As the lead singer of The Hold Steady, Craig Finn delivers anthemic rock songs about young people hooking up, partying and sometimes finding religion.
His second solo album, “Faith in the Future,” tackles much more serious topics in a much quieter style. Finn wrote many of its songs in the months after his mother died, a period when he was “thinking a lot about perseverance, about how people go on living even after tragedy or change.”
amNewYork spoke with Finn.
Many of your songs with The Hold Steady are about looking back, whereas these are focused on where you are today. What accounts for that shift?
I think as I get older I’m more interested in older characters. At the start of The Hold Steady I was in my early 30s but wrote a lot about people in their late teens or early 20s. Now I’m more likely to write about people 30 and over. It’s more of a challenge, but more interesting to me now.
What is your writing process like? Where do you find inspiration for the characters and stories in your songs?
I sit down and write at least a few times a week to create new songs. Then I pull out work from a week or two back and pick at it, poke holes in it, etc. I get inspiration everywhere but a ton of it comes from reading fiction. Long walks and eavesdropping are also fertile ground for song ideas.
The song “Newmyer’s Roof” talks about watching the Twin Towers fall. Why did you decide to write about that now?
I was thinking a lot about the hangover of the years that followed 9/11. It is obviously an event that affected everything, and I was thinking about the events it indirectly set in motion in my life. I don’t think I could have written about it head on, it was more a song about how it changed me and the people most immediately around me.
You write a lot about characters who are desperate or struggling. Do you often feel that way yourself?
We all struggle in some way. I think desperate characters make big moves, so they are attractive in some way. My characters are more reckless and desperate than I am as a person, but I think we all have moments of desperation and recklessness.
If you go:
Craig Finn is at Lincoln Center’s The Appel Room as part of the American Songbook series on Feb. 3 at 8:30 p.m., 10 Columbus Circle, $30-$85