Westerberg ‘one-third of the way to being 80 percent better’ | June 14, 2007

This interview by Jon Bream ran in the Star-Trib on June 14, 2007. It’s not their web site anymore so I retrieved it via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine

Paul Westerberg may have injured his hand, but his sense of humor is still 100 percent.

Paul’s hand is dead.

That’s what many music fans thought when they’d heard that Paul Westerberg had punctured his left hand last fall with a screwdriver while messing around with some candle wax.

“I’m one-third of the way to being possibly 80 percent all better,” he said the other day.
Translation: Doctors say he will regain 80 percent use of his hand, but recovery will take 18 months. He’s about six months into the process.

Nonetheless, Westerberg will give his first public performance since the injury on Saturday in a two-song cameo at the Current’s “Fakebook” series featuring Laurie Lindeen, his wife, reading from her new memoir, “Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story.”I was toying with the idea of writing a song called ‘A Couple of Tunes’ so I could get away with just playing one,” Westerberg joked.

He urged fans not to come to the Fitzgerald Theater expecting a Westerberg performance. He’s merely going to be there to support his wife’s gig, or, as he put it: “I’m just sort of tagging along for the good time.” He doesn’t even know how it’s going to work.

Lindeen’s plan is to read passages from her book, and periodically a musician mentioned in the memoir will appear to play a song to complement her words. Among the scheduled guests are Mark Olson, Marc Perlman, Lori Barbero and Lindeen’s old band, the alt-pop trio Zuzu’s Petals. Mary Lucia, DJ at the Current (89.3 FM), will be the host. She also happens to be Westerberg’s younger sister. “Taking orders from my sister,” he said. “This could be interesting.” Then he burst into laughter.

Westerberg and Lindeen haven’t made much music together. He said they’ve jammed in the basement and “made a couple little records down there.” She said they’ve shared a stage only once, when she sang backup on one of his tunes.

As for his left hand, he suffered nerve damage in the webbed area between the ring and pinkie fingers.
“It still feels like I’ve got 12 pins in it. It feels like I have something in my hand and I want to put it down and I realize it’s my finger,” he said. “I cut an artery and severed 12 nerves. Half of the ring finger is numb and the other half is tingling like it’s growing back the nerves. It’s just another guitar player’s injury. I used to have swelling in the elbows from playing guitar.”

Because of the injury, Westerberg has modified his guitar style and sound. “Laurie has asked me: ‘What the hell kind of instrument were you playing downstairs?’ It was a guitar. She didn’t know if it was steel guitar or a slide or something else. I’m using different fingerings ’cause my finger doesn’t want to stretch.
“I was disappointed that I could actually play. I was excited by the notion that I may never play again. I thought that would be great and now I could learn the violin or flute. It was not to be.”

Despite his self-deprecating outlook, Westerberg, 47, admits that playing guitar is now work for him. “What was effortless and painless now is a little uncomfortable and takes a little effort. I won’t use this as an excuse. If anything, I’ll probably end up playing better than I used to.”

As for his recording career, the singer-songwriter recently sent 60 songs to his manager to try to figure out what to do with them. He said he’s had offers from Universal and Sony to start his own label, but he’s not interested.

“I’m busy learning how to play guitar,” he concluded. “It’s like I’m 15 again. It’s attached to my hip. I’m playing cleaner and my rhythm is better because I can’t do as much with my left hand