Interview: Steve Wynn and the Minus 5 team up for an entire record of baseball songs

Team Photo, L-R: Peter, Steve, Adam, Linda and Scott

It may be bleak and cold now — depending on where you’re reading this, of course — but in just a few weeks baseball players begin training for the upcoming season. Somehow that’s always a very welcome reminder that summer will, eventually, show up.

Getting an even earlier jump on the 2008 season are guitarist/songwriter Steve Wynn, ex-Dream Syndicate frontman now with a slew of great solo albums under his belt; Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck, of The Minus 5 and R.E.M.; and drummer Linda Pitmon, of Steve Wynn’s Miracle Three, Golden Smog, and others. The foursome recently convened in Portland, Oregon’s Type Foundry studio with Norfolk & Western‘s Adam Selzer at the tape machine to record a 16-song baseball-themed album.

Here’s a rough mix of “Pasttime” from the tentatively titled album “The Baseball Record”:

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The appeal should extend well beyond fans of that sport, however. As Wynn puts it, the songs detail “the eccentricities, characters, losers and winners that make baseball the greatest game on earth — as well as the perfect metaphor for just about everything in life.” Let’s see how this all came about…

photo by Roman Sonnleitner

A baseball record! Why?

I’ve wanted to do this record for years. I’m a big baseball fan — and former sportswriter — and always thought the game and the colorful characters throughout history would make an interesting platform for spinning yarns and making statements and metaphors for bigger things in life — assuming, of course, that there are bigger things. I kept putting off the project until I got into a long conversation with Scott McCaughey at the party before R.E.M.’s induction to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Turns out he was as big a baseball geek as me, and we immediately decided to do the record as soon as possible.

Are these original songs, or collected nuggets from over the years? I have to confess, until I heard the Bob Dylan Radio Hour baseball segment, the only recorded baseball songs I had heard were the Barbara Manning LP and the Pernice Brothers’ song “Moonshot Manny.”

We wrote 16 brand new original songs and could have easily kept going. In fact, we were going to seek songs from other rock baseball fans — Barbara, Joe Pernice, Ira Kaplan — but ended up getting into a hot streak of Ichiro proportions. I think we’re already planning the second and third volumes.

Wynn, McCaughey, Buck, Pitmon… how did the mix of Yankees, Mariners, Braves and Twins fans go?

No rhubarbs, no bruhahas, no…well, you get the picture.

While we’re talking, word is you have a new solo CD coming out this year, Crossing Dragon Bridge, and it might be somewhat of a departure for those of us used to the rockin’ sound of your recent releases.

Yes, I met up with Chris Eckman (Walkabouts, etc) in his adopted home of Ljubljana and the two of us made an epic, Slavic, moody, grandiose, intimate, freaky, stately record together. Best vacation I ever had. Saw all the sights, ate all the food and came out three weeks later with one of my favorite records. I guess it’s a departure in some ways but at the same time it sounds more like “me” — if I can talk about myself in the third/first person — than anything I’ve ever done.

The funny thing is that I’m working on two albums at the same time, and both are very much tied into Seattle and Portland — Tucker Martine, Adam, Scott, Peter and Chris are all involved in one record or the other. So I guess it’s appropriate that I’m talking about them here with KEXP.

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One Comment

  1. jdietz
    Posted April 12, 2008 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    looks like the picture is in Jackpot! studios, not Type Foundry.

    Can’t wait to hear the record. Go M’s.

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