Justin Jude is quietly plotting musical world domination from his velvet-scarf -bedecked bunker in Portland, OR. He’s been compared to Paul Simon, Rufus Wainwright and some other cats you twentysomethings have never heard of. Using only his voice, he can pop the top off a Coke bottle at 50 feet. His music has been featured on Roadtrip Nation, The Today Show, national radio and several compilations. You can hear his latest EP, 5 Kinds of Rain, at justinjude.com. Sign up for a free track at justinjudemusic.com.
Indie musicians have to go on tour, and touring is boring.
OK, not really. Touring is awesome. It’s fun and adventurous and you get to make and meet new fans.
But driving from Portland to Seattle for the fiftieth time takes some intestinal fortitude.
And a kick-ass playlist.
Without a playlist that keeps you rocking and clear-headed, you could be ready to jump off the bridge by the time you reach the Skookumchuck River.
Roadtrip Nation asked me to put together a list of my favorite road songs. So here they are: songs to keep the lights on inside your head once the lights come on on the highway.
Not only that, this list includes two acts I discovered on the Roadtrip Nation soundtrack. That’s pretty cool.
1. Our Love – Rhett Miller. This has gotta be one of the best pop songs ever written. Every roadtrip should start with this song. I could practically drive all the way to Boise on just this song. The drums are killer and I love the crooked guitar riff at the end.
2. Supply and Demand – Amos Lee. Amos has a voice like caramel and gets a ton of play on my playlists of great songs about the struggles of living. This song’s a great reminder for a busy indie musician always hurrying to the next gig or trying to get some music blog’s attention: Life is more than just showing up and paying up.
3. Streetlights – Breanna Paletta. This fellow Portlander now co-fronts The Sale, but her 2007 solo acoustic pop album is one of my all-time faves. Her voice is so mmm – tender and heartfelt without ever going sappy. Killer folk-pop tune with just a hint of bluegrass.
4. Let Down – Radiohead. File this under “I wish I wrote that.” After listening to this masterpiece hundreds of times, I still have no idea how he’s playing the opening guitar riff. The chords on the chorus are so beautiful, it just never gets old. For a roadtrip song, it doesn’t hurt that the second verse is about feeling like a smashed bug on the windshield.
5. My House – Cantinero. I don’t know where this guy has been keeping himself, but he’s one of the smartest songwriters– and arrangers – I’ve ever heard. I first heard him on the Roadtrip Nation 2008 soundtrack, where we both had songs featured. Then I just had to get his album, Better for the Metaphor. Pick a song; they’re all good, this is just my current fave.
6. Poison and Wine – The Civil Wars. I’m embarrassed that it took a Taylor Swift video from the Hunger Games, seen in the electronics department of Fred Meyer, for me to discover these guys. They have the perfect mix of pop vocals, country flavor and radio-friendly folk. Plus this song has the lyric of the year: “I don’t love you / But I always will”
7. Jesusland – Ben Folds. I’ll listen to just about anything Ben Folds does because he always goes beyond the norm, adding lush harmonies, unusual vocal lines, and of course oddball lyrics. This song gets at the monotony of roadtripping through the heartland – all the billboards and the subdivisions. He gets a little harsh by blaming it on the evangelicals … I think we’re all to blame for wrecking nature. But hey, the song is great. Love that awkward opening choir, too.
8. You’ll Be Coming Down – Bruce Springsteen. No roadtrip is complete without Bruce. I’m tripping on Wrecking Ball these days, but this song from Magic is the one I come back to. It’s a reminder how fleeting fame is and he doesn’t mince words – there’s something about that I love. You’ll be coming down now, baby; you’ll be coming down.
9. Lovely Life – The Northstar Session. I also discovered these guys on the Roadtrip Nation 2008 soundtrack. They’re just nailing the pop rock sound. Such a driveable song, it never gets old.
10. Did You Get My Message? – Jason Mraz. While the rest of the country is grooving to Jason’s anthemic harmony- fest “I Won’t Give Up”, I’m still digging this sneaky piano riff and the chorus that builds like an avalanche. Rachael Yamagata’s guest vocal is pretty sexy.
11. In State – Kathleen Edwards. This song is just. So. Fucking. Good.
12. Freedom of the Road – Martin Sexton. Nobody nails the mix of hope and despair that can affect the traveling musician like Sexton. Nor can anyone sing it out like this. This song is about hanging up the traveling shoes and trying to find his way home. Always gets me right in the heart.
Check out Justin’s playlist here.