Pete Yorn

Posted: January 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Background note: I interviewed Pete for one of the local Cleveland papers at the time of his debut, Musicforthemorningafter. I still appreciate that album’s successful marriage of Americana and British post-punk. His new one, Arrangingtime, seems to be a return to form. Worth a listen.

Manchester, So Much To Answer For

No one forgets his or her first time. Pete Yorn was 12 when he surrendered to a lifelong passion. The memory remains ultra-vivid.

“I was on vacation in the Bahamas,” he recalls, “and some cute little blonde girl walked right up to me and said, ‘Do you like the Smiths?’ And I’d heard of them, but I hadn’t heard them. But I was like, ‘Well… yeah.’ I went home after that and bought their first record. When I first heard Morrissey’s voice, I was like, ‘Man, what the hell is this?’ But as I listened more and more, I became super into it.”

Fifteen years later, his passion for the Smiths continues to inform his music. In the liner notes to his critically acclaimed debut, Musicforthemorningafter, he credits himself with “voice,” a la the ’80s icon. And on “For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is),” his breakout single, Yorn directly tips his hat to the band, singing, “I want to run with you through Moorland fields,” an image Morrissey uses in 1984′s “Suffer Little Children.”

“You’re so on the money, dude,” he says when I point out the allusion. “You’re the first person to pick up on that. It’s just romance in the song, but it’s totally a tip to the Smiths.”

This past April, a year after the release of Yorn’s debut, Columbia issued a limited-edition version that further unlocks the combination of influences that shape Yorn’s well-crafted sound. On the package’s bonus disc, the singer covers the Smiths’ “Panic,” Iggy Pop and David Bowie’s co-penned “China Girl,” and Bruce Springsteen “Dancing In The Dark” and “New York City Serenade.”

Yorn has never met Morrissey, having only glimpsed him getting mobbed once at an Ash show in L.A. But he has met Springsteen. Thankfully the Boss lived up to the expectations of his fellow native New Jersey-ite.

“He was really cool. We just talked about being on the same label. And he was like,” adopts Springsteen’s gruff voice, “‘Good luck with the record, man. Go get ‘em.’ Being from Jersey, he was just supportive like that.”

Yorn has been blessed with such support. His older brother Rick, a Hollywood agent who represents Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz, opened doors to a music career early on–he let Pete bang around on his drum kit at age 9, and turned him on to heavy-metal acts like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motley Crue. While Yorn still claims to love that music, the metal format didn’t quite suit the subject matter to which he was naturally drawn at the time.

“The first songs I wrote were romantic love songs. They were just pouring out of me, too. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m in love with this girl and I wanna write a song about her.’ It was similar to the way it is now, where it just comes out. I only think about the meaning of the lyrics after they’re written.”

Though many of the songs on Musicforthemorningafter deal with lost love, Yorn admits his role in the actual dramas that inspired them is often that of reporter rather than participant.

“With most of the songs, I’m either taking a situation I’ve seen in other people’s lives and plugging it into my own life, or observing how other people have made mistakes and writing about what I would have done differently.”

And occasionally a song’s real-life inspiration recognizes herself in the lyrics.

“I usually deny it, though,” he says with a laugh. “My ex will be like, ‘That’s about me!’ And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’”

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