Craig Finn of the Hold Steady has to be one of the most gregarious guys in rock, a characteristic that’s always more than apparent in their fist-pumping, fast-clapping live shows. Now he’s getting to put his genuinely friendly nature to a different use, interviewing bands and serving as a sort of in-studio anchor for IFC’s Crossroads House, an outpost for web-streamed live performances here in Austin. We caught up with the always-positive bandleader on Thursday for a chat about surviving South-By as an adult, and the band’s fifth album, Heaven is Whenever, due out March 4 (with a limited-edition vinyl preview on Record Store Day, April 17, available only at your local non-box-store music retailer). He also had some kind words for the words of the late Alex Chilton; read those here, and check out IFC.com for their live webcasts of his work throughout the weekend…
Entertainment Weekly: You guys are finishing a new album, and not playing SXSW this year. Why are you here? Can you just not keep yourself away?
Craig Finn: It just seemed fun. I love music. It was a reason to be down here and check out things and see a lot of people but not have the hassles. We did four shows last year — the shows are actually the easy part. Getting between the shows is the hard part. I’m talking to all these bands — I think Dawes said they’re doing 10 shows and I’m like, Oh my god. There’s a million bands, you can’t park anywhere. There’s so much stress about all that, and it’s hard to make it about the music. And it’s funny, I’ve been asking a lot of people how they get into the headspace to play their shows, and everyone has their answer which is, “No, you just do it!” But it is kinda hard. So, we’ve been working on this record a lot, and this is kind of a little vacation for me.
How are you as an interviewer?
Um. Getting better. My second one was with Lemmy [from Motörhead], so that was — I’ve been trying to talk to people as a peer, you know? As a musician. Lemmy’s not really my peer. Nor is he anyone alive’s peer, really. So that one was intimidating. I’m not even sure they got anything they could use. He kind of mumbles, and he’s drunk, and there’s not much connection there. The other ones are pretty cool, and a lot of them are my friends — you know, the [Drive-By] Truckers were here, and Jakob [Dylan] and Neko [Case]. Comfort level helps a lot. READ FULL STORY