15 September 2007

"Certain songs, they get so scratched into our souls..."

It's always fascinating to hear your favorite songwriters discuss the writing process, especially when that writer writes gritty stories of druggy adolescent angst with impeccable narrative structure and novelistic detail. Last Thursday I had the pleasure of watching an interview with the The Hold Steady's Craig Finn at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, New York, alongside Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. While at first glance an African novelist and an American rocker might not seem to have that much in common, however, it soon became apparent that both writers had to leave home in order to write more clearly about it. It's also worth noting that puberty's a bitch regardless of geographic location.

During the chat, Finn explained how writing a song is like completing a crossword puzzle. Once you get the long answer down the middle, all the shorter, peripheral answers easily fall into place. He also recalled how he taped that now infamous Kerouac line to his wall ("boys and girls in America have such a sad time together") and how he referred to it every time he suffered writer's block. He followed the conversation up with acoustic renditions of "Certain Songs" and "Arms and Hearts", an outtake that never made the final version of last year's fantastic Boys and Girls in America.

Certain Songs - The Hold Steady

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