Hello. My name is Tom Lee, I’m a singer-songwriter from Manchester who plays under Tea Leaf. I have also been known to rock & front the band Hora Douse. I write intimate and personable songs and these are my three picks for records that have fundamentally changed my life, in a seismic way.
Elliott Smith – Either/Or
I think ‘Say Yes’ was the first song I ever heard by Elliott, at least in a focused manner. I instantly bought the record before the song even finished, and had this album on repeat for months on end. It was the introduction to who I would consider, one of, if not my all-time favourite songwriter, and the whole thing start to finish, still feels equally fresh and nuanced as it did the first time I listened to it. Either/Or is a high benchmark for what I want to achieve in a ‘solo’ record – Elliott performs every instrument himself, and it shows in its personality and detail. Growing up listening and playing in ‘punk-adjacent’ music, this was an important album in terms of teaching me the power of softness & intricacy (not to say ‘punk’ can’t have either of those things), and is a cornerstone in how I started to approach my writing with Tea Leaf.
Jack’s Mannequin – Everything In Transit
This album was one of the first records that clung onto to me hard when I was a teen. It’s a summer pop-rock breakup album, and it meant the world to me growing up, and still sort-of does. Even though I couldn’t specifically relate to particular topics, the writing was broad enough to make each song feel like it was mine whenever I sung along. It uplifted me when I was high or feeling good, and comforted me when I was sad or alone. And it’s so damn catchy! It inspired me to self-teach myself piano, so I could learn to play every single track on the album. It’s unabashedly bright in its presentation, and I think it’s still the type of record I’d love to make someday.
Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything To Nothing
Wild to think it’s been over 10 years since this was released. My introduction to this band, I think might’ve been seeing ‘I’ve Got Friends’ performed on a show like Letterman online somewhere. Powerful and euphoric is how I’d describe this record. My first ever band attempted a poor three-piece rendition of ‘Shake It Out’, if I remember correctly. I thank this album and band for being a gateway into a whole community of artists, discovering some of my other favourites along the way too (Kevin Devine, Frightened Rabbit, Weatherbox, etc.), and it’s wicked to see some of my current favourite songwriters (such as Phoebe Bridgers & Julien Baker) citing them and this record too.