Damien Green: My Life In Records, A Deathbed Q&A

Damien Green won the July/August contest

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Damien Green of Austin, Minnesota, was selected as our July/August “On My Deathbed” winner. We spoke with Damien about his life in records.


Pet Sounds, Beach Boys
Darkness On The Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen
Born Under, Martin Zellar
Devotion & Doubt, Richard Buckner
Trust, Elvis Costello
London Calling, The Clash
On Stage, Elvis Presely
Singles Collection, Hank Williams
Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
Mule Variations, Tom Waits

Martin Zeller and Richard Buckner are two artists we don’t see on our Deathbed lists very often. How’d you come to pick those two in your top ten albums?

I grew up in Austin, Minnesota, and Martin graduated with my brother, so his music has always been around, first with the Geardaddies and then on his own. Born Under is so strong from start to finish and captures Martin at his best. His writing comes of age on this record and his voice is amazing.

My brother introduced me to Richard Buckner’s music with Devotion & Doubt and it blew me away. He bends the language in shadows and creates amazing imagery. I met Buckner before a show he was doing in Minneapolis and he was very gracious when talking about where he was, mentally and physically, while he was writing Devotion & Doubt and that sealed it for me. Writing-wise, I’ll take Buckner any day.

What was the first album on your list that you got really into?

Elvis Costello’s Trust. Again, my brother’s at fault. He’s four years older than me and so I was able to hear things in the late ’70s and early ’80s that most kids didn’t hear like The Clash and Costello. I bought Trust as a cassette from a Kmart-type store; amazing they even had it. I’ve bought everything he’s put out since but there’s something special about going back and listening to Trust.

Does your list follow a progression of your own listening habits through life?

Perhaps in the variety. Elvis’ Gold Records was the first album I ever owned. I still tend to listen to things that I grew up with. Miles Davis and Tom Waits came later, again through my brother, in fact I think Pet Sounds was the first record, besides Elvis, that I found on my own and that made it on the list. For me, music is about associations, people and places, and I think the music on the list reflects that in my case. Hank Williams comes from my grandparents, listening to him on their old radio and his music will always take me back to that place.

You chose Tom Waits’ Mule Variations. What do you think of Waits’ output before and after 1999’s landmark Mule Variations?

I really like Raindogs and Frank’s Wild Years. Mule Variations seems to me a culmination of those records and Waits is at the top of his game, the culmination of his craft with it. I don’t mind the earlier stuff but I’m not crazy about it. Perhaps I don’t hold his earlier stuff in higher esteem because I didn’t find out about Tom Waits until the mid-eighties.

Are there any albums that you wanted to include on your list, but in the end, just didn’t make the cut?

Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft for sure. In a different month it probably would be on the list. Music is so cyclical and Dylan is an autumn into winter guy for me. Matthew Ryan’s May Day was another one.

Pick one of the albums on your list and tell us why you chose it.

Pet Sounds is an unusual album for me because I’m a word person and Brian Wilson is so much about sound. I stumbled on the album from a 100 Greatest Album’s list and bought it. I started to read about Brian and he captivated me as an artist. My knowledge of what musicians did in the studio was limited and so I was blown away by what went in to making that record. He took these seemingly simple tunes and created little symphonies from them. I’ve come to appreciate music more because of Pet Sounds and how it enhances the words and brings life to a song.

Damien wins a PRS SE One Korina electric guitar from our sponsor Paul Reed Smith Guitars.

Sign up for the Sept/Oct On My Deathbed here.

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