I should say the tape and Walkman – was Pearl Jam's Ten, which came out when I was almost 10 myself. My stepmother got word there were F-bombs on it, so she tried to take it away, but I found it in her drawer. Then at high school, I got really into this Solex record called Pick Up. It was right around the time I started really doing theatre and hanging out with the weirdos and this record just reaffirmed my place in the world to myself, "Oh, I like weird music."


The Trials of Van Occupanther by Midlake (2006)

I started playing guitar when I was 12 and probably from that age knew that I wanted to make music and make my own music. Playing with other bands like the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens was more like an apprenticeship for me than anything. The Trials of Van Occupanther came out just as I was about to tour with Sufjan and I have very fond memories of listening to that record all over Europe. I had just finished my first album, Marry Me, and I could feel that things were starting up after a long period of working, writing, whatever. So I still get incredibly nostalgic when I hear that album and it's just a great record, it holds up.


"Moon Dreams" by Miles Davis (1950)

I must have been 15. My friend had a car and I remember driving around White Rock Lake near my house listening to this song I found on Birth of the Cool. It was one of those times when you are precocious and pretentious, and you feel that if you know something about jazz you have inherited the secret knowledge of the universe. There might have been marijuana involved. It felt like we were leaps and bounds above everyone in our level of consciousness but, looking back on it, I was just trying to show off.


The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (1973)

I have great memories of hanging out by the pool with my junior-high friends, summertime, someone's parents were out of town, listening to Pink Floyd. Usually it was my friend Katie and maybe her older brother or sister would have gotten us pot or terrible Lone Star beer or both. Or a screwdriver: Smirnoff vodka and orange juice. The thought of a screwdriver now is totally nauseating, but back then it would be, "Oh man, cool, we've got screeeew-drivers! We'll have fun today!" We'd be lying there: braces, vacillating between bony and chubby, so awkward, thinking, "We get Pink Floyd, this is so heavy." We were the top 1% for sure.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify


Interview by Tim Lewis

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Roy Harper: soundtrack of my life

The singer, songwriter and guitarist on how Miles Davis and skiffle shaped his sound – and the first time he met Jimmy Page. Interview by Leah Harper

Interview by Leah Harper

26, Oct, 2013 @11:04 PM

Article image
Brittany Howard: soundtrack of my life

The Alabama Shakes singer-guitarist mixes some classic pop and soul albums with newer releases that root her in time and place

Interview by Michael Cragg

28, Apr, 2012 @11:03 PM

Article image
Ghostpoet: soundtrack of my life
The Mercury-nominated rapper on dancing to UB40 as a child and his Muddy Waters obsession

Interview by Killian Fox

29, Mar, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
Ezra Koenig: Soundtrack of My Life

Vampire Weekend's frontman Ezra Koenig shares his love of the Lonely Island and the Kinks with Gareth Grundy

Gareth Grundy

28, Nov, 2010 @12:06 AM

Article image
Stevie Nicks: Soundtrack of my life

The Fleetwood Mac veteran and solo star tells Gareth Grundy about the music that has inspired her through her 40-year career

Interview by Gareth Grundy

25, Jun, 2011 @11:05 PM

Article image
Katy B: Soundtrack of my life

The 21-year-old R'n'B artist talks to Luke Bainbridge about the ballads and blues that influenced her breakthrough album

Luke Bainbridge

23, Apr, 2011 @11:04 PM

Article image
Boy George: soundtrack of my life

The former Culture Club frontman on using Joni Mitchell as a marker of excellence and listening to Nico during his first sexual experience. Interview by Corinne Jones

Interview by Corinne Jones

26, Jan, 2014 @9:04 AM

Article image
Robby Krieger: soundtrack of my life

The former Doors guitarist tells Hermione Hoby about discovering rock'n'roll, blues and jazz and his memories of recording with Jim Morrison

Interview by Hermione Hoby

29, Jan, 2012 @12:05 AM

Article image
Yukimi Nagano: soundtrack of my life

The Little Dragon singer tells Killian Fox why D'Angelo's Voodoo made her cry, Joni Mitchell reminds her of her mum – and Brian Eno helps her nod off

Interview by Killian Fox

26, Apr, 2014 @11:05 PM

Article image
James Murphy: soundtrack of my life

The former LCD Soundsystem frontman tells Killian Fox about the Velvet Underground, Bowie and Can, and what made him first want to make music

Interview by Killian Fox

29, Sep, 2012 @11:04 PM