Craig Finn is growing up. “I’m not sure I’ve ever written a song about someone who lives too carefully before,” said the Hold Steady lead singer, introducing a new song at an intimate solo show in Brooklyn last month. With his bombastic songs about reckless parties and restless drunks, Finn has spent the past decade with the Hold Steady chronicling the lives of those hellbent on not being careful enough. Tomorrow, however, Finn will release Faith in the Future, the graceful follow-up to his 2011 solo debut, Clear Heart Full Eyes; below, watch an exclusive premiere of the video for the album’s second single “Maggie I’ve Been Searching For Our Son,” which was directed by Caroline Jaecks and assembled from a collection of nearly 300 video clips and photos supplied by close to 60 Craig Finn fans. Written in the wake of his mother’s passing in 2013, Faith may be his most personal record to date, a scaled-down showcase for his signature narrative songwriting style and precise literary detail.
“When I first met [producer] Josh Kaufman and we started talking about making this record, there were two things we talked about,” says Finn. “One was elegance. I wanted it to be age-appropriate. The other thing was to be hopeful.” With the Hold Steady currently on break, Finn, 43, is also hopeful as ever about his solo career, with an expansive tour planned for the fall. Rolling Stone recently caught up with Finn to talk about his new album, Lent, and the future of the Hold Steady.
When you were writing these songs, did you know they weren’t going to be for the Hold Steady?
I showed the band one song, “Sarah Calling From a Hotel,” when we all put in demos for Teeth Dreams. No one really reacted, and that one doesn’t really seem like an obvious Hold Steady song. We already had plenty of material. It’s the Hold Steady; it kind of works; it’s one way. It wasn’t like we were scrounging for material, and these songs didn’t seem right. The thing is that the Hold Steady, after six albums, has gotten into this one way of writing where Tad writes the music and I write the lyrics, so just by completing a song on my own that has music and vocals, it becomes a solo song.
By the time you’ve completed it, it’s already not a Hold Steady song.
Exactly. Which is good, it’s fine. I work a lot, and I tend to write a lot. This year, I wrote a song every day as an exercise for Lent, so that means I’ve written 45 songs this year. I remember talking to John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, and he was like, “If you have a work ethic of any sort, and you’re a professional musician, writing one song a day is not too much.” It’s about going to work.
How was the Lent exercise? Did you come up with anything you were happy with?
Yeah, in fact I was just going through those songs last night. There’s a song about a hockey player. I don’t know if I’m ever going to put that one out, but that’s what I wanted to do that day. I was thinking about hockey. There are some that are terrible — I mean bad. But there’s a good dozen. Now I can go back and say, “This is pretty good; this needs a bridge.”