Each week on the Search Engine podcast, host PJ Vogt tries to answer a question he has about the world — no question too big, no question too small. This week's discussion with The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn is perfect for Labor Day, asking whether or not anyone truly likes their day-to-day jobs.
Host PJ Vogt finally got to ask this important question which haunted him throughout his twenties to singer/songwriter and musician Craig Finn, best known as the frontman of the Brooklyn-based Indie rock band The Hold Steady. PJ had heard about Craig's story of moving away from a bland office job and into the spotlight of songwriting and live performances. The legend that drew him to the band originally had made its way into industry reviews, and even Finn's final show of gratitude for being able to do what he loves at the end of their concerts.
But what if Craig Finn was lying? PJ knew even most dream jobs eventually just become jobs. Stuck in his own unhappiness, he wondered if Finn's was real. A decade later, and now fully immersed in the job he loves -- telling stories -- PJ finally got to ask.
Craig says he remembers telling his babysitter at a very young age that he wanted to be a Rock & Roll singer, listening to bands like the Bay City Rollers, KISS, and watching The Monkees on television. "It looked like that was the best job," he explains. "I think there was the camaraderie of being in a band that looked fun. The ability to burst into song. It seemed like girls liked guys in bands -- the whole thing looked pretty great."
"I was a very mild-mannered, nerdy kid," Craig says. "It didn't seem like I was destined for it but it's what I wanted. I think it led me before too long to ask for an electric guitar." His parents were very supportive he says, but admits maybe he was "half saying" at the time that he would eventually work in the music industry.
Reviewing record reviews for his college paper never quite scratched that itch, but when a friend started booking bands he got a taste of being closer to the source, which made him realize he wanted to play his own songs. So, he got a day job as it just didn't feel right to him to be simultaneously working in and trying to break into the scene.
While in his first band, LFTR PLLR, he began working at American Express Financial Advisors in the annuities department, taking calls from customers on his headset microphone reading out balances, and making small transactions. "It was weird... it was like the office experience that in some ways is very stereotypical. You'd have a Christmas party and people would misbehave." However, during the busy tax season, he remembers he would find himself lying in bed dreading going into that hectic environment.
LFTR PLLR split and Craig moved to New York City to work for a music media company at the age of 29, and continued writing songs, eventually getting a band together with friends with the explicit goal of not getting famous. And then the bars started filling up. He's now 20 years into his full time job with The Hold Steady, which comes with its own hassles surrounding budgeting and ticket sales. "But I can forget about that easily for the next two hours," Craig says, once the band takes the stage. "There's a lot of business stuff that is kind of boring but it is part of being in a band."
Listen to the entire episode above.
On Search Engine, host PJ Vogt answers the kinds of questions you might ask the internet when you can't sleep. If you find the world bewildering, but also sometimes enjoy being bewildered by it, we're here for you. New episodes every Friday.