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Pixx nine songs
Nine Songs

The BRIT School alumni and 4AD-signing talks through the songs that made her.

02 June 2017, 07:00 | Words by Ed Nash

Hannah Rodgers fell in love with the power of storytelling in music ever since her father played her songs on his acoustic guitar when she was a child.

From Rodgers' first single as Pixx - 2015's “Fall In” - to her debut album The Age of Anxiety, she has mixed stories with an innate sense of melody. “All the songs that have impacted me through my life have been songs that tell a story through the lyrics and combined that storytelling through the musical aspect,” she says.

Consequently, Pixx’s favourite songs draw on her formative musical experiences, both in terms of melody and lyricism, as well as the power of folk music. “These are all songs that I was listening to as a child and I still listen to most of them now, that’s why they’re so important to me, but I’m such a lyric monster. I love all of the instrumentation and the sound of all these songs but to me the main focus is the lyrics.”

"And Dream of Sheep" by Kate Bush

"Kate Bush has got such an incredible, enchanting voice and this song is kind of like a lullaby almost. I’ve always loved it, the style that she writes it in, the lyrics and the imagery that she uses in it, but it’s also quite melancholy, it’s quite a sad song. Her style of songwriting is just amazing, she uses the ‘and dream of sheep’ phrase in such an amazing way.

"When I was younger I didn’t sleep very well and this was always the song that helped me to feel calm and send me off to sleep. I liked the way that she speaks about listening to people on the radio and listening to her talk about nonsense, I was always shut-eyed by the end of it.

"It’s from The Hounds of Love and I love that whole album, but this song for me is just a really good lullaby. When I was a kid I loved 'Babooshka' - that was a song I’d dance around to - and then I got more into her sparse, more downbeat stuff. I’ve always liked the storytelling in her music and her voice is so theatrical as well, it’s so expressive, there’s so much emotion in her voice."

"Redwood Hill" by Gordon Lightfoot

"This is a funny one actually, I don’t even know the original version, but it’s a song that my Dad used to sing to me pretty much every night, instead of reading me a story he’d play the acoustic guitar and sing that song to me. The lyrics are all about him meeting Mother Nature on the top of a hill, there’s people cutting down the forest and Mother Nature is crying to him about it and he’s trying to comfort her and make her feel better.

"It’s the reason this song is so important to me, from such a young age those lyrics got so into my head and I had such a connection with the planet. What this song brought for me from the age of four was this love for the environment and that’s a really big part of my life still, it should be a part of everybody’s really.

"Lyrically it had such a big impact on my outlook on the planet at a young age, where Mother Nature is this person almost, she’s actually crying and I think it’s a beautiful way to understand from a young age that the planet is something precious and that we should be taking care of it."

"Hanging on the Telephone" by Blondie

"I love Debbie Harry. Blondie was a big part of my growing up, my parents always played her at family parties. When I was seven It was one of those songs, that as soon as it came on at a party, me and all of my girl mates would go mental. As a kid I was very influenced by her and I like how aggressive that song is. As a female artist she had so much aggression and passion in that song, she almost sounds a bit psycho in it, but that’s why I like it so much.

"Those songs are all quite aggressive but they’re also quite sad and heart-throbby, I love the way they still put you in a good mood and get people dancing and I think that’s a really great aspect of what she was doing. I chose this one specifically because of the phrasing, the punctuality of the way that she sings it, the melody is quite jolty, I just find it a really interesting song. The imagery with the phonebooth is quite like a throwback kind of vibe, I like that it creates that ‘back in the '90s’, standing in a telephone box, waiting for a call.

"I still listen to it, it’s always on the party playlist for me. I’m never ever going to get too old or embarrassed for Blondie."

"The Visitors" by ABBA

"ABBA's a difficult one, they have banger after banger, but this is one that me and my brother love loads. I was probably five or something when I first heard it, but it’s one that’s always really stuck with me and I find it really different to the rest of the stuff that they do. I love it; the lyrics are so good, it’s the way that it builds, it grows and grows and grows, I could listen to it on repeat forever. It’s almost scary, the lyrics are quite frightening, the idea of 'The Visitors', it’s kind of a terrifying song.

"With Abba I could have gone for any of the big bangers but with this one it’s the production, it just goes insane and it builds up so emotionally throughout the song.

"I like the element of ‘us and them’ with the idea of 'The Visitors'. It’s something that influences my songwriting now in a big way because I like that ‘us and them’ style in songwriting, where there’s this other thing and it’s growing and growing and you can hear it through the music.

"It gets me pumped up too. It’s a song that I always listen to before I go onstage, because of the build of the song, there’s so much going on with it. In some ways it puts me on edge and in some ways it relaxes me and that combination is good just before going onstage."

"Ballad of a Crystal Man" by Donavan

"When I was growing up I mostly listened to folk music, it’s the music that shaped me and my personality. This song is where protest songs came in for me, the lyrics are so bold, straight up and to the point. It punctures your heart when you listen to it, the passion in the songwriting and the complete honesty. Music doesn’t have that as much now, we don’t have people writing songs that are so to the point about what’s going on in the world. This song has always stuck with me.

"My parents got me into Folk music and I could never get enough of it. It’s the lyrics, the storytelling and the way that every verse ends with “I don't want your wings, I don't want your freedom in a lie.” It’s such a big statement, that nails everything that was going on at that time.

"I’m not anywhere near the standard of the lyrical genius of Donovan or Bob Dylan in the way they can say things so straight up, in such a poetic way, but it’s something I want to incorporate into my music as much as I possibly can. It was so important there were white artists who were trying so hard to beat racism.

"I first heard it when my Dad played it at home and he talked me through the songs’ meaning. Even from a young age it was important that I could relate to it, feel something for it and have that empathy that a lot of people who listen to pop music from a young age now don’t get the chance to hear."

Pixx feb17

"The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll" by Bob Dylan

"I chose this because it’s so personal. My Dad talked me through the story, it’s such a brave and intellectual song. Bob Dylan has so many protest songs, but this is such a beautiful, touching song about someone’s death that shamed the person who got away with it, because he was a privileged white man.

"The story is unbelievable, Hattie Carroll was killed by William Zantzinger, who owned acres of land and ended up getting away with a six-month prison sentence, which is just awful. Hattie Carroll had ten children that were left behind.

"It was a deep thing to learn about at a young age but it’s important that we don’t shelter people or turn a blind eye to what’s going on in the world. I’ve always been grateful for the fact that these songs opened up realities for me from a young age. I was lucky to have my Dad play me that music, if he didn’t, I wouldn’t know there were such important songs that made such a big difference, that helped to make a lot of other people aware of what was actually going on.

"Bob Dylan’s great in his use of melodies; a lot of people say his songs sound the same, but I don’t agree with that. There’s real sorrow in the music that makes it heart-breaking to listen to, there’s so much passion and anger in the way the song builds. At the end of every verse he says “Now ain't the time for your tears” and in the very the last line, when you realise this guy got away with killing a black woman without any reason, it ends with “For now's the time for your tears.” It’s just real, straight to the bone."

"She's Leaving Home" by The Beatles

"As a girl, I just always really liked this song. Melody wise and vocally, the harmonies and the drawn out “She's leaving home, bye, bye…” It’s a work of genius, it really captures that weird emotion from a parent’s point of view. As a little girl I remember always being 'Oh, poor Mum and Dad, one day we’re all going to leave home and they’re going to be so sad.'

"It’s the storytelling, I listened to The Beatles every single day of my life until I was about seventeen. I’ve been stuck on them for so many years, because they’ve got so much music. I listened to it so much as a kid that I got to an age where I just started to feel like I had my own personal understanding of it. I rinsed it to a point where I was suddenly 'I need to listen to something else now.'

"It’s a song of freedom for women, this idea of a girl running away with somebody and going off and doing her own thing, I’m certainly not going to be a runaway chick myself, but I liked the way that they talk about the parents coming down in their dressing gowns and there being a note on the table, that the girl has fled and gone to start her life elsewhere."

"Little Green" by Joni Mitchell

"I remember when I was about four, my Dad told me this was a song he always used to play when I was in my Mother’s womb. This was the song that as a child I had a real connection with.

"The way that Joni Mitchell’s melodies flow through the song is just so beautiful and that’s where the finger-picking guitar style, that I ended up playing when I first started leaning the guitar, came from. Joni Mitchell was one of the biggest role models for me in that way and that’s something that’s really shaped the music that I’m making now.

"Her imagery through her lyrics... the way that she can make something so simple, just her voice and guitar sound so big and mystical and amazing… she’s a goddess.

"I guess it’s that mother-child relationship. I think it’s about her giving up a baby that she had and it’s a very heart-breaking song, but there’s also so much hope in it at the same time. It’s always in my head, it’s such a catchy and beautiful song."

"Two of Us" by Supertramp

"When I was really young I was into their song 'Dreamer' and my Dad was always putting on their albums.

"The production is incredible, the dreamlike quality, everything about it is amazing. It’s this weird take on mankind and the reason for us being on this planet. I like the fact it’s a hopeful song.

"It’s the kind of song that when something tragic or awful happens, it reminds you that there’s hope, beauty and happiness in the world and that we’re a very beautiful species. With 'Two of Us', I just like that man’s purpose on the planet is accepting the fact that 'as long as there’s the two of us, we’ll carry on.'

"For me it’s about the connection we have as human beings, we’re a very large species now, but the way that the song comes across it’s quite melancholy, but there’s also this real glimmer of hope amongst the lyrics and the idea that we’re all connected, we’re on this planet and we might not know why but we should still embrace it and remember that there’s a lot of love among us."

The Age of Anxiety is out now.
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