“Why were certain songs chosen over others?
Well, it’s true, there weren’t just 15 “finished” songs. If there were, it’d be an easy decision, and one nobody would be questioning. There were more than 15, (as for the exact number, I honestly don’t know, but not too many more,) but because the double-record idea was out, (due to contractual problems as well as agreed number of “ready” songs,) we had to narrow it down. Elliott has always had to narrow it down. There have been some AMAZING songs that, in my opinion, should have been on some of his other records, or comprised more records, but that he shelved, for one reason or another. Come on, how many of you out there wished that Cecilia/Amanda had made it, or Place Pigalle, or I Don’t Think I’m Ever Gonna Figure it Out, or Brand New Game, or Angel in the Snow, or the COUNTLESS amazing songs he had but never put on a proper record had made it? He shelved (or flat out never fully recorded,) tons of beautiful songs. The same is unfortunately the case for this record. There are a number of amazing, beautiful songs that if ANYBODY heard them they would say they belong on there, and I agree, but we couldn’t release a gazillion songs. It was impossible. We had to make some choices. CDs are only so long. And those choices were really hard. Does the track listing reflect MY OWN personal opinion? Partially. Are there songs that I too think are missing? Sure. Of course. It’s not up to one of us, it was up to his whole family, tempered by what the labels could swing. Are there songs that other members of the family wanted on there but that got nixed for one reason or another? Yes.’ Continue reading →
“I should clarify that as the archivist, it’s not my decision to release or not release anything. But it is my job to inform the estate – his surviving family – of what they have. A little part of me understands the hardcore fan. I’m a major fan of, say, Velvet Underground or Pink Floyd, and I would buy anything that had one new song that had been dug up. I’d be in the store the day it came out. So I understand that mentality. But on the other hand, if you do have all the outtakes of the Velvet Underground, it’s still White Light, White Heat that’s really fucking good and revolutionary. You don’t want to dilute that album by making a version with 400 bonus tracks so it’s an unlistenable experience.
There’s some trepidation to put everything out. I worry about New Moon, even. Say somebody buys this as their first Elliott Smith record; it’s really good, the songs are very good, but it’s not a record that Elliott crafted in his lifetime, and I think those records are stronger. Now say there are 20 different CDs of his high school band and mumblings into a cassette when he’s 14 and… I don’t know. It starts to dilute things to a certain degree, and people might also start to say “Oh, is the family looking for money?” And that’s so far from the way things are proceeding with the estate. They would be horrified to be thought of that way. Nobody wants the money from this – that’s why portions go to charities and things like that. It’s not the reason anyone would ever do it.
Elliott’s father is fairly involved and had gone to see him play live quite a bit. But his father and his mother and half-sisters, they’re not involved in the music industry, and there are certain traps; I feel like a little bit of my job is that they understand scenarios better and can make informed decisions. They have a really great lawyer, too, who helps with decisions.”
“Miss Misery just got to be too big of a deal for me. To me, it felt like I was just playing it all over the place. This is one of my songs, but this isn’t the monolith that I need to erect everywhere I go.”
“The best moments I’ve shared with Elliott are seeing him smile when we were playing music together. When he knows it’s kicking in, and I’m behind the kit, and he’s playing bass or guitar, or we’re writing a song in the studio and he’s into the drums I’m playing, or he’s into the music, and he just looked at me and smiled. He wasn’t always in the best of ways, but when we’d lock eyes, he was feeling it and loving it.”
“I don’t try to shut things out, because I don’t think that works very well. I prefer to let things come on in and do whatever its going to do and then leave. If a big wave is coming at you, you’re gonna get wet. You can either withdraw into a little shell and pretend that you’re not getting wet, or you can just get wet and dry off. That’s a corny metaphor, I guess, but that’s how I deal with things I don’t like. I outlive them.”
“The people that were really friends with Elliott always questioned whether or not they were. They saw how Elliott went from best friend to best friend every night. He would just go somewhere and spill his guts, and that person would think that he or she and Elliott Smith had had a poignant evening.
That was what my first experience with Elliott was. I just happened to know better, that I wasn’t special in his life.”
“I spent nearly a decade missing the point of Elliott Smith’s music for reasons that I really wanted to interrogate. When I first heard about Elliott’s music, it was in the context of, “Here’s this guy who was basically a homeless junkie and did tons of drugs and now he makes this sad folk music about it.” When I finally started paying attention to XO–really paying attention–I was pretty shocked to realize that Elliott was not only avoiding those clichés, he was actively taking them apart. Here was a record where a guy was actually saying, “Look, pain isn’t beautiful, creativity isn’t borne of suffering,” and he’s saying it through these impossibly precise Beatlesque pop songs. Yet it still gets pretty consistently described as sad folk music.
I find the romanticized connection between suffering and creativity hugely troubling. I’ve seen it used to justify awful, self-destructive behavior. I wanted to write about Elliott’s music in a way that sheds some light on all the actual work that went into his creative output; it’s not like he just put down a syringe, picked up an acoustic guitar, and channeled his deep existential suffering into beautiful words and melodies. I also wanted to dig a bit into why we find the romanticization of suffering so compelling, why we assume that an artist’s most compelling work must have roots in their darkest personal histories.”
“I think I started with an image in my head with a guy in a bar in Portland falling off his stool and crying, which was a side of Elliott Smith you hear in his music, but not the centre of who he was.”