Florence Welch and her machine have achieved a level of success that has evaded almost every British band this century. They’ve headlined the Pyramid Stage of Glastonbury and smashed the glass ceiling which other bands fail to climb.
Over the last decade, few bands have balanced commerciality and critical acclaim in the same way as Florence + The Machine. Their debut album, Lungs, immediately pricked ears and sent Welch on a journey into superstardom which has only burned brighter with each passing year.
Her voice is the allure of the band, and Welch can make you feel a rollercoaster of emotions in a manner that immediately drew comparisons from the likes of Kate Bush, which in truth comes from their ability to move you rather than a distinct similarity between their voices.
For Welch, she’s always played down the apparent links to classic British female singers that have been thrown in her direction, and surprisingly, her greatest idol is Tom Waits.
He’s an artist that she’s constantly gone back to her throughout her career, but especially during the early stages. Whenever an opportunity arose where Welch got to speak about her own taste in music, Waits was a name that she couldn’t help but mention. During a Twitter Q+A some time back, the band’s accounts were asked to have any artist cover one of their songs; who would they pick? Welch quipped back, saying, “I would love Tom Waits to cover ‘Shake It Out'”.
Meanwhile, speaking to Vanity Fair, Welch revealed a list of her most eclectic influences, and you can already guess one name on the list. She commented: “I always wanted to sound like a man, like Jeff Buckley or Tom Waits. I love Otis Redding and Sam Cooke—that raw power [in] their voices. When I first heard Sam Cooke’s [‘A Change Is Gonna Come’], that song literally floored me—I had to lie down. Then for a while I would only listen to Spiritualized, and I’m a huge hip-hop fan. I’m a musical slut—I find everything interesting.”
Fascinatingly, when she told EW about the soundtrack of her life, Welch went as far as opening up about the one track from any era which she wishes she penned. Unsurprisingly, it was a Tom Waits number, and narrowing it down to just one was a heartbreaking choice. She told the publication: “‘Green Grass’ by Tom Waits [‘right’]. Really, anything by Tom Waits. I wish I was Tom Waits. His songs are so visceral and bloody. I just love his use of imagery.”
Florence’s love of Waits has never deteriorated over the years, and he’s a constant in an ever-changing life. Despite the headline performances at festivals all over the world, or accolades, hearing him take on ‘Shake Me Out’ is something that remains out of reach. However, there’s little doubt that it would be the equivalent of that heroic Pyramid Stage outing in 2016.