Dave Pirner Talks New Soul Asylum Record and His Songwriting Lyric Book

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Looking back on 25 years of songwriting, Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner admits he’s not one for nostalgia.  But when he had the opportunity to put together a lyric book, he was forced to confront his 20-year-old self.

 At the time the frontman was already working on a new album for Soul Asylum and experienced a lot of back and forth between writing new material for the band’s forthcoming Hurry Up And Wait and revisiting intimate cuts and songs like “Runaway Train”, during the completion of his lyric book Loud Fast Words.  

“It was strange jumping back and forth between things that I had written recently and things I had written twenty years ago,” Pirner told American Songwriter.  “I was working on a record so; it was strange to jump back in time and try to get into what was going on in my head 25 years ago and then go practice and play my new stuff.  It wasn’t painful but it was a lot of reminiscing and trying to understand what your 20-year-old brain was thinking.”

Loud Fast Words stands ahead of the monotony of the thousands of other lyric books on shelves, thanks to Priner’s brash and rock ‘n’ roll personality bleeding through the pages of the intro.  

“This is the beginning of the spinning of the yarn-a yarn that is me.  It’s twisted, tangled, fucked up; but somehow you continue to try to knit a sweater…” Pirner says of his own story and songwriting journey outlined in the beginning of Loud Fast Words.  

“I’ve lived a lot of miles,” the artist said of his evolving songwriting.

And Pirner’s transformation as a songwriter is evident on the spanning successes of his early hits and the trips into the depths of his scrutinous mind, divulged on Hurry Up and Wait. One thing is for certain- Pirner’s songwriting style is something to be examined and writing from the purest and darkest parts of himself have always been the redeeming qualities of his greatest songs.  Pirner holds strong to that pattern, still writing what feels right and being careful not to over-embellish or force his art. 

“More often than not I go back to simple things because it’s what works for me and it’s kind of rooted in the Woodie Guthrie’s, and Bob Dylan’s,” said Pirner.  

“The easiest way to make a connection is not to over complicate it,” he added.

Two songs from Soul Asylum’s April 17 release of Hurry Up and Wait, “Landmines” and “Dead Letters” are rooted in some of the best and most simplistic, relatable ideas roaming around in his head.  Both tracks pose a look at some of the everyday wanderings of people’s minds, however significant or not. It’s the truest of humanity’s nature to explore obscure curiosities, which is exactly how “Dead Letters” and “Landmines” came about.  

“I had this idea or fascination with a ‘dead letter office’, I never really understood what it meant.  I could’ve researched it, but it was just a place that lived in my brain that was interesting. It was a place where people sent letters, assuming they got there or do they still have letters from 50, 60 years ago just sitting around?  So, it was kind of fascinating thinking about all the information in the letters that was supposed to be delivered to someone but now they’re dead,” Pirner explained.

Offering something dare I say- a bit more humorous is the parallel Pirner draws in “Landmines”.  The song is one-part reality, based on everyday monotonous occurrences and one-part seriousness, but Pirner does well to correlate the two contrasting ideas for one rockin’ Soul Asylum jam.  

“A landmine is a serious problem, a kids baseball goes into a field and gets blown to bits which isn’t cool, but a landline is something I think is funny because they’re so obscure,” he said.  “I noticed every time my landline would work and ring it was just robots calling or politicians or junk mail through the landline. Every time it rang, I was like ‘I’m not answering that’. It was going to be somebody trying to scam me, so that’s the connection between those two.”

When asked about his creative process now versus decades ago, Pirner shared it doesn’t vary too much.  His great insight into music theory matched with his life lived and many years spent in New Orleans are contributing factors though.  The topmost piece to Pirner’s songwriting is his bold attitude with fearlessness to write honestly. Though he has an affinity for theory and song structure, he makes music how he wants to, because really that is who he is- an exquisite songwriter with prolific insights on how to craft great songs from the darkest, deepest, silliest part of his head.  And it’s something he does for the sake of writing and less for opinions.“I suppose the idea for a song could be considered a seed. Some grow to be beautiful plants; others don’t germinate at all,” Pirner said in the closing intro of Loud Fast Words.  “They are dormant seeds.  No one wants to look at my collection of dormant seeds.   They want to see the flower. The big, fat, fucking sunflower.  But every seed needs a fair chance. What is it that allows some seeds to turn into flowers? Is it Darwinism? Is it chance? Is it ego? I have no idea. Do I think that my opinion is important? Do I give a shit what anyone thinks? I’m like a dog; I’m peeing on every tree I can find.”

To purchase the book, with signed copies available, or the new album: go here.

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