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Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn goes dark for solo debut

Craig Finn

Craig Finn Credit: Craig Finn

As lead singer of Brooklyn's the Hold Steady, Craig Finn is known for writing anthemic songs about young people getting drunk, hooking up and finding salvation, whether in religion or rock 'n' roll.

On his first solo album, "Clear Heart, Full Eyes," the 40-year-old Finn is focusing on much darker subject matter, including loneliness, isolation and depression.

amNewYork spoke with Finn in the midst of his first solo tour.

Why did you want to make a solo album? I've done five records with the Hold Steady. If we went right back in and did another, it would have been really similar to the last record. I wanted to challenge myself to get out of my normal habits and do something different.

Why did you record in Austin instead of staying in NYC? That was part of my idea, to get a new experience geographically. One of the visions I had was to work with a producer who would put together a band for me. A big reason I went there was [producer] Mike McCarthy.

Did you know the musicians he picked out? I met them on Monday morning, shook their hands and started recording. They were complete strangers to me. I'm kind of a limited musician, so to meet people for the first time who are strong musicians was a little intimidating and scary. But part of what I was going for was for it to be a little intimidating and scary.

What's the biggest challenge about playing solo? The volume, really. At a Hold Steady show, people come up and throw beer and climb all over each other - it's a crazy communal thing. With my solo thing, people are just listening. It's more intimate and vulnerable.

Is there another Hold Steady album in the works? We're about halfway through writing the next record. I'd love to have it out in 2012.

If you go: Craig Finn is performing Wednesday at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. at the Mercury Lounge, 217 E. Houston St., 212-260-4700, sold out.

He is also playing at the Music Hall of Williamsburg March 8 at 8 p.m., 66 N. Sixth St., Brooklyn, 718-486-5400, $15. 

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