It’s hard to shake off Craig Finn. As frontman for Brooklyn’s own The Hold Steady, the guy’s rambling vocals have a knack for purchasing real estate in that ever-absorbing noggin of yours. But, that’s okay. He knows how to tell a good story. Five albums in – not counting the man’s work with the equally inviting Lifter Puller – Finn’s still trucking. This year, he penned/released Heaven is Whenever, toured across the country, hit up half a dozen summer music festivals, and now he’s getting ready to finish off 2010 at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater, for what will undoubtedly be one rare spectacle to enjoy.
But, then again, when isn’t The Hold Steady a spectacle live? Earlier this summer, we checked them out in Minneapolis, where we enjoyed one of the best Fourth of July parties one could throw, and then later in the Fall at Chicago’s Vic Theatre, where Senior Staff Writer Dan Caffrey witnessed a “welcoming whirlpool of working class dance.” Needless to say, it’s hard to leave unimpressed with the boys.
On-stage, Finn acts more or less like a spiritually charged minister – the likes of which you’d find in the dawning of our country. He screams, he beckons, he begs for you to listen. He’s a rare energy in a genre that’s far too staple these days. That’s why the idea of sitting down with him, one-on-one, seemed rather daunting. Instead, Finn proved to be quite the cordial folk, digressing on topics and questions with ease, coming off more like a distant friend than an iconic songwriter. We discussed his time growing up in the Twin Cities, his favorite authors, his relationship with The Replacements, his forthcoming film adaptation of Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City, and plenty more.
So, let’s get to it, already.
You were born in Boston, The Hold Steady hails from Brooklyn, but most of the songs trace back to Minneapolis or Minnesota. Will that always be home for you?
Yeah, I’ll always consider that home. I feel New York’s a tough place to write about and I think moving there just 10 years ago gave me a pretty good perspective on what’s interesting about Minneapolis. I guess I just feel more comfortable putting songs there, more than anywhere else. It’s a unique place and I think it suits the songs well.
It seems like Brooklyn would be the opposite mindset of the more wholesome and open minded folk of Minneapolis. We were at your 4th of July show this past summer in Minneapolis, it definitely felt special, as if you were home. Do you ever get homesick for it?
[laughs] Yes and no. We get back there a lot. My parents are still there and all that. But yeah, I think that there’s something special. Because we sing about Minneapolis, our fanbase there kind of feels this extra attention, and our shows there are always pretty amazing. Not to mention it’s just a great music town.
Your music lends itself to that area, too. The cold, the close-knit community, the friendly feelings. A lot of bands from there work off that – The Replacements, for one.
Absolutely. I think it’s part of who we are – everything from sort of the honesty to the flock of people, to the cold, the music scene, and just sort of the whole atmosphere. At least for me. Not everyone’s from there, so I have to be careful. But most of us have lived there, so I think we’ve been influenced. The other guys are from Wisconsin, so I think it’s that whole region that forms what we do.
Do you have folks you stay with when you’re up there?
I usually stay with my parents.