NEAL CONAN, host:
Two years ago, the band Grandaddy slipped from view and singer/songwriter Jason Lytle has moved on physically from his hometown of Modesto, California, to the big sky country in Bozeman, Montana, and from a band to a solo CD, "Yours Truly, the Commuter," is now out on ANTI- Records.
If you'd like to talk with Jason Lytle about his new stuff, his life in indie rock or his work with Grandaddy, give us a call. 800-989-8255 is the phone number. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
And Jason Lytle joins us now from the studios at NPR West in Culver City, California. Nice to have you on the program today.
Mr. JASON LYTLE (Musician): Thank you.
CONAN: And I should also introduce Rusty Miller, singer for the band Jackpot, who's joined Jason on tour. Thank you for coming in, Rusty.
Mr. RUSTY MILLER (Vocalist, Jackpot): Thank you very much. Nice to be here.
CONAN: And guys, how about a song?
Mr. LYTLE: You got it.
(Soundbite of song, "Brand New Sun")
Mr. LYTLE: (Singing) Yeah, grab a broken branch with a sunburned hand in a washed up land. Soon, we should rest a while. You're like a tired child. It's been a lot of miles. I might fall down. And my back is bad. And you might fall down on a sleeping back. So you should hold my hand while everything blows away, and we'll run to a brand new sun. Yeah. And we will run, yeah, to a brand new sun.
Damn, how did it get so bad? With all the dreams we had, and now you seem so sad. So you should hold my hand while everything blows away, and we'll run, yeah, to a brand new sun. Yeah. And we will run, yeah, to a brand new sun. We will run to a brand new sun, to a brand new sun.
CONAN: "Brand New Sun" by Jason Lytle from his new record "Yours Truly, The Commuter." That was Rusty Miller on harmony there. And they're with us from NPR West.
If you'd like to get in on the conversation, give us a call: 800-989-8255; email us: email@example.com.
And, Jason, I read where you describe yourself, working in your recording studio up there in Bozeman, as working like a mad scientist. What do you mean by that?
Mr. LYTLE: I've had home studios for many years and I've slowly configured things over the years to be really easy to manipulate. And I can really set things up really quick and get sounds on tape. And I tend to work really scatterbrain-like, you know, where I'll record piano, and then, you know, the piano will spark some tambourine part, then I'll, you know, set up things and record tambourine. And then, of course, I have my wall of synthesizers and guitars. And everything is pretty much in one room, so it's really easy for me to hop around all over the place.
So next - by the end of the day, I'm pretty much, you know, spaghetti-covered in cables. And, you know, there's, you know - it's - it gets a bit messy. And I have a big cleanup session at the end of the day just to make sure that the starting of the next day isn't - there's a bit of organization.
CONAN: You have one of those, you know, things that shoots electricity up into the air (makes noise) like that and sort of…
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. LYTLE: Not yet.
CONAN: Not yet. We'll see it later - sooner or later on one of your records.
Mr. LYTLE: Sure.
CONAN: The difference between working alone and working with a band. It's got -well, for touring, it's got to be way different.
Mr. LYTLE: I've actually - the recording process wasn't too far removed because I used to handle a lot of the recording myself aside - my drummer is a lot more steady than I am. So he ended up on a lot of the recordings. But I pretty much did a majority of the multitracking myself.
In terms of the live stuff, I - I'm actually still not terribly comfortable being up there by myself and I'm - and I kind of do miss, you know, lots of sounds and richness in the songs. So I do have a small band that I'm touring with right now, which coincidentally does include my old drummer as well.
CONAN: Hmm. Here's an email from Jeff in San Francisco. I live in the Bay Area, I worked for Bill Graham Presents during the time Grandaddy was opening for some big-time bands. I also lived in Missoula, Montana, for several years. And I'd like to know how you like the transition from the big shows and the fast life to the mellowness of a solo career, as well as living in Bozeman.
Mr. LYTLE: You know, a big part of the reason I moved to Bozeman had nothing to do with music. If anything, it was - I'd finally got into a point in my life where I dialed in the balance that it takes for me to put up with all of this stuff. And proximity-wise, you know, being right on the edge of Yellowstone and lots of, you know, dedicated wilderness, it's really easy for me to spend a lot of time clearing my head in that sort of environment, which is what I really like to do. And then that just makes me stronger and it enables me to, you know, deal with the promotional stuff and traveling and just talking too much.
CONAN: Talking - well, we'll hear another song in a couple of minutes.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. LYTLE: (Unintelligible).
CONAN: I'm sorry. I'm sure you didn't need it right now.
Mr. LYTLE: (Unintelligible).
CONAN: Let's see if we can get a caller on the line.
Mr. LYTLE: No. No, no, no. Absolutely not.
CONAN: Chris is on the line from your hometown, Modesto, California.
Mr. LYTLE: Oh.
CHRIS (Caller): Hey, Jason. Hey, Neal. Actually, my wife and I are recent transplants. We moved here so my wife could teach art at Cal State Stanislaus. And recently - honestly, I just got into Grandaddy about a year ago and then Jason, your music. I was curious, I've read tons of your interviews and you've talked about how, when you were in the Modesto area, Central Valley, sort of -it was like an influence on your music but sort of to the darker sides of Modesto.
And I was really amazed at how quick I picked up on that vibe in the Central Valley. And so subsequently my wife and I spend a lot of time in the Bay Area.
But being away for so - for two, three years now from that area, do you still draw any, you know, inspiration for some of the stuff you're doing now? Because I know your new album now - your opening act talks about sort of the exiting and entering from one realm in California to another. So I was curious now that your years removed from it, is there still that influence, either consciously or unconsciously, on your writing?
Mr. LYTLE: Well, I actually - if anything, I was trying to get back. You know, Modesto, in particular - I hate to, you know, trash it, but it's - the thing is I was born and raised there and actually grew up out in the country. And if anything, I'm trying to hold on to these memories of what it used to be like, you know? And I kind of had to relocate to a place where I got to - where I got - I was getting some of that back, you know?
As a little kid, I just used to - you know, I spent my summers roaming and just wandering and exploring. And the terrain actually allowed me to do that in the places where I lived, on the outskirts of Modesto, and I find that I'm able to do that again. And it was - it pretty much had become impossible for me to - I don't know. There was too much baggage involved as well.
But if anything, I'm just trying to reclaim something that I was really fond of as a child and that in my mind had sort of disappeared from that area.
CONAN: Chris, thanks.
CHRIS: Yeah. And I get a feeling on that. My wife had been working on a project based on Modesto being voted the worst city for so many years in a row. And…
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. LYTLE: Yeah.
CHRIS: …we're working a public project about it not being that way. And most of the time when we talk to people who've been there, lifetime, they do talk about, even just 15, 20 years ago, the landscape and the feeling and stuff was very different.
But we - within a year of living here, we got that sort of - it's like a compressor or like a, sort of, like a boiler pot. And if you really stay around there too long and don't get out, it really can get under your skin in kind of a weird way.
But I understand where you're coming from with that. But, really, love the new album and I'm looking forward to hopefully catching you down in Merced a few days.
Mr. LYTLE: Thanks. Well, hang in there and keep fighting the good fight.
CONAN: Chris, thanks very much. We're talking with Jason Lytle. His new CD is called "Yours Truly, The Commuter," now out on Anti- Records. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And I think we have time for another tune, if you guys are ready.
Mr. LYTLE: Sure.
(Soundbite of song, "Birds Encouraged Him")
Mr. LYTLE: (Singing) He's just a kid who hid inside a hole. His ears could no more hear the story told. No longer did he wonder of gettin' old as birds encouraged him on life to hold.
And they said, why, oh why, oh why you don't even try. Why, oh why, oh why you don't even try. Why, oh why, oh why just one more night. Why, oh why, oh why you don't even try. La da dum, la da dum, la da dum.
He's just a kid who hid inside a hole. His eyes could no more see the story told. No longer shivering for fear or cold as birds encouraged him on life to hold.
And they said, why, oh why, oh why you don't even try. Why, oh why, oh why you don't even try. Why, oh why, oh why just one more night. Why, oh why, oh why you don't even try.
And they said, why, oh why, oh why you don't even try. Why, oh why, oh why you don't even try. Why, oh why, oh why just one more night. Why, oh why, oh why you don't even try. Try.
CONAN: "Birds Encouraged Him," from Jason Lytle's new record "Yours Truly, The Commuter." And he was playing along with Rusty Miller who's supporting him on tour out at NPR West in Culver City.
Time, I think, for one last email question. This is from Shane(ph) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jason, can you talk about the children's choir featured on your MySpace page? What was that experience?
Mr. LYTLE: Apparently, there is a music teacher somewhere in France who likes to impose his record collection on his students. And he's done a few of them. He did one with Liam Finn and a couple of other people that, I don't know, just - basically, he took some Granddaddy songs and he taught 10 or 15 of them to his students. And he did these, kind of, amateur recordings of them. And it's really sweet stuff because it's - I mean, first off it's the flattering aspect of it.
Mr. LYTLE: You know, hearing your songs performed by these kids who are just barely pulling it off on the instruments, but then choir part of it as well is - all these French children, who I think range in between 10 and 14 years old, and it just puts this really sweet, eerie, foreign twist onto the songs.
CONAN: Hmm. Well, Jason, thanks so much for your time today. Appreciate it. Good luck on tour.
Mr. LYTLE: Thank you very much for having me.
CONAN: And good luck with your new CD, "Yours Truly, The Commuter." Thanks as well to Rusty Miller who's supporting him on tour. They joined us today from the studios at NPR West. Our thanks also to engineer Leo del Aguila for his help with this performance.