The last question we always ask Playlisters—“If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be?”—is notorious for stumping even the most creative of folks. But we think graphic designer Carolyn Sewell’s answer takes the cake. Take a look-see to learn what the Southern-born creator of Postcards To My Parents and Postcards To My Peeps listens to (and feels inspired by) in the home she shares with custom furniture designer and builder Richard Sewell of The Proper Carpenter.
What do you listen to while you work? Having to answer this, I’m realizing my listening style is quite manic…my process is a bit scattered (read: teeny tiny attention span) so my music shifts with my mood and focus. If I’m sketching or working in Photoshop or Illustrator then it could be anything from Black Keys and Beastie Boys to Arcade Fire and Heartless Bastards. If I’m working on copy edits or estimates, then I prefer to take it down a notch and listen to Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Ray LaMontagne, etc. And I’ve recently started listening to Debbie Millman’s podcast Design Matters…not only is her voice like a caramel blanket, but the creative folks she interviews are so amazing and inspiring that my skin starts tingling and my brain starts oozing. It’s a great feeling.
How do you listen? I work by myself in my home (so no need for earphones) and usually listen from my computer. I used to listen to my iPod when commuting to meetings, but found that I kept missing my metro stops. I’d get so wrapped into my music that I’d forget that I actually had a destination. Have I mentioned my short attention span?
Does music influence your work? I remember being a 7th grader drawing peace signs and bubble letters on my book covers and my parents telling me I was born way too late. They were right, and the psychedelic illustration style never left me.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? This will have to be a 3-part answer. Part 1) Thanks to my older brother Will Horne, I grew up listening to Beastie Boys instead of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Under his guidance, the first album I bought was Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” And then he left for boarding school and I bought Paula Abdul’s “Spellbound.” Clearly I wasn’t capable of making good musical decisions without him. Part 2) About 10 years ago I moved to the D.C.-area and met my future BFF Katie O’Brien. I knew her for a week before she asked me to join her at an Ani DiFranco concert. Her mix CDs got me through several birthdays, road trips, and job changes. Damn San Francisco for taking her away from me. Part 3) Brandon DeHart. His total recall of albums and artists makes my head hurt and his “Best Of…” collections are my music bible. I am a lost puppy without him.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? I would say Dolly Parton for her deceptive Southern charm. At first glance, someone might say she’s all makeup, hair, and boobs. But when you listen to her music—and realize she writes her own songs—you sense the independent, stubborn sassiness hidden underneath the frills. And because of their irreverent lyrics and colorful album art, I’d also like to add Cake. Only they could make the font Copperplate seem cool. Plus I really love the packaging of their latest album.
Joy, Bettye Lavette
I Will Survive, Cake
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Arcade Fire
Dancing On Our Graves, The Cave Singers
Old Old Fashioned, The Frightened Rabbit
Hustle and Cuss, The Dead Weather
Sugarfoot, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh, Say Hi
I Felt Like a Gringo, Minutemen
Everlasting Light, The Black Keys
9 to 5, Dolly Parton
Images: Carolyn Sewell