The Beatles first turned me on to music. I was about 14 years of age when I discovered them. To me, their almost child-like harmonies were as moreish as shortbread fresh from the oven. As far as the way I sing and play, though, it was a Kiwi singer and guitarist who influenced me the most.
That musician is Crowded House frontman and new Fleetwood Mac singer and guitarist Neil Finn. I love the timbre of his voice, its warm, lived-in quality.
Of course, I’d known about Neil Finn for most of my life. How could I not? He is possibly the most successful musician to hail from New Zealand. However, it was upon listening to Crowded House’s third album, Woodface, that I took particular notice of Finn’s singing.
At the time, I was starting out in music. And, unlike the voice of a singer like Paul McCartney, I found Finn’s easy to emulate. The mechanics of our voices — lungs, voice box and throat — must be similar. So, I listened and sang along to Woodface incessantly.
Honestly, if it had been on a record instead of a CD, I would have worn out the grooves. I adored (and still adore) Fall at Your Feet and Whispers and Moans. And, when brother Tim harmonised on classics like Weather with You and Four Seasons in One Day the result was magic.
Consequently, I always include Crowded House at my gigs. Not only do I enjoy singing them, but my audience also enjoys them (at least that’s what they say).
Crowded House performing Weather With You
What about the guitar?
Neil Finn’s guitar playing has also influenced me — a lot. For example, he often uses 16th note strumming patterns (if you’re not sure what that is, check out this video). Also, Finn’s songs pretty much always feature the acoustic guitar, which he obviously loves. In fact, I once read that when Finn joined Split Enz at the ridiculously young age of 17, he had only ever performed on an acoustic guitar. So, it is possibly Finn who is to blame for my life-long fascination with acoustic guitars.
Of course, Finn is also a well-regarded electric guitar player. He’s far from being a virtuoso, but he can certainly play. I like the rawness of his electric guitar playing; in contrast to the beautiful melodies he sings, it is often angry — almost dissonant. So, in days gone by, when I played in a band, I, too, tended to play a similar style. What a copycat I am!
My version of the Neil Finn classic Fall at Your Feet
Neil Finn with Fleetwood Mac
When I learned that Finn had joined Fleetwood Mac, I was ecstatic. The only thing that would have been equally as exciting for me would have been if he’d joined The Beatles!
As Finn has been a bandleader for many years, be interesting to see how he fits in. Not even Stevie Nicks or Lindsay Buckingham were leaders in Fleetwood Mac; Mick Fleetwood has always been the boss. Only time will tell, and I can’t wait to see Finn singing and playing guitar in one of my all-time favourite bands.