Pete Yorn is equally indebted to Bruce Springsteen’s blue-collar introspection as Lou Reed’s deadpan stream-of-consciousness. He first broke out in 2001 with his extraordinary Columbia Records debut, Musicforthemorningafter, which was hailed by NPR as one of the year’s finest and Rolling Stone praised it as “atmospheric, gently lit by sunlight and regret.” In the decades that followed, Yorn solidified his status as a songwriters’ songwriter, releasing six more solo albums and collaborating in the studio with everyone from Frank Black and Peter Buck to Liz Phair and Scarlett Johansson (Yorn and Johansson’s joint 2009 release, Break Up, went Platinum in France). Yorn has performed on a plethora of TV shows including Letterman, Fallon, Kimmel, Ellen and more; as well as sharing the stage on tours with artists as varied as R.E.M., Coldplay, My Morning Jacket, Foo Fighters and The Dixie Chicks, and festival slots from Coachella and Bonnaroo to Glastonbury and Austin City Limits.
(Photo Credit: Jim Wright)
Most of us are sequestered in our homes, doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. That includes some of our favorite artists, so we’re asking them to tell us about one thing — a book, a movie, a record, whatever — that’s helping them get through this difficult time.
Puzzling is one thing I’m doing to keep busy, and luckily my wife helps. I’ve been doing these Wysocki puzzles. They’re images of like old-time America, peaceful classic Americana images. I find that the puzzling definitely helps me when I have time to do it. We’ve got a 4-year-old girl running around taking up my time, and she’s awesome. But beyond that, I love just focusing in on the puzzle, and I’ll have my earpiece in and call a friend. It’s calming.
I used to do puzzles on vacation. I always found when I dug in that they’re a little like a meditation. At first you’re “eh.” But every time you put a piece in, it hits a little reward center in your brain. It makes you focus and be present. The one I’m currently doing is “Hound of the Baskervilles” by Charles Wysocki. It’s kind of a New England setting, somewhere near Cape Cod, with saltbox houses and horsedrawn carriages. They’re always kind of idyllic. I grew up in the Northeast, but now I’m in the desert out in California. My wife saw this whole thing coming early. When it was first in Wuhan, she’s like “Dude, this is fucked up, this is bad.” I finally had that moment of the wife in Jaws, with the little boy on the dock playing, and she’s like, “C’mon Brody, he’s just on the dock, let him play,” and Brody’s like “whatever.” But then she’s looking through the book and she sees the shark bite the boat and she’s like “Get out of the boat!”
Maybe a month ago I had that month ago I had that moment. Maybe when I heard that a Korean Air flight came to LA and a stewardess had it and had gone on to Israel or whatever. You realize that it’s everywhere. There’s just no fucking way. Where we live in LA in Santa Monica, we live on the same block as an emergency room, it’d be driving me crazy. I was a bit of germophobe to begin with and this has brought out all my germophobe tendencies. I’m very grateful to be out here in the desert where there’s less density. We haven’t been out anywhere in weeks, just doing what we’ve gotta do, lay low.
I’ve also been doing these livestreams on Instagram which has been fun for me, and hopefully for people who like my music. At first I would just do it whenever I was in the mood. If you watch the first one I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s better if I give people a time to tune in. If I commit, I get that same feeling of like, “Oh, I’ve got a show tonight!” No matter what I always feel butterflies. I still care.
This has also been great for my workouts. It’s the longest I’ve gone in my life without missing a workout. If you don’t build a routine, you’re just kind of floating out there. So I’ve got that going more than ever. Strangely the time’s been flying. I have a set call with somebody every week on Thursday, and it’s just flying by and blurring together.
Sometimes I get in my car just to drive around a little bit out in the desert. Normally I would listen to Howard Stern; I put it on for a minute and he was just so pissed off. I tried to stop looking at much news; I know the latest, but stuff that I can’t control I’ve decided to just drop. I’ve just decided to do what I can do, and all the noise of the constant news cycle, fuck that shit. I’m not even looking anymore.
The other thing I’ve been doing is painting with my daughter. We sit outside. For some reason I keep doing Barneys and she’s not even that into Barney! Some people assume it’s her, but other people get that it’s me painting them. I’ll just keep doing Barneys until I decide not to do any more.
(Photo Credit: Jim Wright)