Hey I’m Steve and I’m currently 1 of 1 in an Acoustic Punk vanity project called Arms & Hearts. These are my 3 albums that changed my life. However I did cheat. 3 albums is HARD so you got some ‘Honourable mentions’. Sue me. Also one more little thing which is a big one for me; ALL of these albums are made by cis straight men, which I’m not stoked about. These are just albums that inspired me and got me to where I am growing up, NOT what I listen to on a daily basis. It’s unfortunately just the culture where more non men are only really beginning to get an even footing now. TLDR: Listen to more non men – Fresh, Camp Cope, Muncie Girls, Sarah Carey, Press Club, Phoebe Bridgers to name but a few of excellent non men to start with. Ta.
Nirvana – Nevermind
This was the first album I ever took any interest in. My dad bought it me when I must have been maybe 7 years old? It was a relief from the relentless amount of Eagles and Creedence Clear Water Revival he would constantly play in the car that would drive me absolutely insane. I just remember the utter passion and rage. I was a bit of an angry kid. This kind of resonated with me
Green Day – American Idiot
Okay so I see a lot of people putting the ‘cool’ Green Day albums as part of their choices but this was my first exposure to punk rock / pop punk (I’m not as old) and apart from the title track being, in my opinion, absolutely garbage, the rest of the album is just a rock opera masterpiece. I didn’t come from a broken home, but at the time I was a miserable shitbag teenager. I didn’t have loads of friends and I felt very isolated from a lot of my peers; which looking back were probably early signs of the mental health issues that were never dealt with until I was an adult and barely still. It gave me some comfort, in the characters like St Jimmy some sort of understanding to my adolescent rage. I think this was how I got into punk rock. I wanted the skinny jeans, I wanted to look like Billy Joe (I think I tried the silly ties for a while, ugh don’t) and most of all inspired me to pick up the guitar again after two years of failed lessons at school. I think it was the descending chord progression in the ‘City of the Damned’ part of Jesus of Suburbia that sparked it off for me again. So I’ve gotta hand it to that album.
The Gaslight Anthem – 59’ Sound
So I definitely couldn’t talk about any inspirations without mentioning this album. Arms & Hearts definitely wouldn’t be a thing and the last four years of my life would be drastically different had I not been introduced to this album. At the time of introduction I was playing bass in this indie rock band. You could say I didn’t love the music, but they were my mates and it was a laugh. The guitarist knew I wasn’t really into it and knew I was listening to loads of Anti Flag, Rancid, etc so he was like ‘you might like this’ and sent me the song ‘The 59’ sound’. I was hooked. It wasn’t anything I could describe. I kind of grew up in a big but still small town, there’s a lot of heartache and wasted opportunity there (or at least that’s how I feel about it) so lyrically with all the old American references and the romance of it was so relatable. I remember thinking, THAT’S what I want to do, I don’t wanna be a guitarist, I don’t wanna be a fucking bass player I wanna write like THAT and I wanna sing like THAT. So I did. I started trying to learn to sing, I sucked. I started writing some songs, they REALLY sucked. (I know someone’s reading this and going ‘HAH still does’) But I persevered and here I am. Without being braggy, I wouldn’t have done anything I’ve done in the last few years, wouldn’t have toured Europe, wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play shows with my heroes, wouldn’t have met any of the amazing people that I currently surround myself with. I owe a great deal to that album and to The Gaslight Anthem (Although Handwritten is objectively the best TGA album. Fight me).
Freddy Fudd Pucker – Open Doors
The emotion poured into this response of how the world chews people up and spits them out is extremely inspiring (or that’s what I took from it).
Chuck Ragan – Feast or Famine
What I loved most about this record is how it showed me I could still do this whole thing on my own. Just an acoustic guitar and just DO IT. This album absolutely rips and still inspires me when I feel shitty about being the solo acoustic dickhead.
The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls In America
Another thing I didn’t get to mention was the important of Tony Hawk games on my musical influence (I’m sure a LOT will agree). ‘Your Little Hoodrat Friend’ was on American Wasteland I think? which led me to this album. I love Craig Finns lyrics, and how he places a situation with imagery with so little effort and then just tells a story. Also its fire rock n roll and what’s not to love? Also Arms & Hearts is named after the last song on this album. (Please nobody sue).
Arms & Hearts is Steve Millar, an acoustic punk singer-songwriter from Manchester, England.