Pearl Jam's Gossard Is A Reluctant Frontman On Solo LP

Self-effacing guitarist insists Bayleaf is very much a collaborative project.

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

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www.stonegossard.com.

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

around."

"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

1–3 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.