When Stone Gossard's record label picked a song he doesn't even sing on as the
first single from his debut solo album, Bayleaf, that was just fine with him. After all, the Pearl Jam guitarist doesn't exactly consider himself frontman material.
"I thought [the choice of 'Unhand Me,' which features
lead vocals by Green Apple Quick Step singer Ty Willman] was very
ironic, and somehow fitting," Gossard said. "Considering what the
song is about, which is letting go of your need to be the center of
attention, I think it's perfectly fitting that the first song is one
that is sung by my friend."
Also fittingly, it was Willman who gave Gossard the confidence to take
material he'd been working on for the last three years songs
that didn't fit Pearl Jam or Brad, Gossard's other side project
and put together an album. Willman sings on three tracks, and
Gossard called in singer/songwriter Pete Droge to help him put
together the 10 songs that ended up on Bayleaf. The album
comes out in stores on September 11 and is available now at
Although Gossard wrote all the songs and sings most of them, he
considers the album a collaborative project and he was glad for
the support as he struggled with stepping up to the microphone as a
lead singer. "It's the most emotionally vulnerable spot you can find
yourself in, in terms of exposing yourself," he said. "I don't really
consider myself to be a singer per se, as much as maybe a songwriter
able to put lyrics and music together and express an emotion
or express a feeling."
Gossard's voice makes up in emotion what it might lack in technical
prowess. He sounds a bit like Neil Young on the title track and on
"Anchors," as he tells the tale of a man who's lost his way; on
"Pigeon," he takes on a matter-of-fact tone, running down the anatomy
of a breakup on his way to the chorus of "I'm not through sleeping
"It's not 'I'm not through sleeping around' [sung] with
glee," Gossard explained. "It's just sort of 'I'm going back to the
drawing board and trying to figure out what it is, how to sustain a
long-term relationship.' It's not necessarily a depressing song, it's
got a little bit of positive, 'Well, whatever my boat is, I'm gonna
f---in' paddle it.' "
With crunchy guitars and garage-rock riffs, "Pigeon" and "Unhand Me"
are among Bayleaf's relatively few songs that sound like
they'd fit on a recent Pearl Jam disc; either quirky, midtempo indie rock or gloomy folk-rock ballads make up the majority of the album. Despite the
stylistic differences, Gossard insisted, he's learned a lot from
watching his fellow Pearl Jam members write.
"Certainly Ed [Vedder] is a huge influence in terms of
his approach to writing songs, his approach to getting into a song
emotionally, his approach to where he/how he is inspired," Gossard
said. "He's certainly taught me a lot about music, just in terms of
how sacred it is to him."
He's not ready to step out onstage as a bandleader, though. "I really
don't feel like I have the confidence to be able to go out and pull
off a show," Gossard said. "I think if I was trying to do it, I would
be motivated by trying to prove myself. In my past, every time I try
to do that, it's kind of kicked me in the ass."
Even if not as a frontman, Gossard will still be making several
appearances onstage in the next couple of months. After winding up
their third album, Brad will play at Seattle's Breakroom on September
13 as they shop the disc around for a label deal. Gossard said
a full U.S. Brad tour is likely in 2002.
Pearl Jam will play Neil Young's 15th annual Bridge School benefit in
October; Gossard said they haven't begun rehearsing yet (see
"Pearl Jam To Play Bridge School Benefit In Fall"). He added that the
group might start recording its next album in early 2002. Meanwhile,
he said, they're sifting through B-sides, Christmas fan-club singles
and outtakes for a planned rarities collection.