When an artist ‘goes solo’, it’s often due to tension, strife and trouble within their respective original band, lighting the path towards the inevitable, devastating split. So, when Craig Finn struck out into solitary territory for his new record, Clear Heart Full Eyes, fans of The Hold Steady held their breath in unison at the upcoming announcement...
Thankfully, for all of us, Finn and the group stated their intention to work together still, with this solo venture merely being a side adventure. Finn set out to record the new record in Texas, pulling together his uniquely literary song writing ability to craft a record, which he recently released via Vagrant Records.
The 405 got the chance to talk to the Boston boy about how the new record came to be, the influences behind everything and the problems of self-doubt…
So, you've officially kicked off your solo career. Your first single has just been released, how does it feel?
It feels great. I'm really excited for the release and I've got one show down with the touring band for the solo shows so I feel like we are in a good place.
What was it that inspired you to go off on your own musically?
The Hold Steady was taking a break and I was writing some quieter songs that didn't seem to be right for THS. I guess the final push was when I played the songs for Mike McCarthy the producer of the record. He was excited about them and invited me down to Austin to get to work.
What was the reaction of your band mates when you decided to go ahead with this solo record?
Everyone was very supportive and understood that I might want to do something quieter and lyrically based. THS is a very very loud band!
You recorded the album in Austin, TX. What was it like removing yourself from familiar surroundings? Were there any othe places you were considering?
I really only considered Austin because that is where Mike McCarthy was and I wanted to work with him. But I think that it was important to get out of town and plug into something new both geographically and person-wise.
And how different was it making this record alone as opposed to with your band
It was huge. I was pretty intimidated going into it but left with a lot of confidence. This came from being able to go into a new situation with new people and still make a record that I'm very proud of.
Do you feel there are any advantages/disadvantages to having been in a band before this project?
Yes, and I'm still in a band that I love and am excited about. But it was nice to step out of that role for a bit and try something new.
Rumor has it you challenged yourself to write a new song everyday. You must have had a lot to say! What was this process like for you? Did you have a schedule of when to write?
I just sat down for about an hour every day and wrote. It didn't matter what I had to say, I just had to put something down. That was the challenge. My idea was to make a song first and then come back later and try to make that song into a good song. I did it for about fifty days and then I got down to figuring out what I liked best, etc.
What song came first? Did having one song down really start the flow of your writing?
One song, ‘Rented Room’, predated the others by a long time. After that, I think ‘Western Pier’ was the first of the song every day experiment. That one, ‘Western Pier’, also led to a flow of ideas that became the record.
What would you say your biggest challenge was while making this solo record?
I think the biggest challenge to anything is always self-doubt. When you have a band you can get through it together but as a solo record you have to face any and all self-doubt by yourself.
So, the LP Clear Heart, Full Eyes debuts in January, the title making a reference to hit TV show, "Friday Night Lights." What was the connection that made you want to reference it?
Mostly I just loved the show. But also, it took place in Texas and I thought it spoke very realistically about the nature of experience and love in our lives. I thought it tied in nicely.
You seem to have a quieter, more narrative tone than you did with The Hold Steady. Do you think this different musical style will change the way you perform/ your stage presence? How do you think it will change your relationship with your fans?
I think the shows will be more mellow and I guess that means the fans will be more mellow too. That is ok by me; there is a time and place for all types of behaviour.
I also hear we have some collaborations to look forward to? What artists are still on your "dream list" for collaborations?
Not sure I have a great answer for you there. It changes day to day. Mostly, someone who is as interested in me as I am in them. Peers.
There are 11 songs on the album, and you chose 'Honolulu Blues' to be the first single released. Why this one?
The label really liked it and I thought it probably would sound good on the radio. It's pretty upbeat compared to the rest of the record actually.
If you had to cover one song, what would it be?
Right now, ‘Save Me Jesus’ by Bobby Charles.
What do you want people to take away from this album. Is there a main message?
I think the record is about maintaining optimism in the face of age and experience.
If you could listen to one song for the first time again to get that feeling of "wow, this song is amazing" what song would it be.
‘Room Service’ by Kiss
Clear Heart Full Eyes by Craig Finn is out now via Vagrant Records. You can visit Finn by heading to http://steadycraig.tumblr.com