At 5 years old, Alison Krauss was given a very special Christmas gift from her mother -- a violin. While many kids would scoff at such an offering, Krauss, the American bluegrass-country singer and fiddle player extraordinaire, was elated.
"It's just kind of something we did and we thought everybody did it," she said. "[My mom] suggested the violin for me, and I got it under the Christmas tree."
It was at home that a very young Krauss began to study the classical violin. But this quickly changed, and bluegrass eventually become her primary interest.
"I've always listened to a wide variety of things. And of course when I first really got heavily into bluegrass, that was primarily what I listened to."
But she also enjoyed Top 40 radio.
"My parents -- we had a wide range of different types of music in the house, and so I grew up without being biased. My parents didn't say, 'Hey, this is great music and this isn't,'" she said.
Krauss' location helped her tastes mature. She grew up in Champaign, Ill., which is a college town. Krauss' mother would take her and her brother to orchestra rehearsals and operas at the University of Illinois.
By the age of 16 she released her first solo album, and soon after she joined the band that she still performs with, Union Station.
Fast forward to 2007. Krauss has released more than 10 albums and appeared on various soundtracks, ranging from "O Brother, Where Art Thou" to "Cold Mountain," garnering a whopping 20 Grammy Awards. So what songs have inspired Krauss?
Krauss' music has charmed millions, but growing up, her own musical taste seemed out of the mainstream.
"My favorite tune when I was a kid was 'Cats in the Cradle' -- Harry Chapin's tune -- and I loved that and I remember that … it was almost a spooky feeling to hear that song come on the radio."
The song, with it's gloomy undertones, is now a folk rock classic. The lyrics follow the story of a troubled relationship between a son and his neglectful father.
The response to the single was mixed, but Krauss liked it because of the "feeling" it gave her.
"And now when I think back on that tune, what a dark song and really beautiful," she said. "If I listen to the words now, it's hard to get through it now. But as a kid, there was a real draw and it … maybe because it was so dark and you didn't know what was drawing you to it."
"There's a tune written by a guy named Bob Franke who [is] kind of my hero and my main influence," said Krauss. "Tony Rice recorded a song of his called "Hard Love" -- which is probably my favorite tune, and what it stands for and what it says in the tune."
This song was recorded in 1986. Like many of her favorites, the song appealed to Krauss not necessarily because of the music, which crossed over various genres, including pop, folk, and blue grass, but because of the story within.
"It's just this beautiful, poem and story, just gorgeous," she said. "And to hear it from Tony in his voice, which is so sensitive and, um, restrained, it was just a beautiful story."
The Foundation's "Baby, Now That I've Found You" is another song with a story that Krauss relates to.
The song, was a pop hit in 1967 and huge in the U.K. It became a country hit in 1995, when Krauss released her own version.
"I love what that tune says," she says of the single.