This Album Changed My Life: Mark Hollis – Mark Hollis (1998)

The singer-songwriter John Smith on the album that taught him less is more

I've always been interested in the music between the sounds, the richness of the space between. That old jazz principle. Talk Talk were pioneers of restraint. Their music breathes as deep as a whale.

Six years ago I found the solo album from their frontman, Mark Hollis. At that time I was searching for a way forward, musically speaking. I had been obsessed with getting as much of myself across as possible, probably desperate to be heard. Yet here was someone saying everything he needed to, surrounded by this deeply intimate space. I hadn't heard anything quite like it, a statement so completely restrained. Speaking as a guitar player, I love his moves. Mark Hollis is a badass guitar picker.

This record put me on the path to discovering that less is more. The idea has become a hard rule when I sit down to work. This album has inspired me to attempt to do my thing with less notes, less noise. I think it would a good way to live. All the best music influences a life beyond your own creative output. Mark Hollis has very subtly worked its way into my aspirations as a person growing older. – In conversation with Niall Byrne

John Smith plays at De Barra's, Clonakilty, today; the Greyhound, Kilkee, tomorrow; isín Dubh, Galway, on Monday, March 26th; the Spirit Store, Dundalk, on Wednesday, March 28th; and Whelan's, Dublin, on Thursday, March 29th