Six Of The Best: Polly Paulusma & Annie Dressner | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Friends and critically acclaimed musicians, Polly Paulusma & Annie Dressner head to Cluny 2, Newcastle (22nd Feb) & Old Cinema Laundrette, Durham (23rd Feb) as part of their special co-headline Rumour In The Woods tour. Both artists give us their six of the best ahead of these harmonious evenings of acoustic music.

Annie Dressner is a singer-songwriter from NYC and is now based in Cambridge. She is due to release her third album, Coffee at the Corner Bar on 15th May. ‘Nyack’ and ‘Out In The Cold’ are the first two singles released and both have had plays on Gideon Coe’s Radio 6 Music show.

Belle & Sebastian
I absolutely love this band! I’m not sure how much direct influence they have had on my music, but they must have had some as I have listened to them so much. I certainly am not as fun, but I wish I was! Have you been to one of their live shows? They are so happy and joyous and so much fun – but if you listen to the lyrics that is not always the case. Maybe that is how they have influenced me. Deceit through happy-sounding music and depressing lyrics? To be honest, listening to their music whatever the song always makes me happy. Once I was packing up an apartment and my mom suggested that I put on some happy music. I chose Belle & Sebastian and she was confused.

Simon & Garfunkel
My parents always had Simon  & Garfunkel on throughout my childhood. I love the harmonies, the guitars, the lyrics, the music, their voices… I love it all! Again, I don’t think that my music directly sounds like them, but I taught myself how to play guitar the day I graduated from high school from the tabs in one of their piano books that had guitar tabs above the treble clef. That book had been in my father’s sheet music collection since before I was born, and finally, I discovered it for myself. I will say that the way that Polly and I sing together, for me, is influenced by them a bit more directly.

Edgar Degas
I like to write songs about real life – and if it isn’t about real life, I like it to sound like it is. I love Degas’ work, especially his pastels like the After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself, because it is so candid. It is a snapshot of a private moment. My songs are my private moments put to music and stories. You get to learn about the subjects in his works from the way he paints them. Hopefully, my music and songs can resonate with you a bit like that.

Empire Records
It wasn’t so much the film, but the songs in it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie and also immediately had to buy a cherry red bra (thankfully I didn’t have a so-sexy Rexy) – but the soundtrack is one I had on tape and listened to over and over and over again.  I think that someone that music must have also slipped in. By the way, have I mentioned how great that soundtrack is?

Smashing Pumpkins – Adore
Another album I listened to over and over again…. I love this album.  I love how chill it is. ‘To Sheila’ is such an amazing song. This song definitely is much more metaphorical than the way that I write, but it is one that must have influenced me one way or another as I can’t count how many times I have listened to this album. The first time I heard it was on a three week class trip to France and I was living in a boarding school.  We would listen to this and Ben Harper when we fell asleep. I continued that tradition for a few years.

Hernik Ibsen
Ibsen is my favourite playwright, for a similar reason as to why I love Degas. You get to see real people in their private lives (except they are characters in his amazing plays). I like realism. I like learning about people. Perhaps the way Ibsen’s characters interact with each other show as much about their lives as my lyrics say about my life and the people I write about.


Polly Paulusma is an artist who’s been releasing music on One Little Indian and the folk imprint she founded Wild Sound since 2004. Her first album ‘Scissors in my Pocket’ was one of those runaway indie-folk hits around the time of Damien Rice’s O, and she supported Bob Dylan and played Glastonbury. She’s now releasing album four as well as working with Kathryn Williams on several collaborative projects.

Joni Mitchell – Blue
I don’t think I would have lived this long without Joni. Her songs just pour into me like honey, and whenever I listen to her I have to put everything down and go write. It’s that visceral, that immediate, my reaction. It’s like electricity.

Carole King – Tapestry
This woman presents the masterclass in song construction. Tapestry is unfair for anyone to use as a comparison to their own work because she had so much time with everyone else singing her songs to road test them, but then it makes you think, how painful would that be, not having the confidence to sing such amazing songs. I’m so glad she made Tapestry.

Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak
Their rawness, their power, the turn of melody, the use of lyric purely as a musical item, the rhythm of life. They sound like my heart pumping.

Gillian Welch – Look at Miss Ohio
Look at Miss Ohio is just one of those perfect songs I could listen to a million times over and never get bored of. It’s got so much sass and attitude reminds me of myself when I was 20, cocksure and carefree. 

Led Zeppelin – Ramble On
‘Ramble On’ has to be one of the most perfect songs ever written: a pattering suitcase sound, that rippling acoustic line, one of the most ecstatic bass lines I’ve ever heard (borderline with the Meters ‘Just Kissed My Baby’) and … oh my god Tolkien in the lyrics. I mean, come on. 

Aretha Franklin singing – Say a Little Prayer for You
A world without this song would be so much poorer. The tenderness of the way the melody moves around knocks me down every time. It’s another one of those songs (thank you Hal David and Burt Bacharach) that provides a masterclass in how melodic shifts should be done.

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