The Killers' Brandon Flowers on his all-time favorite songs -- Squeeze, Depeche Mode, Tina Turner and more

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Nearly a decade after establishing himself as one of rock’s vital voices, the Killers’ Brandon Flowers, 31, is set to deliver another set of snowcapped, arena-pleasing anthems on his band’s fourth album, Battle Born, out Sept. 18. In the meantime, the Nevada native—who lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Tana, and their three sons, ages 17 months to 5 years—sat down with us to talk about the songs that have made him sing, cry, and … sell tacos.

THE FIRST SONG I WAS OBSESSED WITH: “Missing You,” John Waite (1984)

“I’m not sure how young kids get to the point where they’re memorizing and knowing songs, but I knew the words to “’Missing You” from John Waite probably from when I was three years old. For whatever reason, that was the song that I gravitated toward when it was on the radio and I was driving around with my mom. It must’ve been played a lot, because I knew all the words. My sister would take me around to her friends’ parents and things, and I would sing it. [Laughs]”

THE SONG THAT ALWAYS REMINDS ME OF HOME: “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” Eagles (1972)

“I spent some time in Utah, so that’s why I have a bit of an accent, but I consider home to be Henderson [Nevada] and Las Vegas. I love the desert, so there are a few people for me who’ve captured that specific area, like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac and even Jackson Browne sometimes. I’ll hear that stuff and I’m just there. But if I had to say one specifically, it’d be this one. I hear it and it’s like — I don’t know, I can just see the sun going down in Las Vegas.”

THE SONG THAT MAKES ME THINK OF MY FIRST CRUSH: “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” Tina Turner (1984)

“But my crush was on Tina Turner. [Laughs] That’s bad, right? I think it was the video.”

THE FIRST ALBUM I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY: Songs of Faith and Devotion, Depeche Mode (1993)

“My mom had bought me a few cassettes, but I got a job at a place called Taco Time in Nephi, Utah. I worked there with my mom, and two of my sisters worked there too. So I was 15, and usually to buy music you had to go to Provo, which is an hour drive, but we had a truck stop. Basically Nephi was like a truck stop, it was such a small town. I was a fan of the kind of bubblegum, early-early Depeche Mode. And I didn’t know exactly how dark that they could delve, and I didn’t know that I would like it. But I bought it for I think $5 on cassette at Flying J. And it’s one of my favorite things, still. Later, we even got to work with Flood [a.k.a. Mark Ellis], who produced Songs, on our album Sam’s Town.”

THE SONG THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: “Just What I Needed,” The Cars (1978)

“There are probably so many, but I go back to Nephi again, because you’re so influenced when you’re 12 or 13. I mean, there wasn’t even a stoplight in this town, and it was such a big contrast because, you know, I was from Las Vegas. But that song was just so cool to me, and it had such a big impact. It made that town more tolerable, and it made that town cooler, and it didn’t matter. It was really profound.”

EW: Have you tried to get Ric Ocasek to produce any of your records?

“Here’s a weird one: He was on the list, definitely. I don’t know if it was our first manager — who’s not our manager anymore, because he’s a liar — or if it was our A&R guy, but I forgot who told us, but they told us that Ocasek wasn’t into it. And I found out later that he never said that. So there’s how history was changed — he may have done one of the first or second Killers records if I hadn’t thought that.”

Is it too late for that now?

“Yeah, I don’t know — it’s weird now.”

THE FIRST SONG I EVER SANG IN PUBLIC: “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” Oasis (1996)

“I worked at a French restaurant in Las Vegas—it was in the Aladdin Hotel and Casino, and now it’s called Planet Hollywood—and we had a Christmas party at a Thai restaurant, and they had karaoke set up. That was actually the only time I’ve ever done karaoke.”

THE SONG I LIKE TO SING TO MY KIDS: “The Cowboy’s Christmas Ball,” The Killers (2011)

“We sing theme songs from shows that they watch: Mighty Machines, Curious George. But the Killers do a Christmas song every year for the RED Campaign for Bono, and this last one was called ‘The Cowboy’s Christmas Ball.’ They love singing that. It’s got this really strange old language—it’s from an old cowboy poem. So it’s funny hearing the kids sing all these weird words. And if we’re in the car, if the Beatles come on, I try to explain [the songs] to them, let them know that this is more important than other things. Or, like, ‘This is Elvis, this is the King.’”

THE SONG THAT MAKES ME CRY: “This Woman’s Work,” Kate Bush (1988)

“It just affects me, man. It’s one of those most powerful pieces of music that I’ve encountered. It was in [the 1988 John Hughes movie] She’s Having a Baby when I was little, and even then I knew, like, I really like this song. And now that I’m older, it just sticks with me. It’s perfect.”

THE SONG I WISH I HAD WRITTEN: “Up the Junction,” Squeeze (1979)

“What’s the big Squeeze song? ‘Pulling Mussels’? ‘Cool for Cats’? No, no—there’s another one…[checks iPhone] ‘Tempted’! [Sings] ‘Tempted by the fruit of another…’ So I had only known that, and I knew that [legendary U.K. radio host] Jools Holland was in the band. But I got satellite radio in my car, and I was like, ‘How the hell do I not know this song?’ This was recently! So now I’ve watched the video on YouTube, and I’m just so impressed with that song, wish I’d written it.”

THE SONG I LOVE TO PLAY LIVE: “When You Were Young,” The Killers (2006)

“We’re all proud of our first record, and some of those songs go down crazy great. But there’s something about this one that I think…it’s unreal that we were able to do it again. And I still have that thrill about that song. Like, ‘We did it again!’ Because there was a lot of pressure on us, and I get that validation every time that we play it. And that must’ve given me a lot of confidence when making the third record, and from there on.”

THE SONG I’LL ALWAYS USE MY QUARTERS ON AT THE BAR JUKEBOX: “Suspicious Minds,” Elvis Presley (1969)

“It makes me think of Las Vegas, and that’s never a bad thing for me.”

THE ALBUM PEOPLE MIGHT NOT EXPECT ME TO LOVE: Punk in Drublic, NOFX (1994)

“I liked this when I was 14. I never quite fit into that [punk] category or corner or whatever it is, but I appreciate that craft. I don’t if it’s influenced me, but it was great pop.”

THE SONG I MOST WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR: “A Dustland Fairytale,” The Killers (2008)

“Musically and lyrically, I think it’s pretty imaginative. I’m happy with it.”

THE MOST SENTIMENTAL BOSS SONG: “Thunder Road,” Bruce Springsteen (1975)

“I gotta say ‘Thunder Road.’ I got to go on stage with the E Street Band and do the song in France, so that’s always going to be something I always associate with the Boss, and it’s something I cherish. So that’s the one.”

THE SONG I WANT PLAYED AT MY FUNERAL: “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” (Traditional)

“I don’t know if I have a witty answer for this one. There’s a common Mormon song—I don’t know if it’s Mormon, but it’s a hymn that Mormons play. There’s an optimism in it, and I love it. I don’t believe that when we die, that’s it. It’s just beautifully written, powerful song”

Do you think that optimism reflects in your music?

“I think so. There’s always — my parents were optimistic, and I think there’s always that sense in our songs. Even where maybe it’s a darker song or whatever, there’s always a moment where we shine some light.”

Read more:
Norah Jones: Soundtrack Of My Life
Carrie Underwood: Soundtrack of My Life
Florence Welch: The Soundtrack of My Life

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