“Rose Parade” wasn’t supposed to be about the Portland parade


“”Rose Parade” wasn’t really supposed to be about the Portland parade. It was just supposed to be about parades in general, like the way people parade around and expect you to join in on their peacock march. You know? Someone does, “We’re looking good,” that kind of attitude. It’s like, people get fucked over a lot by sorta trying to parade around as something that they’re not really, but they can be for a little while, but then it all goes wrong.”

Elliott Smith

Ça lui est arrivé de me raconter un jour toute l’histoire exacte d’une chanson

number nine

“Ça lui est arrivé de me raconter un jour toute l’histoire exacte d’une chanson. Et alors ? Le lendemain, pour la même chanson, il expliquait qu’il n’y avait en fait aucune histoire, que ce n’était qu’une succession aléatoire de mots. Mais avec le recul, certaines paroles résonnent avec sa personnalité. Continue reading

Lots of, well, lots of people who heard “Needle In the Hay”


“Lots of, well, lots of people who heard “Needle In the Hay” thought it was about drugs, which was sort of the vehicle, but it wasn’t supposed to be about that in particular. People were like, “Oh that second record is all about drugs! It’s like, no, it’s not. It’s about the same things that people write about all the time, you know – they write about their dependence on things: another person or a situation or drugs or even a city. Sometimes they’re happy songs because it’s going good, sometimes they’re upsetting songs because they don’t wanna be dependent on whatever it is.”

Elliott Smith

I met people I liked in college

bunny 2013
©Daniel Cavazos

“I met people I liked in college, but no songs come from there. They come more from moving out of my mom’s family than anything else. There are three types of songs in my catalog. “Needle in the Hay” was the “Fuck you” me. It was more of a “fuck you song” than it was even a heroin song. Then there’s the “I’m going to insist that things can work out, and I’ll never stop insisting they can work out.” And then, there’s the part of me that tries to chronicle other people’s lives, especially my mom’s.”

Elliott Smith

The move to L.A. was probably part of the problem


“The move to L.A. was probably part of the problem, but he also once told me that his girlfriend Joanna told him that if he ever did heroin, she would leave him, and that was the only way he could finally get out of that relationship. He was kind of fed up with the relationship. This is what he told me; he said they were fighting and she said, ‘If you do heroin, I’ll leave you, or become a junkie, I’ll leave you’ – he said that’s about the time he started doing heroin.”

David McConnell

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


“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 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