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Days of Yorn: Singer-songwriter Pete Yorn gets intimate on solo acoustic tour

Singer-songwriter Pete Yorn’s acclaimed album “Musicforthemorningafter” celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2021. It’s “very, very strange. I don’t even know what else to say,” Yorn said after being asked about his breakthrough album.

New Jersey native Yorn, who now resides in California and has embarked on his “An Evening With Pete Yorn: You & Me Solo Acoustic Tour,” stops at the Knitting Factory on Friday night and talked over the phone Sept. 26 about his new album “Caretakers,” music collaboration and labels, Scarlett Johansson, post-tour plans and more.

You released “Caretakers,” your first solo album in three years and seventh overall, in August. Tell me about the album.

Oh my gosh, I’m very proud of it. I enjoyed the process of making it, and I’m excited about sharing it with people. I’m glad that it’s finally out. Jackson Phillips is the co-producer and co-wrote the album. It was a very organic process of recording and creating, and it reminded me of why I like to make music.

You performed your first single, “Calm Down,” recently on Jimmy Kimmel. Do you get nervous before a performance?

Not like I used to, but you still feel that tinge of butterflies. It makes you human. I call it anxitement.

How did your own music label, Shelly Music, come about?

Shelly is named after my first pet, a hermit crab, when I was 7 years old. It’s an early demos label that I created. I have this old cassette of six songs from 1996, and the copyright I wrote on it is Shelly Music.

I’ve been working with labels for years, and everything was aligned to do it myself. I have everything at my fingertips, and I get to put my hands on everything. I started this label, and it’s just me right now, but it’s a way to put out my music, which I hope has evolved since 1996 (laughs).

Your new tour, “An Evening With Pete Yorn: You & Me Solo Acoustic Tour,” begins soon, correct?

I begin in about two weeks. The first leg is acoustic, just me and my guitar as a storyteller. We start Oct. 9 in Santa Ana (California). In November and December, it will be my first band tour in three years with Jackson’s band Day Wave. We’ll play news songs and old songs. Jackson played synthesizer, keyboard and guitar on “Caretakers.”

What can fans expect at your Knitting Factory show here in Spokane on Oct. 18?

The only rule is there is no setlist. We can get really deep in the catalog and tell stories and talk about everything. It’s a much more interactive show. Instead of being just a shoe-gazer, it’s a different experience and a chance to connect in a cool way.

You’re known for playing the majority of your instruments on your recordings. Do you have a favorite instrument?

I started off playing drums, and I still love drums. As a kid, you would find me banging away on those. When I first tried to write songs, I learned to play guitar because the guitar is a great vehicle for writing songs. I write my songs on guitar.

I love playing bass, too, but, at the end of the day, the most functional instrument is the guitar. However, my oldest brother just got a drum set, so now I want to start playing the drums again.

Is it strange to think that, in 2021, “Musicforthemorningafter” will have been released 20 years ago?

(Laughs) Yes, very, very strange. I don’t even know what else to say!

What do you enjoy most about music and touring after all these years?

Two things. One, meeting the fans, seeing the fans and hearing how people connect to the music. Hearing what it means to them is special to see and hear. And two just getting to play at the end of the day. I just play this guitar and sing this song. In this digital age, it feels real and tangible, and it’s gratifying.

How did your collaboration with Scarlett Johansson originate, first in the 2000s, then in 2018?

Scarlett is a longtime friend. In the more restless years of my career in 2005 or 2006, my album “Nightcrawler” came from a dream. I had insomnia, and I remember being awake at 5 a.m., and my heart was racing, and I had a dream that I needed to make a duets record with Scarlett.

She reminds me of some of my favorite actresses – Charlotte Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. I texted her, and she hit me right back saying that she wasn’t busy and was looking to sing. It was that simple. It just all came together, and our work was released 2 1/2 years later in September 2009.

Who are some of your favorite artists past and present?

Oh my gosh, music influenced me as a kid growing up in New Jersey, and I knew that I wanted to play music. My brothers would be cranking Judas Priest and Iron Maiden in the house. In my early teenage years, I became obsessed with The Cure’s “Head on the Door” and the Smiths’ “Queen Is Dead.” I wanted to dress that way and make music that way.

I love REM and got to tour with them. Peter Buck has played on my recordings. I’ve gotten to hang out and work with my heroes. I like so many different kinds of music. I like DIIV and what they’re doing bringing back an early ’90s sound. I like the Kinks, the Beach Boys, the Carpenters … I’m all over the place.

Tell me something that your fans would be surprised to learn about you.

I’m quite a homebody. I don’t go out much. I’m in bed by 8:30 p.m. I’m awake by 6:30 a.m. It’s a far cry from the “Nightcrawler” insomnia days I spoke of before. I much prefer living in the place that I am now.

I do love the nighttime where everything is hidden, yet houses are lit up, and it’s so pretty at night. They seem mysterious. But I have a little girl now, and I love being around her and enjoy the daytime and days with her.

What’s next after this tour ends?

We end around the holiday season, so I’ll enjoy the holidays. I have a bunch more music to begin to organize for a tour in the new year, and I’ll continue to spread the word on “Caretakers” and its next presentation.

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