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LAist Interview: Dan Wilson Goes Solo

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Singer-songwriter Dan Wilson is best known as part of the Minnesota power-pop movement of the late '80s and early '90s. He was a member of Trip Shakespeare and lead singer of Semisonic. Late last year after producing and collaborating with artists like Jason Mraz, Rachael Yamagata, the Dixie Chicks and Mike Doughty, he finally released his own solo album, Free Life. It's a quiet, slow burn of a record, much different from the pop-rock of his earlier musical ventures.

LAist sent over a few questions for Wilson, who played at the Hotel Cafe last Thursday night and will play again on July 10. Here's what he had to say about the new album:


Dan, you've been in the business for 20+ years...why wait so long to put out a solo album?

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I hadn't thought about that, it does seem strange. I made a live solo CD in 1997 or so which probably doesn't count. So it did take me a long time to make a solo album. But I think it took me a while to learn how to do a lot of things. While I was in Trip Shakespeare I could barely write a song - my best work in that band was helping my brother Matt finish some of his songs. But I really didn't know how to do it yet. And as for Semisonic, I think I found that band such a good vehicle for my ideas that for most of those years it didn't occur to me to try to record on my own. I think the thing that came up was that the sound of the band became more and more of a known entity, a sound I was obliged to write for. I can't always get my creative mind to play within those limitations. So at the time that Free Life started to come together, I was writing lots of songs that sounded almost like folk songs. And they were more personal and less "from the mountaintop" than Semisonic songs. There was room for one of those really personal acoustic songs on every Semisonic album, (like "Gone to the Movies" on Feeling Strangely Fine) but I was suddenly writing tons of them.