Paul Westerberg comes to town-this time with a band.
If the song's finished when it's recorded, and the vocals are the last thing you add, do you find you're the only person up in the house at 1 or 2 in the morning?
"There's no one sitting next to me going, 'Yeah, man. You hit it.' It's either like, 'I'm tired' or 'That was it.' And the next day I listen, and sometimes it's crap and sometimes it ain't."
You were once asked about the song "Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings," which Lucinda Williams wrote about you. You responded by talking about what a great songwriter she is, and how "the hack songwriter will write the absolute truth every single word, whether it makes a great song or not. And the good songwriter takes something as a springboard and then goes from there." But don't you harness yourself to the truth with your song "My Dad"?
Do you have to break your own songwriting rules in order to do that?
"There are no rules. They change as they go along. I figure, as I get older, whatever I lose in youth or looks or gumption, I make up by singing what the truth is for me. And perhaps it may be a little deeper than what the truth is for a band that got signed yesterday."
Does it feel riskier to write songs that are so revealing?
"Yeah, it does. I feel I owe-I don't know whom-maybe myself, but I need to challenge myself and lay it on the line. I was talking to T-Bone [Burnett], who was out here playing with me, and he was talking about my song "Only Lie Worth Telling." It's like, that's not a song I could've written 10 years ago. And that's the kind of shit I can lay down and take whatever grief for the rest of my life for it, but you know, I feel like if no one else is going to say it, I will."
Does the added risk mean the goosebumps are bigger?
"Yeah, because you know there's going to be backlash down the line. But you know you've got something that's going to be precious to other people and it's going to hit the perfect chord with that one couple in Oklahoma who can't talk to each other, and it's going to bind them together or something."
That's a sweet sentiment-not at all misanthropic.
"Yeah, well you know, it turns out that way. I get so much, like, 'Oh, your song, we got divorced to this.' And I'm like, 'Cool.'"
Sat., April 30, 9pm. Sold out. Theater of Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011. www.theateroflivingarts.net