“We had an Irish wake for my dad when he passed away, and then I went down to the desert and sat and wrote ‘Don’t Lay Me Down’ in one sitting.” Jim Lindberg reveals to Punktuation’s Tracey Moyle the very personal journey of his new solo album.
Jim Lindberg has been revving up skatepark punks as frontman of Pennywise since the punk legends first hit the ground in 1988. The band’s Southern Californian melodic hardcore style delivered to the fans over decades of constant touring has built a dedicated following that still exists strongly today.
Having just released his debut solo album Songs From The Elkhorn Trail, it’s now Linberg’s moment to shine… and this time, in a far more personal way. His solo album may be far removed from his punk roots, but it is full of the same heart and sincerity.
It is, without a doubt, a new musical direction for Lindberg – a direction he felt almost compelled to take.
“It’s really cool to get into a different type of lyric writing and make it a little more folk orientated.”
So, is this a folk album? Country? Folk-Punk? Its genre is quite fluid.
“Punk folk Americana roots rock. I don’t know what the hell to call it,” Jim says with a warm chuckle.
Whatever ‘it’ is, this is an album of songs that will speak to music lovers across every genre. At times, the painful truths you hear expressed in Lindberg’s lyrics will have you looking inward in the most inspiring way.
Musically, Lindberg’s solo project is strongly influenced by artists he was exposed to well before his punk years. Lyrically, he’s drawn on experiences that impacted his life, none more so than the passing of his father in 2018.
“A big part of this album was my dad, and he was very supportive of me over the years. He played all different kinds of music – Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller, Harry Chapin. All that music had such great melody,” explains Lindberg.
“I was also really into the Beach Boys and listening to all the crazy songs from the ’70s right before punk rock started to happen. I remember Queen, Bowie and Iggy Pop putting out some interesting albums. There was always good hooks to songs, they had that great melody. This was all before Black Flag and Descendents and Circle Jerks came and messed everything up, and before I became a teenager and started being pissed off at everything,” Lindberg laughs.
Are punk and folk similar? With the lyrics such an integral part of the song in both genres they both lyrically paint pictures. The stories are as important as the actual music itself, if not more.
“Absolutely”, agrees Lindberg. “I think that with a good Bad Religion, or Pennywise, or Lagwagon or NOFX song, it could almost be a Woodie Guthrie or Hank Williams song – but played faster and with distortion. A lot of us are very politically and socially active and have tried to put important issues in our music.”
Your Not Alone, the third track from the album, could easily have been recorded as a punk song. Lindberg explains his inspiration behind this tune.
“There’s a real takedown culture that’s going on in the world today. I think it’s a by-product of the internet. It’s a version of bullying. I’ve never been cool with bullying. I’ve experienced it a couple of times in my life. With ‘Not Alone’, I just want everyone to know that ‘hey man, not everyone is like this. There is a way out of it.’
Lindberg, a UCLA English major, falls into the pool of the ‘punk brains trust’. His desire for knowledge is fuel for his songs. During the interview, Lindberg is surrounded by stacks of books. Books like ‘The Black Flag of Anarchy‘ by Corinne Jacker, Jane Mayer’s – ‘Dark Money‘.
Lindberg holds up a copy of Kevin Mattson’s ‘We’re Not Here To Entertain‘ with the recommendation, “This is such a good book.”
An author himself, Jim wrote ‘Punk Rock Dad – No Rules, Just Real Life’, a personal memoir about punk rock and being a Dad to three daughters.
“I’ve always been into reading and books and writing, and ever since I can remember, I have always had a notebook filled with stories and drawings and doodles.”
“Being an English major is how I got turned on to different trains of thought with Transcendentalism. Emerson and Thoreau were very influential philosophers, and you learn a new way of thinking. To me, it’s always been really punk rock, the ideas that come out of transcendentalism, which is about living life by your means and self-reliance. ”
Songs from the Elkhorn Trail has Lindberg drawing on his own philosophies producing an album of raw, honest and incredibly uplifting songs. Opening track and lead single The Palm of Your Hand is a case in point.
“I been inspired by other people, and now this type of music comes out naturally for me,” says Jim. “I came up with the lyric, “let your feelings show, you’ve got the answer in the palm of your hand”, and then I worked the rest of the song around it.
There’s another lyric that says, “Don’t let life pass you by before you realise”, you shouldn’t waste one day not letting people know how you really feel.”
His tales roll on through songs like Good Enough ” a story of a Sid and Nancy-type couple trying to survive on the streets” and Don’t Lay Me Down, a purging narrative about his father going into an Alzheimer’s facility at the end of his life.
“We had an Irish wake for my dad when he passed away, and then I went down to the desert and sat and wrote Don’t Lay Me Down in one sitting.”
Jim reveals that after his father passed he went through his father’s belongings and discovered that his father’s sister had died in a car accident in the 1950s on the same day as his birthday.
“Dad had kept a suitcase full of her belongings, and there was a letter his sister had written the day she died saying they were going to see Louis Armstrong. That’s what I was talking about in that song.
There is no doubt punk has evolved since the birth of Pennywise. The latest resurgence in punk sees the genre morphing into many new directions. Jim supports the evolution.
“I think there’s room for everything. There are cool new bands coming out all the time. There’s a cool scene in East LA with some really cool Latino bands, which is awesome. I also just saw a documentary on the punk scene in Spain. Everywhere we go, there’s a totally different scene. Some may not be on MTV or Spotify or whatever, but it’s meaningful and helps keep the scene alive.“
With his solo project finished and out for fans to discover and enjoy a whole new side of Lindberg, the question has to be asked; Will we see any new music from Pennywise soon?
“We are always talking about doing things,” Lindberg says. “I’ve suggested a covers album. We have a lot of B sides I’d like to do. But it’s like all bets are off now. We don’t ‘have to go in and write the 11th album.
“I want to be inspired. I want it to be like, ‘this is a song I want to write, about what I want to say, right now!’ A song that I feel is the perfect Pennywise song that makes fans want to put their fists in the air and go and have a good time.”
“I’ve also always wanted to work with Bill Stevenson at the Blasting Room, so I’m going to put my foot down and say ‘I’m NOT recording another Pennywise song until I can go to the Blasting Room.” laughs Lindberg.
Songs From The Elkhorn Train is out now on all streaming services.
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Everyone should have a soundtrack playing loudly in the background of their life. I was born moshing to my own beat and have never swayed from my love of music. Spreading my passion through the written word is my soul’s purpose. My punk heart beats loudly with the rhythm of my rock soul. I plan to continue to mosh like no one gives a shit.
Click on Tracey’s photo for more of her articles!