Patrick Stump Candidly Discusses His Curious Transition From Pop Hero To Soul Revivalist

Patrick Stump points at the words as he reads them. For whatever reason, though, he's stuck on the first sentence.
Patrick Stump points at the words as he reads them. For whatever reason, though, he's stuck on the first sentence.

Moments into a discussion about his new solo record, about his performance at the House of Blues' Cambridge Room tomorrow night and about, well, just the overall state of his world right now, Patrick Stump gets right to the point.

"I'm totally at peace with the reality that I'm always going to be the guy from Fall Out Boy," he says a bit of a sigh and a hint of disdain evident in his tone.

But that disdain is far less noticeable than his sense of conviction. Because here's the thing: Aware as he may be of his designation in the world, Stump's refusing to cater to it. The 27-year-old performer, already a known name thanks to his work as the frontman in the internationally adored pop-punk group, has effectively started over from scratch on his latest endeavor as a solo artist.

Really: He's completely self-funding his latest venture, which finds him, like so many others these days, mining a soul influence. More important, he's refusing to play any of his old Fall Out Boy material while supporting his new music on the road.

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"People will sometimes come up to me and complain about that after a show," Stump says. "But I've been very clear about my intentions here. So I just tell them, 'Look, I told you I wasn't going to play any Fall Out Boy.'"

Thing is, that's how people know him best. So, sure, things have been a little awkward in that regard from time to time. Still, Stump says he's fine with that -- even it it leads to disappointing some fans along the way.

"I was reading a review of a show I played recently," he says. "The guy said it all looked very unnatural, me performing and not playing Fall Out Boy songs. But, honestly, I've never felt more natural in my life."

Things haven't all been bad, of course. Stump's new single, "This City," which features a verse from fellow Chicago dweller Lupe Fiasco, has recently been getting added to radio station rotations -- something Stump says he never expected nor even outright hoped would happen. He expected his new brand of pop-soul to be largely shunned by mainstream outlets because it simply doesn't align with his older material.

"More than me, I think it shocked my management and label," Stump says.

Pleasant a surprise as it may be, though, it's also a little counter-intuitive. This time around, Stump says he's specifically trying to avoid the kind of reaction Fall Out Boy elicited. He talks excitedly about his live performance, talking up his five-piece backing band. Be he's also sure to explain that it's a rather gimmick-free performance. He calls it a "soul revue," a "musician's musician show."

"Any of my dreams of performing with big, exciting set pieces, Fall Out Boy already did that," he says.

Fall Out Boy was more of a spectacle, he says. Onstage and off. The band did a lot of things, sure. But, he's quick to point out, not all of it was intended.

"We were an emo band without being an emo band," he says. "Right place or wrong time, depending on how you ask."

But with so many other artists also doing a soul thing these days (Janelle Monae and Mayer Hawthorne are among some he enjoys) and caliming the same influences that he does (unprovoked, he rattles off names like Sly Stone, Prince, Fela Kuti and James Brown), he understands that he might be in danger of repeating that history.

"It's not like I'm using it or anything," Stump says. "But there are only so many things under the sun. This is just what spoke to me. Yes, there is that danger of supersaturation within a movement. But what do you do? You just go out and do the best that you can and you hope that it's good. The jury's still out on whether I am any good, though."

Fall Out Boy fans, such as the aforementioned reviewer, might argue that his new stuff isn't as good. Stump, however, says he isn't so concerned with that. He's happier now. By a long shot.

"Fall Out Boy was such a passionate band," he says. "And passion is really close to anger. I'm catching myself smiling a lot more this time around."

Better yet, he says, there's no pressure. He's taken expectation out of the equation. He's simply experimenting and seeing what works -- for him, and not as much for the audiences.

One particular area where he's been dabbling outside of his comfort zone came recently through a project he embarked upon at the request of the Dallas-based "Kidd Kraddick in The Morning" radio show, who asked that he spend two days mentoring a young area band of 13-year-olds called Breaking Even.

Stump had never worked with kids before. He was surprised by how much he enjoyed it, he says.

"They floored me," Stump says. "I've been producing for a long time, and part of that is telling the artist what they need to do. This was the only time a band actually listened to me."

He laughs, explaining that he's only half-kidding.

"Really, I wish I sounded like that when I was 13," he says, before further detailing how rewarding an experience it was for him. "I think I've got the bug, for sure. I've been thinking to myself that this teaching thing is kind of fun. If this solo thing doesn't work out, I've got a back-up plan."

This time, though, he doesn't laugh. He's being serious, it seems. Clearly, he's not just cheerleading: Breaking Even will perform with Stump on Saturday night, replacing his normal backing players when he performs "This City."

But what happens next? What if the teaching thing never happens, of if the solo career never takes off? What then? Is there a chance he might return to Fall Out Boy? Probably, he admits. But only when the rest of the band is ready.

"We never really broke up," he says. "There's just nothing happening. No roadblocks, no walls built up. Just nothing. If we tour again, it'll surely be billed as a reunion tour. People want us to tour in a few years -- the tenth anniversary of our first release. It's all weird. Blink-182 has done it right. They didn't do anything cheesy. And that's important. If there's anything I've learned, that's it."

In the meantime, he'll focus his efforts on his solo project -- something, he's proud to say, he considers decidedly not cheesy.

"It's just me making the music I want," he says. "I can't not make music. I just can't."

Patrick Stump performs Saturday, August 27, at the House of Blues' Cambridge Room

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