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Britt Daniel of Spoon on staying creative during quarantine: ‘When I can do that I kind of forget about everything else’

Britt Daniel performs at the Turf Club in St. Paul, 2017. (Jules Ameel for MPR)

As a part of her Phone a Friend series, Morning Show host Jill Riley got a chance to catch up with Britt Daniel (Spoon, Divine Fits) and talk about upcoming releases that are being written during this period of isolation, as well the impact that the coronavirus has had on Austin, Texas, and the celebration of the 50th anniversary of First Avenue.

Jill Riley: What are you doing to get by right now?

Britt Daniel: I’m working on music, really. That’s the thing that helps me get lost the most. When I can do that I kind of forget about everything else.

Okay, so you’re at home in Austin. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised to hear from so many musicians saying, “I’m writing music. I’m taking this time to be creative.” which is a really good thing to hear. It’s good to have that kind of outlet. 

It’s the best thing for it, really. We didn’t have shows planned. We were kind of finishing up an album when this all happened, and I basically just kept working on the album. I thought we were almost done with it, but now I’ve got all these other songs. The album keeps progressing. It’s changing a bit. I think it’s going to get even better.

I’ve seen your name pop up a few times within the past few weeks. It was nice to see you able to do some celebrating with the 50th anniversary of First Avenue.

Right, yeah. We turned in a song for that. We did a version of “Under the Cherry Moon.” It was a cool program, good to see Har Mar [Superstar].

I was reminded that this isn’t the only anniversary of First Avenue that you’ve been involved with. It was the 40th anniversary of First Avenue where you guys played a sold-out show. I think it was a two-night stand. So many bands around the country and the world have such a close connection with that club. Do you want to talk about Spoon’s connection with First Avenue?

Sure, yeah. When we first started coming to Minneapolis, we would always play 7th St Entry. We played there three or four times, then I remember we played some place in St. Paul, almost a house party kind of gig. We started going back over to First Ave in the mid 2000s and actually playing First Ave, which was insane. It’s kind of a magical place. The last time I was there was for when the Revolution came back in the summer of ’16. I actually went with Har Mar. That was a fun night.

2016, how the time has gone by. Time is passing in such a weird way right now with this global pandemic and the shutdown of the music industry. What are you observing in Austin, Texas? I know that cancellation of SXSW was such a big one, and that has such a big impact on that city. 

Yeah, they were a little bit ahead of the game with that. They did the right thing. It was painful to see it go down, but I think they did do the right thing. We’ve had some rainy, dark days, lately, and it’s like a movie set of a ghost town version of Austin. It’s really bizarre to see. Then a sunny day like today is strange, but it’s beautiful. I’m sure you’re going through similar things in Minneapolis.

That’s kind of the story right now. It’s quiet. It feels like a ghost town. It feels really eerie at times. Is that making its way into the music you’re making right now?

Kind of, unexpectedly. I ended up writing this song that was about walking through downtown when no one’s out. It’s come up a bit. I rarely plan for it, but these things just start bubbling up, you know?

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