Today, Grand Rapids singer and multi-instrumentalist Channing Lee — who’s also a member of The Verve Pipe — offers up the recordings that have influenced her the most. Listen to tracks from all of her picks.
To say that Grand Rapids singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Channing Lee has experienced a fascinating and diverse journey as a musician and performer would be an understatement.
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She toured the country with her musician husband, Quinn Mathews, for a dozen years or so as the Channing & Quinn indie-folk duo, cultivating enthusiastic fans for their “quirky,” insightful music and electrifying, instrument-swapping performances that even had Lee clogging away during shows.
After they left Nashville to settle in Grand Rapids, Lee soon joined the multi-platinum-selling, alt-rock band The Verve Pipe, led by Brian Vander Ark, touring the country for sold-out concerts (with an ambitious summer 2022 tour of the United States on tap). She’s also become a key songwriting collaborator with Vander Ark, co-writing tunes for The Verve Pipe’s latest studio album, “Threads.”
And as you can see, her musical influences have been just as eclectic as her career.
1. Jonathan Larson, “Rent: Original Broadway Cast Recording” (1996) – I know this is an odd pick, but both my parents were stage actors, and I was homeschooled throughout elementary years, so most of the music I listened to growing up were Broadway musicals. When “Rent” came out, it pushed the boundaries of what musicals had been, with rock songs and subjects that were real and raw and relevant. It totally blew my mind and I listened to it nonstop for way too long (as my brothers would tell you), and can still probably sing every word. It really sparked my love of storytelling through music, and so many of the songs can stand on their own.
Listen: “One Song Glory”
2. Alanis Morissette, “Jagged Little Pill” (1995) – This was the first CD I ever bought for myself and I wore it out. She had that post-grunge pop sound with radio hits that bared her soul and all her messy emotions unapologetically. I just thought she was the coolest. I love so many strong female artists from that era, but Alanis will always hold a special place and take me back to my angsty teenage days.
Listen: “You Oughta Know”
3. Simon and Garfunkel, “The Concert in Central Park” (1982) – I really didn’t dive in to Simon and Garfunkel until I was in my 20s. When Quinn and I started touring, this was one of the CDs floating around in the car and I was swept away, not only by the songs themselves, but the whole scene of this concert I had in my head. But the songs! I’m not sure there is a better songwriter than Paul Simon. There are lines in multiple songs that can make me tear up every time from the sheer poetic genius of them. Paired with harmonies that are so perfectly haunting that it leaves me yearning for something I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe just to be able to be a part of the music somehow. To be in it.
Listen: “Homeward Bound”
Currently Loving: Gregory Alan Isokov, “Evening Machines” (2018) – I love everything about this album. Actually his whole catalog, but particularly “Evening Machines” and “This Empty Northern Hemisphere” are just perfection to me. They’ve been on constant rotation for the last couple of years, and I never get sick of them.
Listen: “Southern Star”
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Channing Lee’s Playlist on Spotify
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