Pete Yorn, 2006

 

Written by: Jason Perlman

 

The last time you came through Columbus, you played a little independent record store and then a small club called The Basement. And I watched tickets being scalped for decent penny. But when you do things like that, is that more for you to not fall into a rut or more for the fans to get to see you in an intimate setting since that is becoming more of a rarity?
Well, it certainly wasn't done to cause anybody a hassle. But it is definitely both. I mean for me, I hadn't really toured in a long time and I wanted to get out and do these intimate shows. Do a bit of acoustic with a stripped-down band. But also, it was for the people who were quick enough to get their ticket early. But I always remember what it was like when I was going to shows and seeing my favorite bands and could think back to seeing Radiohead at the Troubadour and I wanted to provide some of that experience. But to answer the question it definitely was both. For You and Me, that is what the tour was called.

 

Before that, you came to the Newport on a very short tour.
The summer before that? Yea, I only played seven dates and three of them were in Ohio.

 

Well, we are not sure what we do to deserve this attention, but we are glad for it. But when you do a short stint like that, did you specifically pick out favorite spots or did you just go where you could get booked?
Well, we had been asked to play this big charity concert in Minnesota so when we decided to do that, we figured we could make a short tour and play some of the new music we were working on for this record. The Midwest was obviously close by so we really just went where we could, but I love playing Columbus and in Ohio.

 

How much did playing some of that new music live help influence the record?
Well, it helped solidify some of the songs as far as arrangements, but as far as what ultimately made the record, it really didn't affect that at all.

 

Like a lot of acoustic players, you seem to throw in some cover songs every night. I think Suspicious Minds may be my favorite. But how do you decide what to play?
Well, so far on this tour and all summer long we have been playing pretty much the same songs, although not every night. So when we play, we like to mix it up a bit. We never right out a set list, so we usually tend to play what feels right at the time. And we usually play two hours, so we need to mix it up a bit each night. Although I have been opening for the Dixie Chicks some and only have 30 minutes, so that isn't a problem. But we play like a two-hour show and I never write a set list, never have. But Suspicious Minds has always been a song that I have really enjoyed and I haven't been able to shake it off quite yet. It is just really fun to play and has become sort of a signature closer song. Sometimes I stumble upon it just playing the acoustic guitar. Not even realizing I know how to play a song I will start strumming it and think, "I can play this." And then we work it out as a band. But it's fun to play other people's songs. Sometimes I just get sick of playing my own stuff for two hours.

Well, your fans never seem to get too tired of your own music and these fans also travel around to see you play, so does that put an added burden on creating a two-hour set that is different from the night before and the next night?
Well, I look around to see if there are familiar faces. Plus I do look at the set list from the night before; I keep the all in my little computer. And I am very conscious if I am playing in front of the same group of people or doing two nights in the same city or maybe a group of kids that traveled from the show before. So I do try to mix it up and throw in a few different songs here and there and make sure the pace is different than the night before. So I am very conscious of it and I think do a pretty good job of not making two shows in a row too much alike.

 

I think so, too. But has it been difficult because you have played with several musicians over the years, and having the amount of songs, plus playing them all throughout a tour must get pretty tough to find a groove to a set list and songs you can play. Or do you just do as you say, and play what you feel and the band better keep up?
Sometimes my drummer Malcolm (Cross) gets a little excited and he will be like, "Mate, ya know..." I have a terrible English accent but am going to use it anyway. And he will be like, "Mate ya know we should play this at the show." And he always wants to play some really obscure song that nobody knows and I am all for it. But sometimes I will be like, "Not tonight. Not tonight." But then he will just launch into it and I am like, "What are you doing?" And he will be like "Come on" and we will start playing it. Sometimes there were even songs from the new record that I hadn't played live yet like Ice Age and he just launched into it one night, like "Fuck this." So he just went into it and we ended up playing it even though I wasn't planning on it. He is a good catalyst for a lot of that improvisation. But now we know a lot of the material. The backing band is a band called Minibar, who signed a deal with Universal Records and are from England. So they are a great band and have been backing me up for about two years now. And we are really working well together. Because bands I have had in the past, it seemed that I had to teach a lot and spent a lot of time trying to get things to fit together, but with this band, we are pretty much able to play whatever we want to play. So this has been a great few years with this band.

 

Interrupted by Pete's cell phone blaring Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.

 

You mentioned playing with the Dixie Chicks and getting about a half hour to play. Obviously you are getting a whole new audience to play in front of doing that, which has got to be great for you. But when you go from a two-hour headliner show to a 30-minute opening slot, does that make for a tough transition?
I mean it is a great opportunity to get up in front of a huge crowd in these arenas that we are playing in. And for the most part, their fans are there when I go on stage, so there is a large audience I get to play in front of. I mean, you get up there and the stage is huge, the arena is huge and there is just a lot of wattage being put out from the sound system. I just go out there and try to win over an audience I normally may not see. I just look at it as another great opportunity. I mean, getting up on a giant stage is something that I have dreaming of since I was a kid, I think it is something almost every kid dreams of, so I just look at how lucky I have become. But I'm blinded by that spotlight. There is this giant spotlight that hits you right in the eyes, and I can't see. But the other night, I walked out on stage and the floor was pretty empty. And then they put the giant spotlight in my face so I couldn't see anything. But after a few songs, I said something and they put the houselights on and it was all filled it. I had no idea there were even people sitting there. It was strange. I don't see all that well anyway, so I can't see to the back of the house, but when you see that many people you just have to pinch yourself. And the sound for these shows has just been amazing as well. I feel like I am in U2 or something when I am up there.

It seems there are a lot of artists that when you see them live, it is almost as if they are robots going through motions, but every time I have seen you play there is genuine enthusiasm. How do you keep that going day in and day out?
I don't know, really. You just have to keep everything in perspective. When you have been on the road for a while and you are stuck in a bus in an ice storm, the roads are shit and you don't know if anyone is going to make it out to the show, you just can't worry about things you can't control. If you get tired on the road you just have to find ways to keep things fresh and new. And this time around, I brought some family out with me to help keep things grounded. There is a guy in my band that I have known for like 12 years now, since college actually and my tour manager is like my brother. And I have my cousin out with me selling the merch. So those guys entertain me and they inspire me.