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- Posted on Jan 25th 2012 3:53PM by Dan Reilly
The countrified tracks on the LP are much more somber and way less frenetic than Finn's usual writing for the Hold Steady, a stylistic turn that he says reflects a part of his personality that he rarely examines in his band's songs. Spinner recently caught up with Finn before his European tour to talk about the record, the wide influence of television, getting shot and being friends with Jesus.
How has performing solo been?
It's a lot mellower than the Hold Steady. It's a different type of energy. No one's throwing beer or climbing on top of each other. The band sounds great. I've got really great players and we seem to be gelling really well. I'm really excited about it.
Are you doing it more like a singer-songwriter, sitting down and playing the acoustic?
No, I'm standing up. Guitar, bass, drums and pedal steel. It's not as raucous but it's definitely still a group of people on stage and definitely not sitting down.
Do you feel more exposed as a solo artist?
Yeah, I guess I feel a little more exposed in the volume department. That's, maybe surprisingly, the biggest thing. You're there and it's not crushing cymbals and guitars. People can really hear you so you've got to sing in key. Stuff like that becomes more important. It's a challenge but an exciting one.
Are you playing any Hold Steady songs in the set?
Definitely not. Totally separate thing. I'm excited to do this quieter thing and the Hold Steady will be back soon.
Aside from the change in volume and the more acoustic sound, what part of this was the biggest stretch for you? Any song in particular?
One thing that was harder, the biggest sort of growth area or stretch, was just to come in and meet musicians that I didn't know well. I literally met them on a Monday morning and we jumped into recording the songs. That was something that was intimidating for me at first and in the end brought me a lot more confidence and happiness. In some ways, that's what I was after. That was a really cool thing.
Were there any motifs or concepts from the Hold Steady lyrics you wanted to avoid?
I don't know about tried to avoid but with the lower volume and more clarity in vocals competing for space less with big guitars and whatnot, I was interested in being a little more intimate, a little more vulnerable and maybe a little less cinematic. No one had to get shot or fall off a roof or anything. It could just be someone sitting in a room thinking about what's happening.
Is this more reflective of your life now?
I've never gotten shot or fallen off a roof, so I guess it's reflected my life always. But yeah, in some ways, it was meant to be a little more of an adult record. The Hold Steady, which I love, gets up there and is very celebratory and crazy and people throw beer and I really enjoy that, and that's a part of who I am, but it's not a part of me all the time.
Is it almost a mental-health break from the Hold Steady?
Yeah, [laughs]. Well, I don't know. The Hold Steady is very optimistic and I feel like this record wasn't, so maybe it was the opposite.
You turned 40 in August. Was that something you were dreading?
I wasn't that weird about it. I'm the lead singer of a rock band. I've gotten pretty lucky as far as how I get to make my living and all that. It wasn't a lot of like, "Ugh, what am I doing?" I felt pretty good about it. It wasn't that scary. It's what you make out of it, no matter what it is.
What inspired the song 'New Friend Jesus'?
For one, Jesus is sort of a human from what we can know, from what we can identify with or put in our own world, someone who walks among us. It was also kind of a jokey song, like remember in high school when your friend gets a new friend and he can't shut up about him? It was kind of like putting Jesus in that place.
It sort of sounds like you were making fun of people who think Jesus will solve all their problems.
Yeah, it's like, it's always that. Because we had Jesus as a figure among us, there's always that weird dichotomy that's interesting to explore. Yeah, "He paid off all my bills." I was thinking if Jesus was really here that would be what we'd be making him do.
Speaking of religion, did you relate the whole church and football thing on Sundays with the 'Friday Night Lights' references?
No, I wasn't really thinking of that with the 'Friday Night Lights' thing. The 'Friday Night Lights' thing was just a funny juxtaposition of those words, but I was mainly thinking about making the record in Texas. That was the main part of it. 'Clear Heart Full Eyes,' when I switched them around, it was almost like they made more sense to me in that way than "clear eyes, full hearts."
You're probably going to end up getting a lot of fans out of this because people loved that show so much.
Well, one thing it shows you is that music is but a blip compared to TV. The amount of people that ask about the TV, TV is just way bigger. That's like not even a successful show. They could barely keep it on the air. I guess the DVDs must do really well. It almost was like "Whoa, maybe I shouldn't have named it that."
After the tour, what's next?
Well, we're writing a Hold Steady record. Once the tour's done, that's the priority. Hopefully we'll have a record out at the end of 2012, if it all goes well.