Artists & Interviewers

Warren Zanes

However quietly, Warren Zanes has established himself as something of an oddity in the music business. A platypus. His constituent parts are many, but they don’t add up to anything immediately recognizable.

Zanes has been all of these things: a Ph.D and professor at several American universities, a Vice President at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, a writer whose subjects range from Jimmy Rodgers to Dusty Springfield to the Wilburn Brothers to the history of Warner Bros. Records, a musician who made three records with 1980s rock and roll band the Del Fuegos and three as a solo artist, a thinker-for-hire who has worked on several high-profile music projects, including, most recently, the upcoming George Harrison documentary directed by Martin Scorsese, and the Executive Director of Little Steven Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, where his work is an extension of his non profit experience and his teaching at Case Western Reserve, the School of Visual Arts, the University of Rochester, and other institutions. Time Out New York has said of Warren that he is “as smart a pop songwriter as there is.” Entertainment Weekly lauded his solo work as “a thing of indie-pop beauty.” Rolling Stone described that same music as having “flashes of Beck and 1970s Paul McCartney . . . [and] a lot of what sounds like XTC.” Among those who have already stepped forward to praise his latest recording are Cameron Crowe, Aimee Mann, and Tom Petty. But, mostly, Zanes flies under the radar.

You could say Warren Zanes is another man lost in suburbia. A newly single parent raising two boys and trying to keep it together at home, he is not in regular contact with a manager or a stylist or, frankly, the department of youthful dreams. Put another way, he is not among the sort of folks who are landing on the charts these days, or, really, in days of recent past. Indeed, quite different from his time in the Del Fuegos, a period during which the band toured hundreds of days each year, Zanes now sticks closer to home, to the waffle iron and the Elmer’s glue. He takes the bus to work after dropping  the kids at school.

So why does Warren Zanes feel he has to make records? Perhaps because those buses and those school drop-offs are as thick with longing as anywhere. Perhaps more so. The material is there for anyone who has an inclination to write songs. So he wrote some–maybe because the songs were going to keep him awake until he gave them the attention they were asking for. When they knock you’d better answer.

So here we are. With I Want To Move Out In the Daylight, Zanes offers up what many—Tom Petty included–have described as his best yet. Produced by Brad Jones and Daniel Tashian, both of whom have traveled widely in the territories of playing and production, this new recording might just be one of the great mid-life records, a document of one of those times when the meaning of it all drops away. Betrayal, deceit, a little redemption (so his mother doesn’t worry too much): it’s all in there, with a spare quality that leaves room for the humor, the desperation, some hope, and a little leftover anger.

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