Anna Calvi’s favourite Tom Waits album

Meta Description: Discover how Tom Waits’ influence shapes Anna Calvi’s music. Explore her dramatic style, guitar innovations, and her unique approach inspired by Waits’ iconic “Rain Dogs.”

Anna Calvi’s Music: The Bold Influence of Tom Waits

Anyone who has listened to Anna Calvi’s music wouldn’t be surprised that her musical tastes veer towards the bold. “I gravitated towards things that were dramatic,” she once commented, sharing how her musical fascination began with sprawling classical sonatas and developed into left-field rock picks. Of that later category, Tom Waits is one of her most important influences, looking to his wild and imaginative tracks as inspiration for her own.

Anna Calvi’s Music: Dramatic and Critically Acclaimed

Calvi’s own brand of melodrama has earned her serious critical acclaim. She’s been nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize twice, and she has picked up a Brit Award nomination. But mostly, her music, especially her incredible guitar playing, has made her a renowned and respected name. Not only in the world of rock either, as Calvi’s career has recently spanned into the world of TV scores as she was asked to create the music for the final season of Peaky Blinders. It was a project that proved to be a perfect fit, allowing her to fully indulge in the storytelling and adventurous music she’d always loved.

The Tom Waits Influence on Anna Calvi’s Music

That’s exactly what drew her to Tom Waits. In particular, Waits emerged as an influence that tied her two loves together: dramatic songs and the guitar. In his music, it seemed to Calvi that the instrument became a character or a tool for telling the tale.

When it came to making her second album, One Breath, Calvi wanted to push her playing into a new realm. “I wanted more texture and color to come from the guitar, almost as if it wasn’t a guitar,” she said, “I wanted it to be almost this wild animal.” While still making music in the rock world, Calvi wanted to take her sound further than that, casting off the classic chords and limitations applied to the instrument to instead see it as a more experimental tool. In short, she wanted to forget how to play the guitar and start using the guitar.

Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs” and Its Impact on Anna Calvi’s Music

“That’s why listening to an album like Rain Dogs came in handy,” she said, considering Waits’ 1985 album to be one of the most influential works in her career. By the time Waits made Rain Dogs, he’d come a long way from the piano ballads that first introduced him. By then, he was borrowing from a vast array of influences, taking the genre rule book and completely disregarding it. For this album especially, guitars played a major role. The rule for the record was following the idea that “the sounds become your own.” He recounted moments where they totally abandoned instruments altogether, claiming, “If we couldn’t get the right sound out of the drum set, we’d get a chest of drawers in the bathroom and bang it real hard with a two-by-four.”

The same approach was applied to the guitar, even though Waits called in Keith Richards, one of the world’s most beloved players, to be on the record. The instruction left for the guitarists was, “Play it like a midget’s bar mitzvah” as Waits wouldn’t let them rehearse and had Richards and his own guitarist, Marc Ribot, playing on beaten-up old acoustic guitars for an unorthodox sound and experience.

The sound that came out of that experience inspired Calvi to no end. “What Tom Waits did with the guitar on that record was so full of unexpected treatments,” she said, praising the record’s unique guitar lines and strange instrumental details. Ever since, that’s been an ethos Calvi has carried with her, attempting to abandon technicality in favor of feel and energy.

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