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Jessica Mitchell: 5 songs that changed my life

Caroline Szwed

Canadian country artist Jessica Mitchell grew up listening to Neil Young albums, so covering one of the legendary artist's songs for his Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame induction on Sept. 23 at Massey Hall is a "dream come true" — or "terrifying."

“I am so honoured," says Mitchell. "It’s probably going to go down in history as the greatest, most magical, most revealing nights of my life.”

Mitchell considers Young to be the greatest Canadian songwriter of all time, with "Needle and the Damage Done" as the song that has had the deepest impact on her musical career. “That song, there’s a great guitar part for it and just the ache and the pain that you can hear in that song.”

Mitchell may be best known for her single "Workin’ on Whiskey," which has earned her a 2017 CCMA Award nomination for songwriter of the year. The up-and-coming London, Ont., artist is currently based in both Toronto and Nashville, but for the last 15 years Mitchell worked as a waitress and bartender on Queen Street West. And in just a couple of months, she could win her first CCMA Award.

“It’s really crazy to say this, this is the first year that I have another job and music is my job now," she says. "It’s my career.”

Mitchell credits her mom and dad for her taste in music, as she claims she was always surrounded by the great singers and songwriters of her time. But Mitchell says it took 20 years to figure out who she was, and to feel comfortable in her own skin.

Below, five songs that have changed Mitchell's life and career.

‘Exit Music (For a Film),’ Radiohead (1997)

“Radiohead just changed my life in general. I’m the biggest, most diehard Radiohead fan on the planet. I think they’ll remain my No. 1 favourite band for all time. OK Computer was a life-changing experience I think for any musician.”

‘In Your Eyes,’ Peter Gabriel (1986)

“I think that song is a very touching tribute to love whether it’s family, whether it’s friendship, whether it’s a lover.”

All tracks from Paul Simon's Graceland (1986)

“That record was just perfect. He’s another one of the great songwriters of our time.”

‘Bittersweet Symphony,’ the Verve (1997)

“That was a song that my mom and I shared together.”

‘River,’ Joni Mitchell (1971)

“The last few years I’ve had the opportunity to sing that song with Art of Time, this really wonderful orchestra- based Christmas show that we do and I’ve been singing that song three years in a row with them. And it just opened my world up to a whole other meaning of what that song means.”

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