Chicago Musician, Daniel Santrella is the latest artist to discuss their formative musical experiences and influences with Esthetic Lens. He digs into music that existed in a couple of hallowed places when he was a kid and welcomes us into spaces occupied by the 1973 masterpiece, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John.
Set to task on picking a single album that stuck with me, informed my work, I immediately wanted to pick something obscure, something “cool”. However, to keep this article honest, I can’t do it. I had to crawl back to these formative years and pick the album that unwittingly shaped, spot 104 under the bar, disc 3 in the car; Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John.
There was this 200 disc CD player under the bar, the sort of holy grail of my parents’ CD collection. They must have spent a fortune in one fell swoop turning all their vinyl into CDs. I’d spent cumulative hours sitting on the floor there wiping the dust from the wine bottles as I’d reach further and further into that Narnia-like expanse to see what new music discovery awaited. It’s that same nagging “hunch” that leads to all the crate digging I do today, something about the best music always waiting somewhere outside of the spotlight, not on the shelves, not in the player.
Then there was my Dad’s car, which housed a 6 disc changer in the trunk. The inaccessibility made the choices that much more holy. Each slot was coveted in a way unfathomable to later generations.
The progressions, the melodies, the lyrics, hold a nearly spiritual place in my mind. They bring me back to family dance parties, road trips, all the truly Norman Rockwell like parts of my upbringing that I’m too young to embrace as not corny, and too old to dismiss as not profoundly influential.
There’s a lot of in “one ear out the other” on this album, but the beauty of my parents moving to CDs was the skip button. I must have listened to those first 4 tracks more than any other musical work. The opener, Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding was the “Dad, can we listen to the song that starts with the wind” jam. Sonically it moves all over the place and then bursts into gorgeous pop melodies that are so far removed from the introduction it’s startling. Those progressions are the ones that created the space in my head for the long-winded and wiley tracks I’d go on to create with Audiences.
I must have listened to those first 4 tracks more than any other musical work.
I’d so badly like to say that Zeppelin or The Stones are responsible for my love of well placed dazzling guitar solos, but then I listen back to ballads like Candle In The Wind and once again point to simple, hooky, riffs that glide listeners in and out of the chorus. Benny and the Jets housed me with a deep love of falsetto and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road the title track, gave me pause in later years as I’d attempt to learn unusual chord shapes and quick changes that are probably (?) easier on piano than they were on my guitar. Both things, I’m exploring more and more with Pretty Heavy today.
Daniel Santrella is a songwriter. He’s headlined countless shows at hallmark Chicago rock institutions like The Metro, The House of Blues, and The Double Door. His work’s been spun on terrestrial radio, he’s played live on national television, and has spent much of the last 10 years in and out of music studios. He’s ½ of Chicago pop duo Pretty Heavy. Has his master’s degree in “putzing around”. He’s 100% tinkerer and creator of things, mostly musical things.
Spotify: Pretty Heavy
Be sure to check out Daniel’s, Creative Quarantine here on Esthetic Lens as well.