The Music That Makes Us

Everyone has a favourite song or album we go back to time and time again. Music has an emotional impact on us, it can trigger memories of childhood, life-changing experiences and moments of sadness. Such songs can inspire or empower through lyrics, beats or notes. They can improve our happiness and sense of peace, they can influence the clothes we wear, what we do and how we interact.

Even though there are many different genres of music, it can unite people. For instance, if someone’s favourite song is a classical instrumental piece, it could give the same feeling that someone else has with a rock song.

Here we meet some as they talk about their favourite songs.

Click on the buttons to listen to each song mentioned by the individuals.


‘If I had to choose just one song I would have to go for ‘Rhiannon’ by Fleetwood Mac. I first remember listening to it when I was 17 and actually was writing an essay about Fleetwood Mac, I came across this video of the 1976 live performance. The version of the song performed there is slightly different to the recorded version and not to sound too cheesy but I fell in love with it, as well as being in awe of the bands stage presence and Stevie Nicks’ performance whilst singing. The song makes me feel strangely powerful, as if I could do anything and everything at the same time as feeling calm and sad, it reminds me of loneliness and strength. It’s probably unconsciously influenced how I write songs and it did inspire me to write a song about someone and come up with a character. It also influenced my taste in music as I’ve found since listening to it I’ve been more drawn to similar songs with female vocals whereas before my music taste was more around rocky bands and male artists.’

Louie Parfitt

‘My favourite album is ‘To The Moon’ by the Pope’s of Chilitown. The whole album is upbeat fast paced with just so many incredible tunes on it, it sets me up for the day and picks me up when I feel low. I first heard them at a gig in a festival in 2016 just heard them in the distance and thought it sounded brilliant. I then stayed for the whole set and left thinking “damn they were incredible”. My favourite song is on that album is ‘Vamos A La Luna’, high octane feel-good tune that you can’t not dance too.

Music has always been incredibly influential in a number of aspects of my life, helping me through tough times and developing me into the person I am today.

It influences how I see and perceive the world around me and how I act to make a positive change in it. By going to protests supporting marginalised communities, supporting independent places rather than big companies, helping the environment by making personal changes whilst also supporting people to create a larger change in the nations.’

Victoria Blake-Dobell

‘Choosing a favourite piece of music will always be an impossible task for me. Since the start of lockdown, I felt creatively drained, but something that I found incredibly inspiring was discovering Hania Rani, especially her piece ‘Glass’. It has a unique soundscape with delicate fragments reminiscent of the classical pieces I studied growing up. This and a lot of her work remind me of moments of lightness and clarity, and they often have calming palettes of light blues and pinks. I smell early mornings and polished wood, all the while my neck and shoulders lose some of their tension. It’s restful and draws me to the piano, sometimes to compose, but mostly to just enjoy my time with the instrument.’

Andy Rance

‘My favourite song, to be honest, is Tom Walker’s ‘Leave a Light on’. I first heard this after we’d just installed the coloured lights outside Livewire. Livewire is a youth project. It’s a charity that specialises in live music and mental health.

The one line that always hits me. “If you look into the distance, there’s a house upon the hill, Guiding like a lighthouse to a place where you’ll be, Safe to feel our grace ‘cause we’ve all made mistakes, If you’ve lost your way, I will leave the light on” It sums up my hope that Livewire can be that safe place for everyone.’

Emily Hyatt

‘My favourite Manics song is ‘No Surface All Feeling’. It’s got everything I need in a song; it can be played loud or quiet, it can be emotionally huge or tender, it sounds a bit magical.

It’s very stirring for me, it’s a well of emotions where I can find joy, rapture, sadness, nostalgia and happiness. Its incredible live and when I see them play it, it’s always a beautiful, uplifting and almost spiritual experience! I first heard it when they played The White Room in 1996. I’d got Everything Must Go but I hadn’t really engaged with it, I was in my Radiohead obsession phase. They played ‘No Surface All Feeling’ along with ‘A Design For Life’ and ‘La Tristesse Durera’ and it just floored me, it’s so big and beautiful and powerful yet it has a gentle element to it. I taped it and played it so often the tape for creased! That version led me to engage properly with Everything Must Go and I instantly adored the album version.

The Manics have influenced my life massively. I’ve made lifelong friends because of them for a start. I met two of my closest friends in a Manics chatroom called Archives Of Pain in the late 90s and we hung out a lot and went to see them live together. Barry, my best friend who I ended up living with, died a few years ago but Helen and I are still friends. In late 2014 I’d stopped drinking after finally taking action against my alcohol problem. I felt something was missing, I hadn’t listened to the Manics in years. Barry and I, for nostalgias sake had got tickets to see them play for the 20th anniversary of The Holy Bible. The second James Dean Bradfield walked on stage I knew this was what I’d been missing. From that point on I was in love again. They got me through my subsequent breakdown in 2015 and I made lots of new friends and became part of the wonderful, supportive Manics family! They’ve helped me find out what really matters to me, how to be honest with myself and what true happiness means.’

Catharine Ecob

‘It’s a very complicated question for me and there’s not a single answer. There’s different types, for dancing there’s a song by an DJ called Sharam who’s remixed this track. It’s called ‘Deep Breath’ and it’s like a really uplifting vocal track, everything is amazing, and the sun is shining song.

So, you’ve got something like that and then you’ve got one by a label called Bedrock, a track called ‘Emerald’. It is a completely musical techno number, and that’s great for dancing to in a place like Fabric in London, which is dark, smoky and goes until eight or nine in the morning. That’s a favourite for there,

Having a favourite changes depending on the mood. A lot of the stuff , because you’re dancing for eight or nine hours at a time, you can love a track and then it disappears out of your head.

Rave music makes me feel great, euphoric, at peace, content and it’s probably one of the few times in my life when I’ve been on dancefloors going, “If everything ends now, it will be okay because everything is so good!”. I just feel at one with the world and everyone around, and it just feels great.’

Margaret Callaghan

‘My favourite of all is ‘How would you feel?’ From Divide by Ed Sheeran. I think it’s because in all songs, I like a lovely melody and I go for good lyrics. This song has both. It has a really lovely melody, it’s gentle and it’s a proper love song really. I really like the lyrics and you can hear everything he sings. I heard him perform this song live when I saw him in Glasgow. He’s amazing live as well as recorded.

I think what it does, it takes me back many years, it reminds me of the way it was when I was a teenager and the way you would like to think a love song would be, with the lyrics and melody. It makes me feel really happy when I hear it.’

Olivia Barbato

It’s a difficult question… I think one of my favourite songs is ‘Women’s World’ by Little Mix. I love how the song is a statement on women’s rights, it makes me feel really empowered and makes me want to stand up for my rights.

Katherine Rees

‘My favourite album is La Traviata by the Royal Opera House. I heard the opera live when I was researching my dissertation. The album also reminds me of love, and it makes me feel calm.

For me, classical music has helped me express myself in a way I cannot with words. It also brings me a sense of community, from being in a choir, and it really makes me happy. Discovering classical music created my career, as a Student Ambassador for the Royal Opera House. I mainly work now in helping others access the industry or experience the genre for the first time. It makes me feel at ease.’

Derry Orchard

‘Without a doubt one of my favourite songs is Eyesore by Women which appears on the album Public Strain,
which is one of my favourite albums too. The band is magic, and I can’t really explain how the song makes me feel, it’s a mixture of emotions, both melancholic and joyous at the same time. That’s really the strength of the song and it comes and goes in a flash despite it being six minutes.

The composition of the song is great and the guitar interplay between the two guitarists is killer, it’s also really catchy and the lyrics are really cryptic yet memorable. It reminds me of the switching of seasons summer into winter, winter into spring.

Being obsessed with music and learning instruments influences the way I think about life and how I go about doing things. I think especially in regard to learning an instrument it’s like a discipline so I’m really thankful for having that in my life.’

Words and pictures by Kira Butters, BA Photojournalism

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