Liam Finn Q&A
originally printed in the Event Guide
By Aoife Barry
As the son of New Zealander (with Irish roots) and Crowded House frontman Neil Finn, Liam Finn grew up surrounded by music and unsurprisingly began his first forays into the music world in his teens. At the young age of 25, he’s already released his accomplished debut album ‘I’ll Be Lightning’ to positive reviews and comparisons to the likes of Elliott Smith. Now based in London, Liam performs live with multi-instrumentalist EJ Barnes.
Hi Liam – are you at home at the moment?
Yeah I’m in London, having my first holiday of the year really. We’ve been touring so much that this is the most more than a few days off that we’ve had. I’m just in bed, to be honest – I’m lying in bed right now!
Is it strange coming off the road and having more than a day or two off where you don’t have to travel?
It is rather strange, but I’ve never appreciated being stationary all my life so it’s fantastic.
Are you the kind of person who gets restless if you’re off touring for so long?
This time I’ve been really craving not doing anything. I’ve almost been touring for two years, so it’s a welcome break….[but] at about 10 o’clock at night, I find myself pacing.
Are you looking forward to coming back to playing Ireland?
I am, we’ve had great shows in Ireland in the past, so it’s gonna be great to come back. And it’s actually gonna be our last show in the Northern Hemisphere this year, so it’ll be a great way to finish it all off.
Can you tell me about why you decided to sign to Independent Records here?
Well, Dave O’Grady, who runs Independent, he saw me play over at South By Southwest earlier this year and he has some ties because of Bell x1 – they released through the same label I released on in America… He really liked the show and I met him…I’ve ended up on a lot of labels around the world that seem to have the same ideas and aesthetic and being independent he couldn’t have named his label more appropriately. That’s the way I like doing things – being more hands on and having a friendship and relationship with the label rather than being one of the many on a major label. So it just worked out really well. I think the people that know about Independent Records or at least like the bands on Independent Records like the fact that the music itself isn’t being messed with. Dave is a music enthusiast and wants to take the music to people who will love it. There is no bullshit.
Can you tell me about the reaction to I’ll Be Lightning? You got great reviews so you must have been delighted.
Yeah, it’s always nice to have good reviews, I try not to take it as seriously at all, as you should take them as seriously as the bad reviews but at the same time it’s obviously nice to be liked and know that people are getting it. The reaction in general has been very positive this year and things have grown in a very organic way, and I’ve managed to spend a long time travelling around and playing songs to people.
How did you feel around the release of the album?
It came out in gradual steps around the world –it actually came out last year in New Zealand and Australia and the beginning of this year in the States and then finally mid way through the year in Ireland. Now it’s just come out in Europe. Every time it’s come out again I have different feelings about the record. Now it already feels like I need to make a new one That record is very much how I felt a few years ago and the songs were very honest and direct about things that were happening a while ago. In some ways it’s nice to get distance from it because it means you can see it as a body of work rather than something that is personal. It’s been a really interesting way to do it but I’d like to make sure the [next] album comes out hopefully around the same time everywhere so it’s got that vital freshness.
Have you been working a lot on new material over the last while?
I have been as much as possible but I’ve been seriously playing shows every night for so long that it’s hard to find the time where I’m actually on my own – in fact I haven’t had any time alone. So there’s stuff in the pipeline but I’m really waiting to go back to New Zealand at Christmas time and maybe next year I’ll start on the new record.
Are you going to take the same approach to making the newer record as you did on the last one?
I’m gonna start off with the same idea and aesthetic but I think I’m the kind of person that likes to leave things up to however I’m feeling at the time and if I make plans I tend to change my mind a lot, so I let things happen. I think that the best kind of music happens in spontaneous ways and you have to follow your gut instinct about what seems like the most fun and what seems like it’s pushing you in the right direction at the time and not make definite plans. But I’d like to try a couple of different ways of performing – this time I’d like to do more stuff with some other musicians but I would also really like to try and document what me and EJ, who sings with me, what we’ve got going as a duo.
One musician you’re frequently compared to is Elliott Smith – are those comparisons welcome?
I love Elliott Smith as well, and he was a huge influence on me growing up. I think when I discovered his music it was something. His lyrics and melodies and stuff definitely felt like something, you know, the songs that I was writing I could see were of a similar ilk and he was a big influence and a huge part of what I wanted to do and what I achieved and stuff. So yeah, I think it’s a great comparison, if you’re going to be compared to someone, you might as well be compared to someone you love.
Music is obviously an integral part of your family life – was it always something you wanted to do as your full-time career?
I think from a young age I was always really driven to create music, and had aspirations to do it, but at the same time when I was quite young I was convinced that I was going to be a basketball player. Which just sounds completely ridiculous now! I even bet my best friend at the time $50 that I would make it to the NBA – he got in touch with me a few years ago and made me pay up. But there’s still time – there’s still time!
So what happened to the basketball career?
I discovered girls and rock n’roll!
Sometimes when people have a relation who’s also in the same industry, they might be worried of going under the same name because of comparisons. Is that something that’s worried you or are you proud to go under your own name?
I’m definitely very proud to be a Finn, and I love the music that [my Dad’s] made. But there’s definitely frustrations that come along with it and, you know, certain things that I question should I have done them that way; but ultimately I think it comes down to the music: You make a name for yourself if you’re good enough. It’s a problem if you’re really average and you use the name in a not-so-genuine way, that’s when it becomes a problem.