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Steady as he goes 

Pete Yorn gives up demon alcohol — and encounters some inner demons along the way

It's a different Pete Yorn who made the new album, Back & Fourth, than the one who made its predecessors. And nobody knows that better than Yorn himself. The singer-songwriter had reached a point where he was ready to change the kind of music he wrote, the way it was written and how it was recorded.

Yorn hasn't just reinvented his music and sound. He's also a different person from the guy fans saw when he last toured to support a new album — in that case the 2006 release Nightcrawler.

In fact, before turning his attention to Back & Fourth, Yorn realized he needed to change his lifestyle completely. While on the Nightcrawler tour he was getting drunk night after night, and he decided he didn't like what alcohol was doing to his daily life.

"It just wasn't working for me anymore," says Yorn, "and it hadn't been working for some time. And more so internally — I don't think many people on the exterior would have ever noticed. But I think I have that survival gene in me that tells me when enough is enough."

Once he got that sorted it out, it was time to focus on the music.

As work on the new album progressed, Yorn decided he wanted to present the songs in a more austere setting than usual.

Although his first three albums had included a fair share of frisky and tuneful rockers, Back & Fourth became heavily weighted toward acoustic songs, most of which are ballads or medium tempo tunes.

"I definitely see it as a more stripped-down, consistently more mellow record," says Yorn. "I've had some slower songs on all of my records I've put out over the years. There are a couple of upbeat numbers [on this album], but the tone overall is definitely more somber."

Back & Fourth isn't the only new album for Yorn these days. In September, he released Break Up, a theme record in which he collaborated with actress and long-time friend Scarlett Johansson.

The project, which Yorn says was inspired by the duet albums of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, and Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, resulted from a moment of inspiration.

"I was right in the throes of cleaning up my act," he says. "I was probably a week in, and I couldn't sleep at all and I was having bad insomnia. I just would wake up in the morning or wake up in the middle of the night and just have a really intense feeling about something. Well, I woke up after maybe passing out for five minutes in the late afternoon and I just had this really intense feeling I needed to make kind of a duets record."

Now Yorn is back on the road with a six-piece band and music that can include everything from his early rockers to his current, more textured material.

"I feel like I've been given a rebirth," he adds, "like I have a perspective that can take me through a lot of this life that I didn't really have before, because I didn't really understand. It's nice to know that."

scene@csindy.com

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