I thought it was going to be a lark - a year-long project. I had started writing songs influenced by a hundred-year-old house I'd moved into; became obsessed with songs from 1895, 1905, 1910: "Bicycle Built for Two" and "My Dad's the Engineer." This was late 2002. None of the songs I was writing seemed like Semisonic songs, so I thought I'd do something different. I had no idea it would turn into a five-year process.
Were you nervous coming from behind the scenes back into the forefront?
I am very nervous! But excited too. I really like to sing for people, share my songs with them. I think singing a song with a guitar is like doing a magic trick with just a quarter: you take this extremely simple setup and then blow people's minds. Not that I can do magic tricks, but some of my friends can. On the other hand, I'm pretty good with just a guitar or piano.
How does your family feel about you being back in the limelight?
They seem fine with it. I think my daughter (she's 10) gained a lot of respect for me when she saw me on the Grammy Awards. So I'm hoping to be on TV a few times, that'll bring my stock price up with her.
What obstacles if any did you face while putting together the album?
Ummm... Lung surgery in the spring of 2005 (I'm good now)… My label, American Recordings, changing parent companies in 2005 and again in 2007… my own perfectionism… I have to say, the actual recording was just dreamy. I worked with musicians I love, who played beautifully; I had lots of very smart and insightful input from Rick Rubin; the whole thing was like going to album school. I really feel like I learned "how to do it." And also that I did it.
Tell readers about Free Life.
"Free Life" the song came about as I was thinking about freedom. I felt like politicians had been slinging the word around a lot without necessarily thinking about it. What do they mean when they say our freedom? The freedom to buy what we want? The freedom to pay less taxes? All that sounded kind of small to me. I started thinking about the word "free" and I realized that life is "free," in the sense that we just pop into the world without paying. But even though it's free, most of us feel that life is also infinitely precious. I wanted to try to put that in a song, and try to remind myself that at any time I am free to live my life according to what I believe in. I hope that sense of every day being a fresh start, that kinda scary sense that anything is possible, the sense that you or I could take a sudden right or left turn in the path of our lives at any time; I hope that stuff is all somewhere in the song.
As for the album, I think it has a lot of mournful beauty with hope and love occasionally bursting through the clouds. If there are clouds, I'm hoping they're Michaelangelo clouds.
Free Life by Dan Wilson is in stores now.
Interview by Shelia M. Goss, entertainment writer and national best-selling author of Paige's Web, My Invisible Husband and Double Platinum. Visit www.sheliagoss.com for additional information.