Amity is a really unguarded song

©Timothy Donovan

Amity is a really unguarded song – I made up the lyrics in a couple of minutes and didn’t change them. I like the way it feels, although it’s not an especially deep song at all. It’s, I don’t know… just a big rock song. It’s a pretty simple song. It’s not so much about the words themselves, but more about how the whole thing sounds. Some friends of mine said it sounded like I was trying to get something romantic going with someone, and that’s not what it was supposed to be about. It was supposed to be, “you’re really fun to be with and I really like you a lot because of that, but I am really, really depressed” – but I don’t know if that came across. When I said, “ready to go,” it was supposed to mean tired of living. Sorry to make the song depressing for you now. Amity is a person I know. It was very simple. I was saying, “I really like you and it’s really great to hang out with someone who is happy and easy-going, but I don’t feel like that and I can’t be with you.”

Elliott Smith


Une petite note informative à l’attention des futurs chroniqueurs de From a basement on the hill…

©Peter Larsson

“Puisque j’ai de la place, une petite note informative à l’attention des futurs chroniqueurs de From a basement on the hill, pour leur éviter de tomber dans le piège “décortiquons les paroles pour y trouver des raisons à son suicide” (écueil dans lequel même Nick Kent est tombé). Voici donc la date (et le lieu, accessoirement) à laquelle les chansons de l’album ont été pour la première fois jouées en live. Continue reading

“Oh well, okay” is slow and quiet

©Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

“Oh well, okay” is slow and quiet and sort of describes a silhouette of someone… It would sound ridiculous to talk about it too much, but essentially it’s about how a silhouette is permanently turned away from you. The person is being described as if they were this photograph. And they weren’t always turned away from me, but now they are and they seem to stay like that. It’s kind of a sad song.”

Elliott Smith

I’ve always thought that photo had a lot of sadness to it


“I’ve always thought that photo had a lot of sadness to it. Even though I don’t think he was sad at that moment. He was lonely. They were both lonely. He’s tuning his guitar backstage. I think Heatmiser was probably over at that point. I think I wasn’t working for him anymore. So I was sort of visiting. We had worked really hard on Heatmiser, so it was sort of heartbreaking when it fell apart. I was far closer to Elliott than I ever was to Kurt. I feel a lot of sadness about both of them. I feel they were both remarkably gifted. I think they had celiac disease. That’s my theory. They were both in pain a lot. There were a lot of similarities. They were both haunted. So bad that they couldn’t live with it. Lots of people have demons. Their demons were pretty bad demons.”

JJ Gonson

“Depressing” is a superficial tag

©Todd V. Wolfson

“‘Depressing’ is a superficial tag. Everybody gets a tag. If you listen to a Velvet Underground record you don’t think “Godfathers of Punk.” You just think, “Hey this is cool. It sounds great.” The tags are there in order to help try to sell something by giving it a name that’s going to stick in somebody’s memory, but it doesn’t describe it. So ‘depressing‘ is not word I would use to describe my music, but there is some sadness in it — there has to be, so that the happiness in it will matter.”

Elliott Smith

I don’t know how that story developed


“I don’t know how that story developed around Everything Means Nothing to Me. I mean, I don’t know why he told that story to David McConnell, and I’m not sure I’d like to know. He probably didn’t think it would spread and become some kind of post-mortem statement adding to the nauseating pile of hindsight wisdom meant to “explain” him and his alleged “suicide”. It really bothers me. That song was very important to him, but not in any negative or self indulgent way. When he discussed it with me in early 2000, there wasn’t any blood or drama involved, it was still a “new” song at the time, and he was proud and protective of it. Continue reading

Around the time Elliott was recording what would be his final album

©Ben McKeown

“So around the time Elliott was recording what would be his final album, I got to visit the actual basement on a hill. Satellite Park Studios. It’s a gorgeous house on the cliffs of Malibu owned by Josie Cotton with, you guessed it, a recording studio downstairs ‘basement’. I got to play Elliott’s guitar, the piano he used, and at the very least look at Tom Waits’ Chamberlin. The next best thing to meeting them I guess. Anyways, I was there with another band who was also recording there and one night, everyone but me had a lot to drink and the engineer opened up and I got to hear a story about Elliott. I was really eager to hear any Elliott stories but I wasn’t about to ask for any so I was glad when he started talking about him. Continue reading

I briefly met Kurt Cobain


“I briefly met Kurt Cobain, and as soon as he passed away, I was like, oh God, here it goes. They’re not going to paint him the right way. Same with Elliott. I feel like a lot of times you see these headlines: ‘Tormented.’ ‘Mr. Misery.’ And you’re like, Jesus Christ, if you’d gone out drinking with the guy, you’d know that wasn’t the right way to put it.”

Larry Crane