Like any good contemporary singer/songwriter, Pete Yorn has made a solid name for himself through musical guest spots in a long list of films (Orange County, Spiderman) and television shows (Dawson’s Creek, Felicity). Discovered by film producer Bradley Thomas, Yorn was given the opportunity to compose songs for the soundtrack of Me, Myself & Irene mere months after making the trek from Syracuse, New York, to Los Angeles. Less than a year later, Yorn’s debut album, musicforthemorningafter, was released, and Hollywood success turned into critical acclaim. Rolling Stone dubbed Yorn one of 2001’s “Ten Artists to Watch,” and musicforthemorningafter was followed up by two amazing albums (2003’s Day I Forgot and 2006’s Nightcrawler), launching Yorn’s career off the big screen and on to big-name tours with the likes of R.E.M., Coldplay, and most recently, Crowded House.
Phoning in from Toronto, Yorn said that he gets a little bit of a thrill out of opening for what is admittedly one of the bigger rock reunions of the decade. “It’s cool. The fans are really nice. Neil [Finn] is a very, very sweet guy : It’s nice to watch the [Crowded House] set. They’ll go into a song that was kind of more of an album track, and I’ll think to myself, ‘I remember this from high school,’ or ‘I loved this song.’ I forget how much amazing music they’ve put out.”
As far as being overwhelmed by the enormity of the project, the stadiums don’t seem to faze him. And after nearly two years of non-stop, three-gig-a-day touring schedules, there’s really no reason it should. “Around Christmas last year, when I got home I just kinda burned out. Everything came to a grinding halt,” he recalled. “For the month of January, I was just trying to rest and get back on my feet. It wasn’t until May or June that I started writing again.”
No doubt part of that exhaustion was due to the lengthy, publicly arduous undertaking that was the recording of Nightcrawler. After the success of musicforthemorningafter and the equally conceptual Day I Forgot, the pressure to make an album that simultaneously pleased the label heads and successfully completed Yorn’s morning-day-night musical trilogy was intense and, at times, impossible to work under.
“It was tough,” he expressed. “There was a lot of turmoil at the record label. With me, I had a lot of ideas about what I wanted to do, and I felt really strongly about it. And the producer and I, we butted heads a lot, although we’re good friends. It was really draining to be in a studio, and it was really foreign to me. There were a lot of problems with my record label. The process didn’t feel natural. I mean, I’m happy with the result, but I have no desire to do it again like that. I would liken it to being a painter in a room working, and you’ve got people all around you telling you you need to add more green. And it wasn’t just that. I mean I probably wasn’t even focused enough. I learned my lesson.”
It’s that reflexive sense of self that makes albums like Nightcrawler so emotionally raw, but it also makes Yorn his toughest critic. On working with himself and being-for lack of a better term-a control freak in the studio, he said, “A lot of that is out of convenience. [When I’m working with other people] it’s because I get sick of me.”
As far as what’s next, Yorn said that he’s already working on a few songs, he won’t be teaming up with a permanent backing band, and he won’t be making another concept album. “[It’s] a new beginning for me, I think : I’ve been examining myself more. The next record will be a chance for me to start unleashing that on the world.”
Pete Yorn opens for Santa Barbara Bowl headliners Crowded House on Saturday, August 25. Call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for ticket info.