A lot of the material on Figure 8

©Elliott Smith / BF / elliott smith gallery

“A lot of the material on Figure 8 came to me in a frenetic six-week burst of activity. The songs are written in a very straightforward way, and can be played on one guitar. So my thinking was, since they’re coherent structurally, why not have the sounds keep moving around? The idea that you have to stay within one area for a whole song seemed very limiting. The idea was to reinforce the songs, but also to take them out of their linear path. A lot of the times those things came from being spontaneous, just looking around and seeing what we had in the room. I’m a big fan of trying things. You know, swinging and missing. Nonmusical factors have contributed to this “unexpected” growth. After years of touring , I’ve taken some time off and made a concerted effort to maintain a three-dimensional life.”

Elliott Smith

On several songs there’s some imagery that keeps popping up

©Charlie Gross

“On several songs there’s some imagery that keeps popping up about soldiers, or doing battle with something. On that particular song, “Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud”, I just thought that it was an interesting question. I don’t know what the answer is, to that. Sometimes it seems like “No”… I wanted it to seem equally plausible to answer it “No” or “Yes”.You can’t answer to some sort of authority that you don’t even know who they are, or what it is. That song wasn’t meant to be specifically addressed to my parents, it’s just an abstract authority that sees you in some mainstream terms. Would they like how your life seems to be? Would they be disappointed? Would they be impressed? Does any of this matter? Or are any of the answers negative, some of them positive?”

Elliott Smith

She was talking a lot about that movie “La Jetée”


“She was talking a lot about that movie, “La Jetée”, which I think is really cool. It’s all stills, except for one little moment where someone’s eyes open, and that’s the only moving part of it. There was some of that and some… not trying to cop “The Red Balloon”, but there was something kind of interesting about following around an inflated thing. It could represent many things: definitely something that you have some desire for in some way or another. “

Elliott Smith

I was actually thinking about someone


“I was actually thinking about someone in particular for that one [Independence Day], which is really… I almost never do that. It’s just a friend of mine from New York named Josh and just, you know – it was kind of like, an optimistic song, sort of being like – just relax, you have everything you need to be happy but you’ve just got to wait a little bit. I was just kind of thinking of him when i made it up.”

Elliott Smith

Part of what I like about Figure 8

©Joshua Kessler

“Part of what I like about Figure 8, well, to the extent that I can like my own music, is that I like it better when it’s hard to name it, you know, or to really describe it. I think it’s more varied than the last record, there’s more different kinds of songs and the range of emotions on it are greater. Or maybe that’s just what I prefer to believe. The only thing I know is that it feels different than the other ones, and that’s all I really require. Sometimes I know what I was thinking when I wrote the songs, and sometimes I only have theories about what I was thinking, that change from time to time. And even if I knew what I was thinking, I wouldn’t necessarily want to talk about it. ”

Elliott Smith

We wanted to make Figure 8 move and change

©Renaud Monfourny

“We wanted to make it [Figure 8] move and change as much as possible without becoming kind of difficult to listen to or bothersome in its changefulness. There were more songs recorded for it than wound up on it. At one point Figure 8 was maybe going to be a double album, but then it seemed better to have it be a single and make it change and move as much as possible, like a boxer trying to move around so he doesn’t get knocked out. I think this record’s pushing things with how long it is, but every time we tried to take something out it seemed to upset the little constellation of songs and make it work not quite as well.”

Elliott Smith