Night & day: Songwriter Pete Yorn embarks on unusual tour
For those who’ve always wanted to be a member of the crowd that takes part in the recording of a live album, Pete Yorn is providing that opportunity … many times.
In addition to Yorn’s regular nightly concert during his “You & Me” acoustic tour, he is presenting a free daytime show at every respective city’s independent record store.
Each of the in-store concerts will be recorded for a limited edition souvenir CD series, “Live From …,” which will be sold exclusively at the location where it was staged. Different city, different set list.
Just don’t show up and shout “Freebird,” because Yorn might call your bluff.
Even those casual fans who haven’t bought Yorn’s previous albums probably possess a few of his songs in their DVD collection. The musician has contributed to the soundtracks of more than a dozen feature films, with icons like Shrek, Spider-Man and Jim Carrey filling the screen while his tunes provide the aural backdrop.
The 31-year-old performer is busy preparing to release two more traditional projects next month: his third full-length album, “Nightcrawler,” and a limited-edition EP, “Westerns.” Only those who preorder “Nightcrawler” at a “You & Me” venue will receive this EP inspired by his “lonesome cowboy phase.”
“I love Lawrence, Kansas,” are the emphatic first words out of Yorn’s mouth, speaking by phone prior to a performance in Texas.
What do you love about Lawrence?
A: I like the Eldridge Hotel.
Q: Have you encountered a ghost there before?
A: No. But I remember when I slept there I kept waking up all creeped out. … But I’ve always had a good time around there. In fact, I’ve always said the best jukebox I’ve ever found was in Lawrence.
Q: Was it at the Eighth Street Tap Room?
A: The one downstairs? Yeah. I remember looking through it and seeing Chris Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos,” and I’m like, “This is seriously funky.”
Q: Do you approach an in-store performance differently than a regular show?
A: It’s daylight and it’s very bright, so you’re always superexposed. But so are the fans. You can see everyone’s faces very clearly. But I’m doing them every day this tour, on top of my shows at night. Normally, when I do an in-store I’ll start playing a song, and before you know it I’ve played 15 songs – and it only felt like 10 minutes to me. But I’ve had to discipline myself to only play five songs because I’ve got to save my voice for the night. So sometimes just as I’m getting warmed up I’ve got to stop.
Q: Is there added pressure knowing that all the performances are going to be recorded and sold? What if you forget the lyrics to “Simonize”?
A: There’s a good chance I WILL forget the lyrics to “Simonize.” That’s part of the live experience. I’ve never claimed to be perfect. If I keep forgetting the lyrics, then that will make it a collector’s item. I remember watching “This is Elvis” and he’s singing and he messes up the words. I like the way he goofs around. It’s in the later years, so he’s kind of sweaty and heavy. But he starts going “(makes nonsense gurgling sound)” – he just keeps playing with it. I was like, “Yeah man, don’t try and hide (expletive) like that. Just lay it out there.”
Q: You’ve dubbed your latest excursion the “You & Me” tour. Do a lot of artists often ignore the “you” aspect while performing?
A: Some artists get into their own little zone where they’re lost in the music. … I’m supposed to be a performer and interact with the crowd. Early on I was very uncomfortable with that idea. This tour I’ve got two months before my record comes out. I see it as a great opportunity for me – especially since I haven’t toured extensively in three years – to reconnect with my fan base on a real intimate level. I think it will give a glimpse into who I really am, because a lot of people hear the songs, but I don’t think they know much about who I really am.
Q: Your songs have appeared in many feature films. Is it weird seeing Shrek groove to your tunes?
A: Yeah, it is weird. But my niece likes it. She’s like, “Look, Petey!” It’s always surreal to hear one of my songs in a movie or TV show. But I’ve always thought my songs have a cinematic vibe to them that can enhance a scene in a movie.
Q: What’s the most misunderstood aspect about being a singer-songwriter?
A: Because you go under your own name, a lot of people just lump you in with a bunch of other singer-songwriters that you might artistically be nothing like. Sometimes that can be disheartening for people to just assume you sound like somebody else because you go out by your name. It’s like saying Alice Cooper and Ben Harper sound alike.
Q: How is “Nightcrawler” different from your previous albums?
A: You’ll just have to hear it. You’ll know right away how different it is. … It’s a rock record that has surprises from song to song. It’s got a lot of different influences packed into it – themes such as love, death, jealousy, commitment, fear of commitment, materialism. Sonically, it’s something that might hearken back to My Bloody Valentine, then the next song will sound like “Low”-era David Bowie.
Q: Did you name it that because Nightcrawler is your favorite character from the X-Men comics?
A: I actually like that character a lot. But it’s kind of more that I have my “Musicforthemorningafter” and my “Day I Forgot,” and I wanted night. … A lot of the observations of the characters and the stories on “Nightcrawler” evolved from spending a lot of late-night wandering around in Venice, California, and New York City – just lurking around corners and making up stories based on what I perceived to be going on around me.
Q: Doesn’t that handicap you for the fourth record since there’s no word that comes after night, other than morning?
A: I’m not really worried about that. One at a time.
Q: Do you have any projects in the works that don’t involve music?
A: Since I’m doing this indie record shop tour, I’m interested in documenting those shops. I’ve been photographing them and thinking about a book about that culture in America. I’m collecting materials while I’ve been visiting the stores. Other than that, I’ve been pretty focused on music.