The Rumpus Interview with Craig Finn

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If someone had described The Hold Steady to me before I’d heard them, it’s unlikely I would have ever checked them out. “It’s like muscular bar rock with this grad school-looking guy doing super-verbose slam poetry over the top of it. No, really, it’s good! Very literate.” Literate, in the rock world, is the kiss of death. It’s generally code for “frustrated poet who wishes he was in a sexier genre.”

Fortunately, I came across their first record shortly after it had been released, before any hype. I had no expectations. The first song on Almost Killed Me, “Positive Jam,” immediately won me over. The joyous, semi-naïve thunder of the band was somehow balanced by the skewering precision of the lyrics. The lead singer’s talky sneer shouldn’t have worked at all, but somehow his conviction and presence, his ability to undercut his own aloofness with genuine zeal, sold me on the whole absurd notion of what they were doing. It was clear that they knew it was absurd, but they also meant it 100 percent sincerely. They loved to just rock out, but they also had lots of cool and urgent stuff to say about the world we’re living in right this very second.

That lead singer is Craig Finn, and if anything, he’s dropped much of his early aloofness and embraced his genuine enthusiasm—enthusiasm for rock, for lyrical savvy, for his audience, for the communal party of rock. Finn and The Hold Steady have refined their underlying message of positivity over five albums and nearly ten years, moving from cult and critical appreciation to as broad success as a band as interesting as they are could get. They’ve headlined festivals, broken onto the Billboard charts, and even recorded a track used on Game of Thrones. For a band that writes highly elaborate narrative songs knitting together a recurring set of characters, locations, and events to form some kind of loose rock and roll epic, their level of popularity is not just unusual; as far as I know it’s completely unprecedented.

Finn is the lyrical engine driving The Hold Steady’s cohesive vision. His lyrics aren’t literate as in polysyllabically referencing books. They’re literate in that they’re insightful, timely, imagistic, funny and real, all in the service of a sprawling fictional landscape populated with relatable fuck-ups moving through life’s big changes.

I spoke with Finn about his writing process, the purpose and function of songs, and the relationship of songs to other forms of writing. He was articulate and ready with thoughtful answers. Finn clearly cares about craft and quality, practice, and development. And he’s a super positive dude.

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The Rumpus: Prepping for this interview, I sat down and listened to your whole catalog straight through. One of the things that stood out to me was how consistently strong it is. There’s high level of imagery and line-writing throughout. What is your personal mechanism for quality control? How does it function?

Craig Finn: One of the things is my process requires a lot of repetition. I can probably drive people crazy because I’m interested in playing a song twenty times in a row. Then I’ll write all the lyrics down on the page, turn the page in the notebook, write them again, and see if I stumble across a word I want to change. It’s slow improvements. Everything is getting worked on up until it gets recorded and then you’re kind of stuck with it. I keep chiseling away at things, especially lyrically.

I can tell you that songs I’m working on right now, there’s a line that kind of bugs me—there’s probably one in every song—and I’m going to get there with it. It’s not going to end up recorded with that line. I’m not sure what I’m going to say yet, but I’m always walking around being like, “Fuck, man, that’s not good. Let’s get something else in there.”

Rumpus: What’s bugging you about it?

Finn: It’s almost like there’s something asymmetrical. In the end, when you’re writing a really good song, it strikes the right tone. Maybe the line bugging me is inherently negative and I want the song to be more hopeful, but I can’t figure out how that’s going to be.

Sometimes it seems just a little bit clunky, or hackneyed. I don’t have a problem rhyming “bar” with “car”—I do it all the time—but sometimes it doesn’t feel right.

It’s just smoothing out those rough edges and coming to this place where it balances against itself in some way— that it’s telling enough of the story. I want to hit this sweet spot between giving them enough details and then leaving them some space to put their own things in it.

Rumpus: I’m going to come back to that, but I wanted to follow up on the process a little. The way you’re describing it, it’s a really physical process. You talk about performing a song, rehearsing the song twenty times or physically rewriting the lyrics.

Finn: Ironically, when I was playing in my first band, Lifter Puller, I would deliberately not write down any lyrics. I have a really good memory and I would just keep them in my head. Then as I got older, I started to lose some good stuff [laughs], so I started writing them down.

But with Lifter Puller, it would be like, “Okay, let’s play that song again, and then when we’re done with that, let’s play it five or ten more times in a row.” And the bass player’s figuring out what he’s going to do, and the drummer too. If you get people who are okay to work that way, it can be good.

Some people will totally get restless, especially now, since you can make demos pretty easy. It’s not unreasonable for someone to say, “All right, can you just record this and go home and work on it?”

Rumpus: But you think there’s a difference between sitting there with your iPod and physically playing the song?

Finn: There’s absolutely a difference. This isn’t really about songwriting. Or maybe it is. I’ve had this happen a lot, especially when we made the last Hold Steady record, where I was doing a lot of work off demos. I’d come up with something that I liked, and then when we got around the drums and the loud guitars and all, it would be something that I couldn’t really do at the volume it requires. It was kind of removed from the physical experience.

Rumpus: Do you write in that environment or are you coming to the room with a lyric sheet and then reworking it?

Finn: What happens is I write a little bit every day, and I’ve got stuff. And then I’ll look through my notebooks. Mostly, [guitarist] Tad [Kubler] writes the music for The Hold Steady. He’ll play a riff or a couple parts he’s got. I’ll be like, “Okay, I’ve got this that can probably work there.” And I might have to change a little bit of the meter, but it’s about finding the meter and then finding the lyrics and then piecing it all together.

I’m pulling from stuff that’s already kind of written. Oftentimes that will only get me the first verse and the chorus, and then I’ll keep going and write another verse once I have the meter figured out. We never leave the rehearsal space with a song done on the first day.

I’ve got a couple songs hanging out there right now that I’m not quite done with, and I’ll be sitting here cleaning my apartment, and that’s what I’m obsessing over.

Rumpus: Are you that guy with the notebook?

Finn: You know, there’s this moment sometimes, when you do a crossword puzzle and you have the one really long word. And once you get that, the whole thing kind of comes into focus. Sometimes it’s just working things over in your mind and then finding that one line that kind of ties the song together, and now it works. It’s a puzzle of sorts.

Rumpus: Can you talk about the distinguishing ingredients that turn something from good into great?

Finn: I think the biggest thing—and this I think is true of songs but also of movies and books and art in general—is when you have this moment where you hear a song or whatever and you say, “Hey, I’ve felt that exact way as a human being,” and there’s no easy way to describe it. It’s not just saying, “I feel sad” or “I feel glad.” It’s something more complex. When people hit on feeling a certain melancholy or elation, it’s a really exciting moment. I think making that connection is the goal, and what makes something great.

With Springsteen, there are moments in his songs where you’re just like, Oh man, that’s fucking how it feels when you’re seventeen. Now he’s gone on to write about adults, and it keeps coming back to a connection.

Paul Westerberg from The Replacements, he grew up in my hometown in Minneapolis. I always feel like I know what he’s talking about. That, to me, is really the goal.

Rumpus: How do you write to that, as the maker of the song, not just the listener?

Finn: Sometimes things reveal themselves to you a little bit. I think it was Joan Didion that said, “We write to find out what we’re thinking.” And sometimes that happens.

I think when you are doing a song you’re trying to give people enough details that they connect. For instance, I use a lot of specific places in my songs—traditionally, a lot from Minneapolis and St. Paul, where I grew up. Most people, especially when you get into international touring, have not been there. So you say, “Well, isn’t it risky to talk about the corner of Franklin Avenue and Lyndale?” If you do it right, someone should say, “God, I know a corner like that.” Offering specific details to describe something universal.

Rumpus: Do you know the moments that are going to resonate with your listeners ahead of time, while you’re writing?

Finn: Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. [Laughs] I’m only laughing because I can tell you a Hold Steady fan is oftentimes going to like the songs about drinking. And sometimes things that are fun to say, I guess. Like The Hold Steady song, “Sequestered in Memphis”: “Subpoenaed in Texas, sequestered in Memphis.” People love shouting that.

But sometimes people come up and say, “You have this line in this song and it meant a lot to me.” You don’t always remember that line as the one. You’re putting part of your human being on the page so people are going to have different responses—the other humans are going to connect with different parts.

Rumpus: So that unity, or that connection, would you say that’s your main agenda with your work?

Finn: Yeah, I think so.

Rumpus: There’s a lot of talk about positivity with The Hold Steady, almost like it’s an agenda, and you’ve got this large-scale through narrative with the lyrics. You seem to be drawn to the Big Works model. Would you have been an opera composer 100 years ago?

Finn: [Laughs] I don’t know. I think you want to write a song that’s like the songs you are into, right? Growing up, and being really into Dylan and Springsteen, who are both great lyricists especially, there was always a little bit of frustration. Bruce Springsteen would bring up the Magic Rat: “The Magic Rat rolled into town,” from “Jungleland.” And I’d be like, Well, I want to hear more about this Magic Rat, you know? Can we get back to that?

So with Lifter Puller, I started bringing some of these characters. Then more so with The Hold Steady. Because no one really does that and if I was a kid at home I know I’d freak out on that. I am a really obsessive music listener, and I would look for clues. I remember I was really into this British band, The Vapors, with that song “Turning Japanese.” I thought that they were really next level genius cryptic weirdos. And then I realized when I got older they are just using a lot of British words, and I didn’t know what they meant. But I thought, Oh, they are making up their own language.

Rumpus: And that appealed to you?

Finn: Yeah. It was a secret world.

Rumpus: A lot of your work is about music and the experience of music in our lives. What do you think it is about songs that’s different from other mediums, that they can affect us so deeply, especially when we’re young?

Finn: Words and music together create powerful, powerful things.

Rumpus: How or why?

Finn: I’m not sure I have the answer but I think it has something to do with having this mix of details with the open space to project your own life. You are hearing this song, and you’re 16, and it’s a song about love, or a girl. And then maybe there’s a girl at school that you like. So you’re going to be thinking about that girl. That song is sort of about that girl. The songwriter doesn’t know that girl, obviously. He wrote it for something else. But there’s the specific meaning with the universal again.

Rumpus: And how does that manifest uniquely in a song?

Finn: A novel, or a movie—I feel—just doesn’t have that space. If I’m reading, for lack of a better example, The Catcher in the Rye, I don’t really see myself in Holden Caulfield. For one, it’s a different era. For two, I know what happened. I know the people in his life. I know I’m not there. But if I take one of my favorite songs—“I Will Dare,” by The Replacements—god, that reminds me of me. It could be the voice in my head when I’m going to do whatever, whatever that song means to me.

Rumpus: Is there something about the communal experience? Of getting to experience it simultaneously with other people?

Finn: I’m not only a songwriter but I’m a massive music fan and I love going to shows. Yeah, it’s different than reading a book. One of the coolest things to me about going to a show is you look over, and the guy next to you is sitting there drinking a beer and he’s wearing a Donkeys t-shirt. And you’re like, “Dude, I love The Donkeys.”

It’s not socially awkward or inconceivable to say, “Hey, we’re in the same room. We like the same stuff. Let’s talk.” I would never talk to a girl in a bar, like a pick-up thing. But I could talk to anyone if they wore a t-shirt of a band I like.

Rumpus: In a way, the fiction in your songs is creating this community—this Faulkner-esque town of people—but at the same time the purpose of the songs themselves is to foster a kind of community.

Finn: Yeah. And, honestly, part of the storyline is I just know there are types of people who will really obsess over that. You can go out on the Internet, and there’s a Wikipedia [page] that cross references it. People make maps of all the places I’ve mentioned. I knew that those people were out there. I wanted to create something for them.

Rumpus: Is there a way in which making stuff—making these songs, making this band—is trying to create a place for yourself in the world? Trying to draw your community to you?

Finn: I think that’s true. The Hold Steady’s working on the next record. A lot of times, when we make a record, people are like, “Oh, are you worried? Are you nervous? Do you feel a lot of pressure?” Well, I’m excited that people are listening, and I’m excited to give this community more things to think about or sing along to, songs for us to play for them. So, yeah, I think making the songs is to put strength in the community in some way.

Rumpus: Do the stakes change when your audience grows?

Finn: One thing is like, look, I’ve written a lot about drugs and alcohol. I wouldn’t say it’s because we’ve gotten bigger or anything, but I kind of feel a little bit done with it. There are other things to talk about. But, that said, it still comes up.

Another thing that comes in with The Hold Steady is producers. With Lifter Puller, we didn’t really have producers at that level. Having a producer like John Agnello—one thing I have a tendency to do is not write choruses, or write choruses that have different words. The first chorus will have different words than the second chorus. John certainly pushed me a little bit saying, “You can repeat yourself some. It’s probably a good idea to give people something to grab onto.”

I understand it’s just a dude rambling for 5 minutes followed by another song with the dude rambling for another 5 minutes. Is this really going to end up memorable if I never repeat anything?

Rumpus: What do you think pulls you back to your recurring themes and geographies, like drugs and late teens, early twenties, or the theme of shifting identities?

Finn: I’m not a horror movie guy, but I think the guy that did Saw, or maybe House or something, he was saying you love that age as a storyteller because a nineteen-year-old is still dumb enough to make really bad decisions, but he’s allowed to be out on his own. He can go on his own vacation, and he can drive, and he might have a job, so he has a little bit of money. It’s a great age of just fucking up. I love that age for that. Being twenty years old is fucking terrifying. I’m trying to capture that.

Rumpus: You were saying you feel maybe done with some of these themes. Does it feel like you’ve solved some of the questions that they beg?

Finn: I don’t know about that. I guess the drinking and the drugs are interesting to me because the way we use them and our society uses them, we kind of manufacture highs and lows. I know what’s going to happen if I have nine beers tonight. It’ll be really fun and then it’ll really suck tomorrow. But might I do it? Yes. I might. We all have a lot of people around us who struggle with it.

Rumpus: Do you see songs as a way of manufacturing those highs and lows?

Finn: Yeah. You want to create something that’s dynamic and has those highs and lows. There’s a song on Boys and Girls in America called “Party Pit.” It’s about a girl who’s seeing someone who’s gone to a bad place. And it ends up in this rousing chorus of “We’re going to walk around and drink some more.” It’s actually really sad.

People, at the shows, disconnect it from the story. They go crazy and they’re screaming [sings], “We’re going to walk around and drink!”

Rumpus: Does it feel weird to witness that happening when you’re playing?

Finn: Yeah, the reality is that the shows kind of disconnect from the songs a little bit. You’re playing the songs, but they take on a life of their own. In that example, the audience is taking that lyric back and saying, “It’s Friday night, I’m with all of my friends, and we’ve all got beer in our hands. Yeah, I know what the song’s about, but this is about me tonight.”

Rumpus: You were talking about when you were younger, songs delivering this experience that led you to an almost obsessive place. What exactly is the song delivering? What the hell is going on where the song is almost like a drug experience? It’s driving you to this compulsion.

Finn: I can tell you when I was that young—before I had a driver’s license, and I lived in the suburbs of Minneapolis and went to high school and came home—I could ride my bike around or get a ride from my parents, but my world was pretty small, limited. Like anyone at that age, I only knew things I could get to.

So these songs, the good ones, were a window into some other world that existed, and of course you are feeling misunderstood or angsty or whatever else you’re feeling at that age, but it’s a window into the idea that maybe that there’s something bigger, better out there, that maybe there are people more like you.

For me, it was revelatory. My friend told me about The Replacements. His sister knew them, and we went and saw them. I got the record. I couldn’t believe that there were people like this who lived in Minneapolis. They weren’t Steven Tyler—I didn’t know anyone who looked like Steven Tyler—but I knew people who looked like The Replacements. That was very encouraging.

Rumpus: You saw a person who was the self you wanted to be, or could be?

Finn: Yeah. It seemed possible. Where did Steven Tyler come from? He comes down from some Rock Mountain. Or Mick Jagger. That’s not possible. You’re not going to be Mick Jagger.

Rumpus: Do you feel like that more homemade music has a greater potential or power?

Finn: It did for me, at the time. I would think some of that is a little subverted by the Internet now. I don’t think it’s as important. There was a humbleness to it that was really exciting. I didn’t know everything about their finances, but I knew they weren’t driving Ferraris and flying around in jets. There was something human to me about it. And also, those records, there was some really snotty stuff, like “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” or “Jerry’s Got a Boner,” and then the next song would be “Unsatisfied,” which is a beautiful, terrifying song that’s really vulnerable. It’s very human.

Rumpus: You were open and responsive to doing this interview, and I get the sense that you are a fairly open guy. Is that coming from this influence—that these people were so human and that had a really powerful impact?

Finn: Definitely. I think the other thing that shaped me a little bit is that I really didn’t have any success in music until my early to mid-30s. My suspicion is that if the first records Lifter Puller put out sold 100,000 copies, I’d be a different person.

Rumpus: It does seem like some folks that blow up at a really young age have a much harder road.

Finn: You can think of a number of bands where the first record is by far their biggest record. And that must be hard for people to recapture. Hard for people to live with.

Rumpus: You’d probably already established your aesthetic identity by your early thirties, so it didn’t get radically altered.

Finn: It was kind of, “This is what it is.” I think that there was something in the songs or the presentation of the band where like, look, first thing we are going to deal with is, this is who we are. We’re in our thirties. Not everyone is skinny. We don’t look like The Strokes, right? That’s on the table. Let’s talk about some other things, honestly, now that we’re here.

Rumpus: Touching on that honesty, do you feel like there’s a difference between truth and honesty in writing?

Finn: Yes. You can tell a story that you made up, that’s completely fiction, that is honest—honest about the way we are as humans. There’s a lot of ways to be honest that don’t necessarily involve absolute facts being true. I think that’s something I absolutely try to do.

Rumpus: Is there something about playing with the balance of those two things, recalibrating that balance, that you were exploring with your solo record [Clear Heart Full Eyes]?

Finn: Yes. The solo record, for one, is much more quiet. I feel like it allowed me to be a little more vulnerable and maybe a little more personal. With The Hold Steady, things are pretty big—big choruses or big guitars. You don’t necessarily want the chorus to be about sitting in your room, feeling frustrated.

I had this certain line that I kept saying in interviews about the solo record: No one gets shot on this record, and no one falls off the roof. It’s a lot more about the mundane parts of my own life. It was a really good experience for me.

It was very quick and true musically, kind of a natural style thing. Pretty much we’d do two takes of a song and record the third one. It allowed me to do something in a different voice. Not physically, but maybe a little different personally.

Rumpus: Your vocal delivery is pretty different.

Finn: I think it may have had to do with the volume a little bit. Maybe I’ve become a better singer. But also, we recorded that album with the vocals live. Meaning, I was singing while playing with the band. I think that that may have affected it from the push and pull of it.

Rumpus: You have such a distinct vocal delivery, to the point where I can look at a lyric sheet from one of your songs and hear your voice delivering those lines or hear you speaking those titles. It feels like your songs would be hard for someone else to cover. Does that matter to you? Does that somehow make it more immediate? What are the pros and cons of that?

Finn: The con is that some people are just turned off by the delivery. I’ve tried to write songs for other people and it usually requires them singing it and then changing the phrasing. I can put a lot of words in a song, and one of the reasons is, I’m not that good of a singer, so I don’t hold a lot of notes. Pretty much, every beat, or every syllable is a word. I never say [singing], “I went to the ho-ouse.” It’s da-da-da-da-da.

I don’t really pursue writing songs for other people. It hasn’t really come up in a negative way. I guess one of the things I always think about is a good line in a song should be something I can hear myself saying.

Rumpus: Where do you look for inspiration or influence or ideas?

Finn: Books. If I’m stuck, I’ll sit down and read. That’s a big thing. Songs, too. I walk around with my iPod on shuffle and a song will come up and it’ll strike me, This is a really good song. Let’s take a look at how this works. Verse here, and it ends on this weird third part that’s like a bridge. Just looking into something kind of analytically can give a lot of ideas.

Rumpus: Can you still access that deep, obsessive fan place from when you were younger?

Finn: Yeah, I can. I can get into a new band, really like it. They are oftentimes younger than me, and oftentimes I’ve met them, but I can still take a Dylan record out and obsess over it.

Rumpus: Will you still have that experience of listening to a record on repeat for a month straight?

Finn: Absolutely. The two records last year that I listened to tons were Bill Fay’s Life is People, and the Father John Misty record, Fear Fun. I do like to listen to albums, rather than just songs, because they can create a bigger picture of the mood and things. This Father John Misty record I thought was really cool because there’s a humor to it, and he’s also playing a character, but you don’t exactly know where it stops and where it starts. That was the fun thing about that record for me. He’s joking about that, but it’s kind of true.

Rumpus: Do you feel like you are playing or embodying a character fronting The Hold Steady?

Finn: Maybe amping up parts of my personality a little bit. You are playing to a bigger audience. A conversation with you is a different thing than projecting to a couple hundred people. It’s bigger and more animated and it’s on a bigger scope, but still in the heart, it’s honestly me.

Rumpus: Your wheelhouse, in ways, seems to be the narrative song, which is not a really common thing. Can you talk about what’s sacrificed and what’s gained with the narrative song?

Finn: That’s interesting. What’s gained is, the obvious—I want to make things more cinematic. I’m able to draw outside my own personal experiences. No one wants to hear the song about what I really did today, which is go get coffee and clean my apartment.

But, there is some part of a narrative song—my worry sometimes is that it’s like getting a comedy album. You listen to it once and the jokes are funny, but the desire to put it on again isn’t always there. I really like narrative songs, but I wonder if that’s a thing for some people. Once they’ve heard the story, do they really need to hear the story again?

Rumpus: I think there’s a difference between—to take these two classic examples—“Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” and “Tangled up in Blue.” Same album, same period, but one of those is a stronger song.

Finn: Hugely stronger.

Rumpus: But they’re both narratives.

Finn: I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on in “Tangled up in Blue,” and I’ve been listening to it for 20 years. It’s a better-told story. I don’t know. There’s more mystery in “Tangled up in Blue.”

Rumpus: Ambiguity?

Finn: Ambiguity, mystery—there’s something I still don’t know. I’ve just been told a story I don’t totally believe. There are these different angles of looking at it, and I’m still fascinated by the story.

Rumpus: It seems like such a natural inclination for you to write short stories or novels. Do you have that impulse?

Finn: I really want to write a novel. A few years ago I went so far as to do the cliché thing and rent this house in upstate [New York]. I still have the story, but I got 15,000, 20,000 words in and it was like, This is falling apart. I can’t figure out.

It is a goal. I would hope that I do it in the next year or two, but I haven’t written the first page yet, so . . .

Rumpus: What can a novel do—what could it fulfill for you—that writing these songs wouldn’t?

Finn: It would mainly be what we were talking about a minute ago, trying to do something I’m not comfortable with. Kind of a challenge. The story is a complex one and it would be something that has more twists and turns than you could put in a four-minute song.

Rumpus: Can you talk a little about the experience of sitting down and trying to write the novel and how that compared to the experience of writing a song?

Finn: It’s a very solitary thing. When I write a song, or the way we do it in The Hold Steady, with being co-writer often, it’s a more communal thing. There’s this part, be it your bandmate or your producer, where you’re like, “I don’t really know about this bridge,” and they’re like, “No, no, keep it, it’s awesome.”

Writing a novel you don’t get that. Next thing you know you’re throwing it out the window.

Rumpus: Was part of the challenge that solitary experience?

Finn: I think so. I think it’s maybe a little arrogant to—never having taken a writing class or anything—to just be like, “Now I’m going to sit down and write a novel.” I think having a coach or an editor or whatever the novelist’s producer is could help. If you finish a chapter and you turn it in to him, and he or she said, “That was pretty good, it might go better.” Maybe that’s what I’ll try to find.

Rumpus: How would that go down with writing a song, where your producer said, “Here, I’m going to restructure your verses and clean up your lyrics”?

Finn: I’d probably fight more on that. But, you know, when we first had The Hold Steady and we signed to our label, we were like, “Dude, we don’t want to be told what to do.” And that was cool. “Okay. We won’t tell you what to do on a creative level, that’s great, do what you want.”

At forty-one, now I think it would be really cool to have an A&R guy say, “You know what? I don’t think you’ve got this album sequenced right.”

Those conversations largely don’t happen, not with this death-of-the-music-industry thing. I don’t know how many A&R guys are out there anymore. I think that would be cool—having someone who has worked on great records giving you his opinion, which you could take or leave. That would be awesome.

Rumpus: It sounds like there’s a process of more and more letting go?

Finn: Yeah. It comes from knowing that there are just a lot of songs. You make an album and it’s not the greatest album that you’ve ever made, you can make another one. I guess after a lifetime of this, or twenty years of it, I feel a lot less precious. I’m willing to say, “All right, if that’s what you think, we can try it.”

Rumpus: That gives you a lot of freedom.

Finn: Yeah. If next year I want to make a record by myself that I don’t want anyone to tell me anything on, I can always do that.

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Featured image by Rich Tarbell.

Photograph of The Hold Steady by Danny Clinch. 


Scott Pinkmountain is a writer and musician living in California. He is the creator and host of The History Channeler comedy podcast and has written for This American Life, A Public Space, HTMLGIANT, and other publications. He has also released dozens of albums of both instrumental music and songs including the recent No Country Music. He can be found at http://www.scottpinkmountain.com/. More from this author →