Nick Drake was just another obscure British folk artist before a 1999 Volkswagen commercial made him posthumously famous. After a torrent of after-the-fact critical praise, reissues and even a couple of documentaries, Nick Drake has emerged as a major influence for some if indie's best artists. In honor of this soft-spoken singer-songwriter, who died in 1974 of a drug overdose, we’ve compiled this list of stylistic disciples: 10 Artists That Owe Nick Drake a Round. (The bartender in heaven should go ahead and start a tab.)
As a solo artist and a member of power-electro trio Junip, Swedish/Argentine classical guitarist and singer-songwriter José González exudes the influence of Nick Drake. He's got the monotone vox, classically detuned and finger-picked melodies and depressing lyrics, and he's even recorded several Drake tunes, most notably ‘The Cello Song.’
Bon Iver mastermind Justin Vernon's vocal range is a bit higher and reedier than the classic baritone of Nick Drake, but stylistically, he's Drakesman through and through. Listen to BI’s first album, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago,’ and you’ll hear distinct similarities with Drake’s minimalist output.
Not to be confused with the Kings of Leon, the Kings of Convenience are a Norwegian duo that weaves a sound somewhere between Nick Drake and Simon & Garfunkel. Newcomers should start with their strong debut, ‘Quiet Is the New Loud,’ from 2001.
On his albums ‘Mutations’ (for which he won a Grammy) and ‘Sea Change,’ Beck takes the Nick Drake template and runs with it. Recording the latter, Beck had his father, master string arranger and composer David Campbell, create highly Drakian orchestral arrangements to complement his sparse acoustic tracks about a recent breakup.
Elliott Smith was another über-talented, frail-voiced singer-songwriter who penned classically inspired works and died tragically. Smith, however, enjoyed more fame in his living years than Drake, releasing albums that actually sold and playing many well-documented live shows. (There are no tapes of Drake performing, so far as we know.) Smith even earned an Oscar nomination for his song 'Miss Misery.' Heck, Smith might have already bought Drake that round, and we bet they're the most popular coffeehouse strummers in heaven.
Sun Kil Moon is one of the many faces of classical guitarist, singer and songwriter Mark Kozelek, who’s also gone by his own name and, in the ‘90s, Red House Painters. At its sparsest, SKM sounds pretty much exactly like Nick Drake. (When Kozelek gets loud and drony, he's more Neil Young & Crazy Horse.)
Alexi Murdoch might as well just change his name to Nick Drake, Jr. -- that's how much he sounds like the late icon. Check out Murdoch's debut, ‘Time Without Consequence,' and you may recognize the closing track, ‘Orange Sky,’ from a car commercial. His voice coach taught him well.
Ever since 2007’s ‘The Year Of The Leopard,’ Scottish singer-songwriter James Yorkston has been on the verge of his international breakout moment, but even if it never comes, his Nick Drake–style acoustic folk is worth seeking out on Spotify.
England’s Robyn Hitchcock is one of those artists that doesn’t just absorb his influences (Nick Drake, Syd Barrett, the Byrds), but rather, he brings them to a whole new level. Sure, some of his stuff might be a little too weird for the mainstream, but he's gained a sizable following, and he's been active on the Nick Drake cheerleading circuit, having contributed a cover of ‘Parasite’ to a recent tribute album and penned an original called ‘I Saw Nick Drake.’
In recent years, Iron & Wine (Sam Beam) has added some electric guitars and other band-like instrumentation to his albums, but listen to his first handful of records, and you’ll hear all the Nick Drake hallmarks: hushed vocals, minimalist classical guitar work and introspective lyrics (mostly about girls, women and females).