When he issued his bubbly, brilliant debut, "Musicforthemorningafter," in 2001, folk-pop singer Pete Yorn wasn’t planning to pen a triumvirate of discs. But looking back on ’03’s "Day I Forgot" and the somber new "Nightcrawler," the singer likens his morning to day to night progression to that of a carefree child maturing into a rational, thoughtful adult.
"So it’s a trilogy to me in the sense where it’s all me, it’s all coming from the same heart," the 32-year-old says, scratching his signature three-day beard stubble. "But I’m not the guy I was in 1999, or 2002 — I’m the person I am now, and the music I make reflects that. Once you grow up a little bit and you’ve traveled around and you meet some people and your life changes, the type of stuff you want to put out changes as well."
And nothing against Peter Pan syndrome, Yorn adds, speaking from his tour bus. (His show comes to San Francisco’s Fillmore on Feb. 13). But he’s happy being older and wiser, even if it’s entailed such grim prospects as the passing of his grandmother last year and the death of a best friend — Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone, whose private wake he recently attended with Rob Zombie and Eddie Vedder.
Those, the only deaths he has dealt with, remind him: "You’ve got to appreciate your family, your time together, every little thing. Like Warren Zevon said, enjoy every sandwich. Because you never know. You just never know. Knock wood."
Fans might shiver at the notion of their impish idol getting grave. Yet the nocturnal "Nightcrawler" (red Ink/Columbia) makes perfect aesthetic sense, and puts the performer exactly where he should be at this stage inthe folksinging game — miles ahead of the ho-hum pack.
His new knock-wood attitude has turned out to be his biggest asset; sensing his own mortality, he says, "I felt this weird urgency to capture as much material as I can in the studio, while I’m inspired to do so. So these past three years have been filled with so many different sessions of recording, there were over 50 songs. I guess I had this huge flow of creativity coming my way, and I wanted to get it all."
Five different producers and co-producers are listed on the 14-track "Nightcrawler," which was previewed by a separate six-cut acoustic EP, "Westerns."
Yorn didn’t play it safe in his song selection. There are a few straightforward numbers such as "The Man," featuring his Dixie Chick chum Natalie Maines on backing vocals. But most of the arrangements are quirky, adventurous or surreal, or twisted ditties such as "Vampyre," "Policies," "For Us" and "Georgie Boy" (whose lyrics are so serious, Yorn can’t bring himself to discuss them).
Yorn says he’s got a whole album’s worth of similarly edgy tunes all ready to go.
Bottom line? Rich is the examined life, Yorn believes.
"Because there are a lot of songwriters out there right now, and that’s great — I wish everyone all the success in the world. But I really kind of want to draw a line in the sand and say ‘This is who I am — don’t lump me in with people that I have nothing to do with, creatively. And that’s what this record is for me. This is who I am, take it or leave it.’"
Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 13
Contact: (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com