Pete Yorn talks about working with Frank Black

Categories: Interview
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Photo by Jim Wright
When Rolling Stone hailed Pete Yorn as one of "Ten to Watch in 2001," it marked the beginning of a steady uphill climb for the young artist. Yorn's first full-length album, musicforthemorningafter, went gold, solidifying his place in our music libraries. Fast-forward through nearly a decade and a handful of critically acclaimed albums, and Yorn's sixth album garners him a whole new field of admiration.

Released in September of 2010 and produced by Frank Black of the Pixies, Pete Yorn was recorded spur-of-the-moment over the course of five days back in 2008. It ended up being one of the most demanding recording sessions Yorn has ever had to endure -- he caught the flu during the second day of recording the album.

"It sucked that I got sick, I was frustrated about it," Yorn says, speaking over the telephone. "It was like the second day we were recording and I woke up in the middle of the night, and I just had those chills, ya know? I felt like, 'Oh No!!,' and it was nasty. At first I was just worried that we wouldn't be able to do the work that we would have to push it aside and reschedule. It was pissing me off though!" 

Yorn allowed the aggravation to come through his voice while reflecting on his recording experience. "I just wanted to make it work, and then a wrench gets thrown in the plans. But I loaded myself up on medicine, over the counter stuff. And [Black] didn't care at all -- not that he didn't care, I mean he felt bad I was sick. But he wasn't a germ-aphobe at all. He loved the way my voice sounded, and I was all self-conscience about it at first like, 'I'm all fucked up man!.' And he's like, 'I like it, I like it!' So he went for it, and all of a sudden we started getting our sound and it came together. By the end I was feeling a lot better."

It's possible that Yorn's illness during the recording resulted in some of the fantastic, stripped down, and vulnerable essence we hear all throughout the new album. Black may have peeled his layers back one-by-one, but recording through an illness will certainly shake up some emotions, as anyone artist can concur.

Fortunately for Pete Yorn, when he mentioned to Pixies frontman Frank Black that he wanted to "better define himself as an artist," Black was all ears.

"Anytime I approach anything in the studio, I'm like 'I want this to be my best, this will define me better' -- with greatest intentions," Yorn said. "And in a way we accomplished that, in some ways, everything was so stripped back that there's an element of fearlessness that exposes a certain side of what I do. My goal when I make my next record will be that I want that to better define myself as an artist, too."



Since his previous album, Break-Up, a collaboration with Scarlett Johansson, Yorn has had big shoes to fill, so-to-speak. It's not very often that small town musicians are allowed to record albums with multi-talented, Hollywood bombshells -- all the while creating one of last year's most celebrated albums. Over the course of the past 10 years, Pete Yorn has been on an incredible ride throughout his creative projects.

From the aforementioned album with Scarlet Johansson to even in with REM's Peter Buck on previous albums (including the song "Strange Condition") and working with Francis Black, one would only assume that Yorn actively seeks to join forces with other amazing talents. But maybe these things just come to him.

"I've always been pretty solitary with the way I work, and about myself I tend to play a lot of instruments by myself," he says. "I have done that so many times on other records, then you have these opportunities come up where you get to work with another creative person, and maybe you run away from it. Then other times, you're kind of curious to see what would happen. So that thing was kind of new for me, just to meet Frank himself and see what he brought to the table, and getting to work with him was something that I couldn't pass up. I couldn't get it out of my head, like, 'let's make this happen, we gotta' make this happen.'"

PETE YORN performs with Ben Kweller and the Wellspring tonight, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, at FIRST AVENUE. 18+. $27.50. 7 p.m.

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