On the heels of Kings of Leon’s excellent new album, Mechanical Bull, we asked frontman Caleb Followill, 31, about the music he grew up. Turns out, the man had some illuminating answers about New Orleans karaoke, loving Whitney Houston, and more. Read his answers below:
The first song I was obsessed with: I remember the first time I heard Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” I flipped out. I was about 8. Before I went to school, I’d press “record” on the oldies station. When I got home, I’d go through the whole tape—and then I found “Stand by Me.” I used to just play it and rewind and stop it and play it again and rewind it.
The song that reminds me of my first crush: [Sighs] That would be the Bodyguard soundtrack. I was definitely Kevin Costner to her Whitney Houston.
The first album I bought: Southern Accents by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers…. I don’t know, something about it drew me in. The first song I ever performed in public It was my 18th birthday, on Bourbon Street. Me and my brother and my cousin were all underage, but we snuck into a bar and we sang [Wild Cherry’s] “Play That Funky Music.” That was actually the first time I ever got on a stage and sang. And a woman flashed us and we all looked at each other and were like, “All right, I guess this is what we’re gonna do forever.”
Artists you wouldn’t guess that I loved: Growing up, I was a huge Boyz II Men fan. What was that one album called, II? I used to sing it all the time. I used to listen to, like, that and Keith Sweat and all kinds of R&B music.
My going-out music: LCD Soundsystem is always good to get you in the mood to go and have a good time. I don’t really know the names of their albums, though—you can just pick one. [Laughs]
Music that reminds me of home: Harvest Moon by Neil Young. My wife always plays that. [It’s] a good record to drink to, cook to, take a bath to, or whatever it is.
My go-to karaoke song: “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)” by John Michael Montgomery. It’s just fun. And you know, the drunker you get, the harder it is, so it’s a lot more fun.
The song I play for my kid [his daughter, Dixie, is 15 months old]: She’s pretty much obsessed with anything from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. [Sings] “Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog, now we got ears, it’s time for cheers!” I get it.
My jukebox jam: “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me” by George Jones. Usually if you’re in a bar and there are guys sitting there, when it comes on they all raise a glass.
The song I wish I’d written: “Clay Pigeons” by Blaze Foley. It paints such a picture that when you listen to it, you hope that’s you he’s singing about.
The song I don’t like to play live: Well, there’s a song called “Ragoo” [off 2007’s Because of the Times] that’s really good, but it’s a lot of hard work.
The song I want played at my funeral: I remember watching Tommy Boy and [they played] “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. I was like, “That’s gotta happen at my funeral.” Bagpipes don’t really fit my heritage, I guess, but I would have to say “Amazing Grace” in some way, shape, or form.