Reverse engineering my own coffeehouse mix

I’ve been spending some time lately in a local coffeehouse while my boy takes a Kung Fu class. I have a skinny latte and try to squeeze in an hour of work before rushing out the door to pick up the boy.

It just so happens that this coffeehouse has XM Radio on all the time and the channel is set to 51: The Coffeehouse. On several occasions I found myself digging the music and hearing versions of songs I hadn’t heard before. It was as if someone was inside my head playing music from my own personal collection and mixing in covers and live acoustic versions of some of the best songs.

I could just subscribe to XM Radio for this mix. However, my first instinct, when confronted with a paid version of something I want, is to search for a free version. I’ve searched high and low online for a free version of “The Coffeehouse” sound but there’s nothing. Subscription-based satellite radio may finally have hooked me with a killer app – in this case, a killer playlist.

However, before I give in and subscribe, I am going to try and make my own coffeehouse mix. And these are the artists I am going to start with (courtesy of Noise Addicts):

  • Ben Harper is an American singer/songwriter born in California. His musical genres include alternative rock, folk rock and blues rock. His lyrics, music and videos often reflect the California elements: beach, sun, sand and surfing.
  • Joshua Radin is also an American singer/songwriter who is famous for his acoustic rock and slow songs. His songs are frequently played in the TV drama series Grey’s Anatomy and independent romance films.
  • Death Cab for Cutie is in fact featured in the same movie soundtrack as Joshua Radin, and that is how I discovered them both. Death Cab for Cutie is an American indie rock band that got its name from the 1967 song called Death Cab for Cutie.
  • Coldplay is one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed (alternative) rock bands. Many of the songs feature piano played by singer Chris Martin, accompanied by his ever soothing voice. This English rock band was formed in 1997, in London.
  • R.E.M is an American alternative rock band formed in 1980. The band produced some of the biggest hits in the 90s with their songs Losing My Religion (from the 1991 album Out of Time) and Everybody Hurts (from the 1992 album Automatic for the People). The band is still active and considered to be one of the best alternative rock bands.
  • Crowded House is an Australian band fronted by Neil Finn, the band’s singer/guitarist/songwriter and creative brain. Formed in 1985, Crowded House is one of the most respected alternative rock/pop-rock bands. The band split up in 1996 and got back together in 2006. The band’s older and new songs, along with Finn’s solo work are among the favorites of coffee houses. You might remember The Crowded House hits such as World Where You Live, Don’t Dream It’s Over, Four Seasons in One Day and Into Temptation.
  • Lenka is an Australian pop singer and songwriter who released her hit single Trouble is a Friend in 2008. Her pop is not exactly mainstream, however.
  • John Mayer is an American singer/songwriter/musician. He has been in the music business since 1998. His songs’ genres mostly include folk rock, blues rock, soft rock, soul and acoustic rock. He plays many instruments including guitars, piano, guitar synthesizer, omnichord, vibraphone and percussion.
  • KT Tunstall is a Scottish singer/musician who released her first album in 2004. Her preferred genres are blues, folk and alternative rock. She plays the drums, guitars, flute and the piano.
  • Snow Patrol is an Irish alternative rock band formed in 1994.Their music is mostly categorized as alternative rock and indie rock. Their first album was released in 1998.

Some of these I know well and others I am going to explore, precisely because they are turning up in the coffeehouse mix that I so like. To the above artists, I will add some of my own favourites that fit very nicely into this genre:

  • Amos Lee was introduced to me by my friend Ian and his moody, stripped down sound fits very nicely with Radin.
  • Jonatha Brooke opened for Bruce Cockburn back in the late 1990s when I first saw her and has been active on the mid-American college circuit ever since.
  • Meaghan Smith is a brand new artist of immense talent who was signed to a rare five album deal after her first four-song EP was released.
  • Alexi Murdoch was introduced to me by the movie Garden State, the soundtrack of which captures the rainy day coffee house vibe perfectly.
  • Everything But The Girl was making coffee house tunes back in the late 80s and early 90s before transforming themselves into more of a club sound.
  • Ben Folds slayed me the moment I first heard him and is an unsung genius of contemporary pop music, infused with folk, jazz, rock and blues.
  • Jamie Cullum is a young, talented musician whose been making jazz pop records for most of the past decade.
  • Raul Midon can do things to a guitar that my ears (let alone my eyes) can hardly believe. He mixes R&B, jazz and pop into a powerful and rhythmically uplifting musical mix.
  • Sarah McLachlan is so beautiful…oh and she makes some lovely music too.

Sounds like fun! Would you listen to a station like this?

7 thoughts on “Reverse engineering my own coffeehouse mix”

  • I’ve had a similar musical epiphany a couple of years ago as I met my university-attending daughter at the local S coffeeshop.

    I was thinking this was finally the kind of music I want (after a couple of decades of blah)

    While our coffeeshop does not tune in to Sirius/XM’s The Coffeehouse, I did a 14 day free trial to know that this was the kind of mix I wanted. Like you I wasn’t ready to pay $15 a month. So like you I researched the kinds of artists that I liked on The Coffehouse.

    I also loved how our coffeeshop mixed in some swing/jazz standards (Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald) It really works

    Here’s a few more for you to consider, in no particular order:

    Ben Taylor (son of James Taylor)
    Chris Isaak
    Colbie Caillat
    Ingrid Michaelson
    David Gray
    Jack Johnson
    Jason Mraz
    Mat Kearney
    Peter Bradley Adams
    Indigo Girls
    Pete Yorn
    Ryan Adams
    Alison Krauss
    Ari Hest (Cranberry Lake !!)
    Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (Somewhere Over The Rainbow – What a Wonderful World)
    Bruce Cockburn
    Damien Rice
    Dave Matthews
    David Wilcox
    Glen Hansard
    James Morrison
    James Taylor
    Jesse Ruben
    Norah Jones
    Ryan Adams
    Sheryl Crowe
    Tracy Chapman
    Paolo Nitini
    Ray Lamontagne
    Gavin DeGraw
    Matt Nathanson

    • Yeah! This is great. All these new (and some already familiar) artists to start listening to. Thanks for your informed comment, Mattie!

      P.S. I leased a new vehicle and it came with 3 months of free XM radio. So it’s coffeehouse all the time now.

      • Three months of free XM radio? Cool for you!

        You’ll either go into withdrawal in three months…or you’ll cave and dish out the money for that small indulgence, especially if it’s made a difference in your well-being =)

  • Listen to Dala, too. Hockey Sweater is probably one that many have heard, but that duo is awesome on everything else, too.

  • This is so weird Jay – my husband just did the exact same thing! Except we had an XM subscription (it was free with something else at some point) and we didn’t want to renew it, so he just made his own “Coffeehouse” playlist! It is on constant rotation in the car. I think he ended up with 250+ songs. Also, I know this post is a few months old.. just getting to know you better. 🙂

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