Paul Westerberg biography
Date of birth : 1959-12-31
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Minnesota, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-03-13
Credited as : Musician, songwriter, guitarist of The Replacements
Paul Westerberg and the band The Replacements or as they are fondly referred to, the Mats made a serious impression on the punk and alternative rock music scene during the 1980s.Now well after The Replacements' end, Westerberg is enjoying success as a solo songwriter and performer. After three solo albums, Westerberg has managed to prove that a brash punker can grow up and continue as a songwriter.
With a guitar purchased from his older sister for eight dollars, Westerberg began making music and composing lyrics as a teenager. Co-founded with other Minneapolis teens, Tommy and Bob Stinston, and Chris Mars, The Replacements began rehearsing and performing in 1979 and continued until 1991. According to a Replacements website, www.novia.net/mats, "The band earned a reputation for being one of the finest and unpredictable live acts on the 1980s indie scene by juxtaposing cathartic, punk-influenced shows with drunken tom foolery. But their ace in the hole was front man, Paul Westerberg, who managed to perfectly articulate the ambivalence and alienation of growing up."
In 1989, Paul Westerberg and his band The Replacements were recognized as one of rock's greatest groups, with Rolling Stone magazine naming their 1984 album Let It Be as one of the 15 greatest albums of the decade. The Replacements were recognized by Nirvana, who named them as influences. The Mats were also an inspiration for numerous bands that came out of Minneapolis in the 1980s, including Husker Du. After years of serious partying on and off tours,the end of The Replacements came in Chicago on July 4, 1991, with an announcement to the crowd after their final show. After nine albums, thousands of tour dates and countless bar gigs,the band disintegrated and individual musicians began their own solo paths, Westerberg included. But true Replacement fans may have had an indication that the end was near. As The Replacements began to dissolve, Westerberg "took over" the last couple of albums, essentially making them his own.
Westerberg's first solo album, 14 Songs, was released on Warner Bros./Reprise Records in1993. The recording was considered a strong first album, but didn't receive the social and professional kudos Westerberg desired. Most fans were expecting a Replacements album filled with ripping guitar chords and raunchy lyrics. Instead, Westerberg offered them a deep and introspective album. While touring to support his first true solo album, "the audience was far more interested in singing along to songs like "Kiss Me on the Bus" and "I'll Be You ", two popular songs from his previous band, then to some of his newer work, according to an article in Newsweek. Although the article goes on to say that Westerberg has an "unfettered writing style that makes him one of alternative rock's biggest influences," his first solo album did not do that well with the press and fans.
According to a 1996 interview with Erik Philbrook, found on the ASCAP website, www.ascap.com, Westerberg was nervous about the release of his first solo album. "When The Replacements ended and I made 14 Songs, I was very nervous because suddenly I was out on my own and I didn't have that role as leader of the group to fall back on. I really played up the fact that I was a songwriter I sort of went back to the days before I had the band and eased into what I am now. I am a musician. I do write good songs. I'm comfortable with what I am and I think people will get it," Westerberg said.
His second solo album, Eventually, came out in 1996. Again, Replacement fans were disappointed because the album was a deep and introspective work and they wanted to hear Westerberg as he used to sound loud, brash and angry. But he had matured and so had his music. Westerberg also produced Eventually and almost had help from Pearl Jam producers Brendan O'Brien, but the pairing didn't work and Westerberg finished the recording with Lou Giordano.
In between his first two albums, Westerberg wrote and recorded songs for various movie and television show soundtracks, including the movies Singles, "Dyslexic Heart," and Tank Girl, as well as for the television series Melrose Place and Friends. Westerberg didn't completely leave his Replacement roots behind him. Along with his musician wife, Laura Lindeen, he recorded a seven-inch single and an EP using the alter ego, Grandpa Boy. His fans, though, knew who he was and enjoyed the album put out on the Soundproof/Monolyth label. Westerberg played all the instruments on the album. Those Grandpa Boy tracks were a way for Westerberg to "become more fearless in my art," and a way to gain personal satisfaction rather than mass endorsement,according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
If he hadn't done Grandpa Boy, who knows where Westerberg, or his music, would be. "Itwas necessary to do that (Grandpa Boy), or Suicaine Gratification,( his third album) might have spiraled down to the point where I couldn't finish it," he is quoted as saying in a Toronto Suninterview.
Westerberg's third album, Suicaine Gratification, attained some critical success since its release in 1999. Westerberg had a new contract with Capitol Records, after impressing Capitol president, Gary Gersh. According to an interview on a Paul Westerberg website,http://members.aol.com/paulspage, "Gary Gersh's commitment as president (of Capitol), who is going to personally oversee my record and my career, was hard to turn down. I mean, I had fans at every other (record) label, but they weren't all necessarily the presidents of the label. I felt that having the most powerful guy at the label interested in my career would be the smart move to make."
According to a Gannett News Service article, "In many ways, however, it is his best music in years. Westerberg sounds more relaxed and less defined by expectations, which, ironically, lets him sound more like himself." Westerberg finally found his own voice, one that isn't being related to his previous works with The Replacements. The album was produced by Don Was,who had success with "mature" musicians like Bonniee Raitt, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones.
In an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Was said about Westerberg, "If I could have worked with John Lennon at his creative peak, that's what Paul Westerberg reminds me of. He doesn't want to repeat anything anyone has done before; he makes sure the mikes in the studio are not set up the same way they were the week before. Nothing with him is rote."Although Was helped with Westerberg's third album, he wasn't the songwriter's first choice. Westerberg originally wanted Quincy Jones, but Was, recognizing a great musician when he hears one, began getting involved with the production, at the same time staying out of the way."The influence of producer Don Was is clearly felt here," writes Mike Meyer with University Wire in 1999, "as the tracks have a definite classic rock feel, more in the veins of Tom Petty or the Rolling Stones." In fact, The Replacements opened for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
"I knew they were great songs and if there was any plan, it was to stay out of the way of thesongs," Was told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Was did include some subtle accompanists,including a French horn and an accordion. Most of the songs off of Suicaine Gratification are deeply personal, dealing with Westerberg's alcohol abuse and the birth of his son. Almost the entire album was recorded in his basement in Minneapolis.
Westerberg found his niche within the "pop music" genre. According to Jeffery Puckett, withthe Gannett News Service, "Westerberg has given up completely on rock 'n' roll as abandon, and the hardest track here "Looking Out Forever," is essentially a pop song." Not everyone wasp leased with Westerberg's rebirth as a pop song writer. Thor Christensen, reviewing Suicaine Gratification for the Dallas Morning News wrote, "A lot of skeptics dismiss ex-Replacements leader Paul Westerberg as the punk-rock Paul McCartney an artist whose solo career is a disgrace to his storied past. The assessment isn't entirely off-base."According to an article in the Ottawa Sun, Westerberg said "I don't want to drown myself out any more. For years I played in aloud rock band it's like 'Hell, they're not going to hear me anyway." Westerberg told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "I guess I am proud that I followed the muse where it took me, which is a very solitary, dark place."
"Westerberg's greatest strength has always been his lyrics, which normally convey his time-worn wisdom about life and especially love in just about the most artistic way possible,"compliments Mike Meyer with CD Review, about Suicaine Gratification. "Aching, sometimes confused, it's a new effort for Westerberg, and the ideal backdrop for some of the best words he's ever come up with," admires the Toronto Sun. Dave Pirner, from Soul Asylum, contributedto the album, along with singer and Grammy-winner Shawn Colvin.
Westerberg admits to being clinically depressed during the writing and recording of Suicaine Gratification, and those feelings show themselves bluntly on the album. He has since begun totake anti-depressant drugs to combat his depression. "There was a lot of sorrow on this record,and it wasn't pretend," Westerberg recounts in an interview in the Toronto Sun. Never a big fan of touring, or the life behind touring, Westerberg took his time in following up his solo albums with tours. In fact, Westerberg doesn't like leaving his hometown of Minneapolis. "I was probably 36 when I started recording this album, (Suicaine Gratification) and it dawned on me that I don't know what (kids) want I'm a fool even to guess. So I have to do what I want at the risk of being considered a has-been, on old man or whatever. When they rediscover me when they're 25, they'll see that I was very cool."
Westerberg wrote a eulogy for Alex Chilton who died in March 2010 that appeared in The New York Times.In May 2010, he played "Dangerous Boys" and "Time Flies Tomorrow" standing on the visitors' dugout at Target Field for an upcoming documentary “40 Nights of Rock & Roll".Westerberg appeared in the video for the title track of Glen Campbell's 2011 farewell to studio recording, a cover of Ghost on the Canvas (which Westerberg wrote in 2009).