In Divisive Times, Craig Finn Looks For Common Ground

Audio: Inside Track With Craig Finn

Craig Finn

(Photo: courtesy of the artist)

Lots of musicians comment on political issues -- especially in contentious times like today. They’ll write angry protest songs that argue one side of a debate or the other.

Craig Finn does something different on his latest album. He looks for common ground between conflicting sides. 

The album’s called “We All Want The Same Things.” Finn says there’s truth to that title.

"We’re kind of a divided country, right?" he says. "But also I think it's true. I think we all want, on base level, a lot of the same things. We just disagree wildly on how to get there."

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Finn addresses some timely political issues -- like the opioid crisis and the health care debate. He does so through character-driven stories.

These characters are criminals, divorcees and bereaved families. Finn says he wanted to get to know these people. So he could empathize with them and see their point of view. Even if he disagreed with it.

"I don't know that all the characters on this record would vote the same way I do," he says.

Finn’s fictional characters are always well-defined and believable -- on his previous solo albums and those with his band The Hold Steady.

But he tries something new on “We All Want The Same Things.” On the song "Preludes," the main character is himself. It takes place during a low point in his life.

Finn says he never writes autobiographical songs. And he almost scrapped "Preludes." But then he heard it in the context of the other songs on the album -- and it helped him empathize even more. 

"Even though it was about me, I could fit next to these characters," he says. "People in these songs are unremarkable people. They’re not doing big things necessarily. They're people just trying to keep their head above water. And that was certainly where I was at at that time."

Finn says these new songs resonate with live audiences. He finds they create a sense of community at live shows. It comes from a desire to get through these divisive times together.

"It's been a rough year for a lot of us. But whatever you do, whatever you say, you're trying to make a connection with the audience that says: 'I feel this way, maybe you felt this way too.' It makes the world seem better. Even if you're talking about dark stuff it brings some kind of hope and optimism into the situation."

Connection, hope, a better world. Craig Finn says we all want those same things. 

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