Just three weeks ago, the musician – who plays a high-octane “Rock Show” in The City this weekend and is promoting a reissue of his definitive 1991 album “Girlfriend” – boxed up his worldly Los Angeles belongings. He and his wife and three cats moved back to Nebraska, settling in Omaha, not his birthplace of Lincoln.
With new material he is writing to follow 2011’s “Modern Art” (which he will finance through a Kickstarter campaign offering collectible perks such as his popular feline pottery sculptures), he might be rechristened a heartland rocker.
“And what’s wrong with the heartland?” he asks, rhetorically.
“Early in my career, Nebraska was so unknown to people it was almost exotic!”
Sweet, 49, simply grew weary of his showbiz mecca, where he resided since 1996, and he and his wife (who also hails from the Cornhusker state), wanted to be closer to family.
Their Los Angeles house had tripled in value, so with half the profit, they purchased a 4,000-square-foot tri-level built in 1937.
“It looks like a French chateau on the outside, but the inside has these big vaulted cathedral ceilings,” he says. “And my studio room is a ground-level basement with a bay window on the back of the place, embedded partway into the ground. It’s almost like it was made for me.”
The drive home seemed romantic at first. “Then literally, an hour past Vegas, it was five below, and it never broke above 5 degrees all the way across to Omaha,” says Sweet, whose recent projects also include a third collaboration with The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs. (“Under the Covers, Vol. 3” boasts 1980s classics like Roxy Music’s “More Than This” and Lindsey Buckingham’s “Trouble”; earlier volumes focused on the 1960s and ’70s.)
Sweet adds, “Then a day after we got there, it dumped a bunch of snow on us, and it stayed. It was terrible timing. I mean, we both grew up around snow, but it was a long time since we’d experienced that much.”
Now, Sweet – who can’t wait to watch the new Alexander Payne film “Nebraska” in Nebraska – is feeling the seasonal Midwest spirit.
His abode might be adorned with empty packing crates, but all his neighbors’ digs are as elaborate as the Griswolds’ in the “Vacation” movies.
“One house has all dark purple lights on their trees, and another has these amazing blue halogen lights that twinkle,” he says. “Being in Omaha for the holidays is really fun. You feel that magic much less in Los Angeles, where nobody decorates.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Slim’s, 333 111th St., S. F.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $21 to $23
Contact: (415) 522-0333, www.slimspresents.com