Composer and orchestral arranger. Half of Folk/Neo-Classical duo Daniel Goldstein and Sara Umansky.
Haven't got just one. My childhood was full of music. My parents put classical music on for me (even though they could never stand it, but I loved Mussorgsky and Holst even as an infant), but as for songs... I remember hearing tons and tons of Depeche Mode. My parents have pretty interesting tastes in music, so they played a variety of things around the house. We had Genesis, Tears for Fears, Queen... and some lesser-known things like Talk Talk and Erasure. But I do remember "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" being a really early one for me.
Arnold Schönberg. XD Seriously though, I can't say I have a favourite - but the group I've had consistent interest in and excitement about for the longest time is probably Of Montreal. Kevin Barnes writes the wittiest lyrics, and dark as some things may be, he's always presenting it with a pleasant coating, be it more acoustic (like Cherry Peel) or electronic (Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?). The arrangements are always engaging, the chord progressions are unique, and every album is an experience.
An uncontrollable urge. All of a sudden there's music in my head that I have to EXPEL from within. And out comes a chord progression, a melody or a groove. Also, I see good musicians who talk about their process, and that keeps me going. Aspiring is healthy.
It's probably the best it's ever been, actually. Before the internet, most people who'd listen to music would have to buy records and listen to the radio, so there was much less exposure to "niche" artists. Nowadays, there's a place, a time and a crowd for everything, and that's pretty amazing. Sure, things could be better - like, maybe indie artists and contemporary artists getting more attention, because these people are making interesting music, and might not be rewarded enough. But honestly, it's never been as good, because major labels and radio aren't the dominant force anymore.
I buy albums all the time. Almost every gig I go to, I buy the artists' album. Comradery and mutual support in the indie scene is really important.
Not sell your soul to major labels and cheap music. Make the kind of music you would like to listen to, and if you're any good at it - It'll pay off. It's not really this simple, you gotta work for it. But it's very satisfying at the end, to see it happen.
Beirut are an amazing Santa Fe, New Mexico group led by Zach Condon, and they play this mix of Brass-y mariachi and balkan music. They're great, their "Gulag Orkestar" album is one of my favourites. David Ackles was an American Singer-songwriter and pianist, and he wrote some fantastic songs. I love his album "American Gothic", the lyrics are brilliant there. Egg were a Canterbury scene Progressive Rock trio, who were great at their craft and were fine instrumentalists, but also had a sense of humour. I think it's healthy to be a little tongue-in-cheek in music, if you want to survive in the business.