Pete Yorn enjoys his time as a Chicks magnet



By Steve Newton

When the Dixie Chicks asked Pete Yorn if he wanted to collaborate with them, they didn’t have to ask twice. After he met the ultratalented Texas trio at an after-Grammy party in New York City, they invited him out to Austin to write songs for what would become their multiplatinum 2006 album, Taking the Long Way.

Yorn cowrote “Baby Hold On” and then requested that the gals return the favour, so Natalie Maines and Martie Maguire sang and played on the pensive “The Man”, off Yorn’s latest CD, Nightcrawler.

The disc features a bouncy track called “Georgie Boy” that includes mention of a “mission accomplished”, but, as Yorn explains on the line from Brentwood, California, it’s not the type of overt Bush-basher to get folks politically riled up.

“That song goes a few different ways, actually,” he relates, choosing not to delve into its actual subject matter.

Yorn originally hooked up with the Dixie Chicks before their offhand comment about Bush caused a major ruckus, and he found it hard to believe the fuss it caused.

“It was wild to see the reaction it got out of people,” he recalls, “because to me, people have been protesting governments and wars forever. If you look back at the ’60s and that whole generation, it’s not such a big deal. But I think the biggest thing about it was the context; I guess their fan base is so conservative that it was just like, ‘Wow!'”

Besides the two righteous Chicks, Yorn got help on Nightcrawler from the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, who slammed the skins on the infectious first single, “For Us”.

The album is similar to Yorn’s 2001 debut, music for the morning after, in that catchy, melodic, guitar-driven tunes dominate, but different because it includes a cover song: the late Warren Zevon’s “Splendid Isolation”.

Yorn wasn’t too familiar with the acerbic songwriter’s material before tackling the tune for the 2004 Zevon tribute album, Enjoy Every Sandwich.

“I knew some of his more popular stuff,” he says, “like ‘Werewolves of London’ and ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’, but I didn’t really know much of his catalogue. And after he had passed, his son Jordan—who’s got a beautiful voice—contacted me about recording ‘Splendid Isolation’, and I was intrigued by that.

“I’d never heard the song before, so I went and got myself a copy and loved it. I laughed really hard at the lyrics, actually; I totally appreciate how cynical and funny he was at the same time.”

Yorn is currently touring with a “real bang for your buck” package that includes opening acts Aqualung (not a Jethro Tull tribute) and “beautiful singer-songwriter” Charlotte Martin. His own band is mainly composed of members of the U.K. group Minibar.

“They’re famous for raiding mini bars,” he points out, “and they’re good guys. A friend of mine introduced me to them years ago. They were playing at a little Irish pub in L.A. called Molly Malone’s, and I was blown away by them.

“I kinda thought they sounded like a mix between Teenage Fanclub and the Byrds. They were doin’ these great three-, four-part harmonies, and I just loved it. I said, ”˜I really would love to play with those guys some day.’ So I made ’em my band.”

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