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Patrick Stump Discusses Solo Album, Pete Wentz + the Current State of Pop Music

Patrick Stump
Andrew Zaeh

For years, Patrick Stump wrote the music for Fall Out Boy and delivered their memorable vocal hooks but seemed to play second-fiddle in terms of media attention to the group’s lyricist, bassist Pete Wentz. Now, the slimmed-down singer is ready to release his solo debut ‘Soul Punk,’ which he wrote, performed and produced entirely on his own. The album’s first single, ‘This City,’ is an ode to Stump’s hometown of Chicago, and the remix includes a verse from fellow Chicago native Lupe Fiasco. (Get it as this week’s iTunes free download of the week.)

Stump’s live show includes his new songs and unusual covers, like a medley of ‘90s R&B hits. Patrick gave PopCrush a call to discuss the record, how he feels about his old bandmates, and the likelihood he’ll be teaming up with the latest techno DJs for his next single (don’t count on it.)

You’ve talked about how you’ll never have a chance to make a first impression as a solo artist, since people already know you. What kinds of challenges does that put on you as you pursue this new direction?
The biggest challenge is obviously people’s expectations. I’m the guy from Fall Out Boy, which either hurts me or helps me in some people’s eyes. And it’s interesting, because I get all kinds of comments. Some people will be like, ‘I hate what you’re doing. I miss Fall Out Boy.’ Then I hear some people who are like, ‘I hated Fall Out Boy and I love what you’re doing.’ It’s funny, that kind of dichotomy.

You’ve been touring throughout the summer. How different is it to sing your own words in concert instead of Pete’s?
It’s definitely different. It was an interesting challenge making this record, because I noticed after years of writing with him that my lyrics started to sound a lot more like his. So part of it became finding a new voice as a writer that doesn’t interfere with his. One of the other things that’s crazy is that it’s a totally different feeling when an audience member tells you they like your lyrics. That’s a different feeling than when they like your music. So I thought I’d seen it all, but there are still new experiences for me.

How important was it to you to be responsible for all the vocals and instruments on ‘Soul Punk?’
It was important because I wanted to make something of a statement. I wanted to take the risk myself. I didn’t want it to be some big label-management kind of fiasco. We could’ve gone the easy route and hired all the latest Paris dance DJs or whatever is the big thing right now, and I probably could’ve had hit records that way. But I wanted to establish that it’s a solo record because it’s something I wanted to make. It’s not because I hate my band or something. I actually still like my band a lot — I’m still friends with them and still want to play with them sometimes. I just wanted to do my thing, I guess. There’s no better way to do that than just doing it yourself.

You recently said, “Pop music is depressing because nobody takes it all the way.” Can you elaborate a little on that?
I don’t remember the context in which I said that, but I do stand by what I say about pop music because I feel like pop music itself isn’t wrong. It’s great, actually. But the fact that people are so lazy and so unimaginative about it is sad. There’s this idea of dumbing-down, that to make pop music, it has to be the same four chords and it has to be a song about girls or drinking or partying. I feel like that’s really lazy craftsmanship. When you look throughout pop music history, there are really brilliant songs with a lot more to them than that, both musically and lyrically. I wanted to make what I thought was a pop record, but one that I cared about, one I’m not ashamed to admit I wrote [Laughs].

I think now is a really good time for musicians to stand up and do pop music with some dignity. I like when I see somebody like Bruno Mars, because I honestly believe that he really stands by that music. It’s no longer the era of Lou Pearlman. You can be pop without being fabricated.

Is it true you wrote ‘This City’ for Lupe Fiasco?
What happened was I wrote the song — it’s one of those quotes that just came to me, I really don’t remember writing it, it just happened. Then, it took me a while to decide what I wanted to do with it. At one point, I did want to submit it to Lupe Fiasco. I’ve known him for a long time. I produced a record for him called ‘Little Weapon’ and he was on a Fall Out Boy remix a few years ago. So I wanted to maybe get a demo of the song to him, but it never even got off the ground.

Flash forward to, after I turned in my album, the label was like, ‘This sounds great. Would you be interested in doing a remix?’ And I said, ‘Yeah maybe, it depends who you wanna work with.’ They had suggested Lupe and I was like, ‘This is perfect. This is cosmic,’ because he was part of my first thought. I was really excited about it because, subconsciously, that’s what I was going for the whole time anyway [Laughs].

Listen to ‘This City’ Feat. Lupe Fiasco

Some of the lyrics in ‘Spotlight (New Regrets)’ could be viewed as a personal statement about stepping away from the band into your own spotlight.
It’s not related to the band. If we do have to attach ‘Spotlight’ to the band, one thing that frustrated me about the band was that we always got accused of negativity, as if somehow every lyric that we said was interpreted in the pejorative, in this self-mutilating kind of way. That really wasn’t what we were saying, ever. I thought we were very positive dudes. And so I wanted to counter that sentiment. We’re just so negative as a culture right now. We really get off on being depressing and dark and post-ironic and post-modernist, and everything is sarcastic. It’s almost like we’re insecure about ourselves, so I wanted to have a song that was about believing in yourself and being secure in who you are, because as simple as that sounds, those are actually very hard things to do.

Finally, as you release ‘Soul Punk’ and continue your tour, what will success be for you with this project?
Once I get the finished, printed copy in my hands, that’s success to me. The rest is fate. If no one likes the record, that’s cool. I know I’m really behind the record. If I have it for my grandkids someday to show that I did it, that’s the feather in my cap that I need, just knowing that I put out my record once [laughs]. So in that regard, it’s almost a success to me already. Oct. 18, when it comes out, it’ll be a success to me.

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