My introduction to Elliott Smith was perfect

SLiane

“My introduction to Elliott Smith was perfect. Songwriter/producer Jon Brion, who has always been a lightning rod for creative goodness, phoned me up and said, “I have something that you have to have.” He showed up in a coffee shop the next day, still wearing his pajama top over jeans, sheet wrinkles fresh on his cheek, and presented me with three CDs, Roman CandleElliott Smith and Either/Or. Now, I like a good pop record as much as the next guy, but very few things will propel me out of bed with a compulsive need to share. “Imagine the best of Paul Simon’s lyricism and melody, Simon and Garfunkel’s harmonies with those fragile Nirvana verses. You, of all people, have to hear this. You’re going to love it. It’s amazing.” Driving away, I popped in Either/Or. It was playing in the background, I was talking to someone … and then I heard it. I had to pull over. I was doing that thing you do, when you stare at the CD player, at the wondrous device that is allowing a blue rental car to become an emotional transporter, to become a bearer of art. It was pure pop revelation.”

Shireen Liane

Jon Brion played on Mary Lou Lord’s record

alisondyer
©Alyson Dyer

“Jon Brion played on Mary Lou Lord’s record. She told me that there was this guy knew all my songs and he might come down and play some songs with me at a live show I was playing in L.A. And I was like, “Okay.” He showed up and said he knew all my songs, and I was like, “Why?” “Because,” you know. So I said, “Let’s go through a couple things at sound check.” I didn’t think he knew all my songs at all. And he was like, “Oh, okay,” but the way he said it was sort of like, “Yeah, we can go through some stuff at sound check if you need to, but I don’t need to.” So we started going through a song at sound check, and about halfway through I was like, man, he’s not kidding. There he was, he even ended up playing on some songs that night that he hadn’t even heard before. And he was just really brilliant. He’s the most melodic, musical person I’ve ever met. He makes me feel pedestrian. He’s like our own Paul McCartney.”

Elliott Smith

When I was making my album in LA, I had been working with Jon Brion

anne fishben (1)

“When I was making my album in LA, I had been working with Jon Brion and Ethan Johns doing pre-production. I had a cassette of Elliott’s songs that I gave to Jon who had never heard Elliott. About a week went by, and I told him again that he should listen to the tape of my friend. The next night, at around 3 am, I got a call from Jon who was freaking out about Elliott, and the music/tape. I told him to call me in the AM (I was sleeping). I was so happy he had finally listened! Then, Jon passed the tape along to Ethan, and the same thing happened. Took a few days for Ethan to hear it, and then, Ethan called Jon at some ridiculous hour freaking out to him!! So cool. Very shortly after (a week)? I introduced Jon to Elliott at our gig at Spaceland? or something. Continue reading

What a damn fine writer

excerpts
©Claude Bell

“What a damn fine writer. His loss is the worst one, it really is, and I mean that in every way. I personally feel that he was our finest writer and his loss is incalculable, which makes everything all that much more heartbreaking. I have some very personal memories of sweetness. Before he took out his own mind, because he spent a few years without himself, he was a creature of immense sweetness. He was not without his grinding angers inside like the rest of us but his day-to-day interaction had a lot more shyness and sweetness in his heyday. The memories I have of him are so big to me that I’ll never be able to adequately communicate it. The nature of his music might suggest an endless dourness but he was really the opposite to that when he was in good shape.”

Jon Brion

Around ’97 or so my friend Jon Brion

grantlee

“Around ’97 or so my friend Jon Brion went out and bought about 15 copies of a quiet-voiced singer and gifted guitarist named Elliott Smith. Jon, whose talents have earned him wide admiration as a producer and composer, was on a mission to spread the word about an artist who he himself had just encountered and was beginning to work with. “You have got to hear this!” Jon said. The album was simply called Elliott Smith. It would be followed by the albums Either/Or, XO and Figure 8 before Smith’s death at the terribly young age of 34.

At a time of musical grandiosity, Elliott had emerged with a very contrasting vision. His originality, almost whispered rage and isolation spoke to a generation with the kind of honesty and sophistication not heard since Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. The album Elliott Smith coincided with my casual friendship with Elliott. He, Jon and I shared many an off-the-cuff night on stage at Largo, colliding like bumper cars as we worked our way through old cover songs, even tackling the Bowie/Queen duet “Under Pressure” one night – none of us with a straight face. I remember those laughs well, just as I recall the impact of encountering Elliott Smith’s artistry for the very first time.”

Grant Lee Phillips

I’ll never forget one night in Largo, many years ago

paulmyers

“I’ll never forget one night in Largo, many years ago, when Jon was taking requests. A shy figure approached the stage with his request jotted down on a folded up slip of paper. That man was Elliott Smith. His request was Cheap Trick’s “Voices.”  Since then, Brion has recorded the song in his own inimitable style (it closes out Meaningless.) At the end of the night in San Francisco, I shouted – along with others – for him to play another request. My pick was “Voices”, privately in honour of the late Elliott Smith.”

Paul Myers

Three years before he died

jbrion

“Three years before he died is the point where I knew… I remember the conversation. I remember his inability to speak coherently. I remember realizing he had gone too far. He had consumed too much. It felt like the person I loved wasn’t home anymore. And the filter that normally exists between the soul and the rest of the world was so mangled… I knew it, and it hit me hard.”

Jon Brion

The last few years he was alive

jonbrionlethen
©Philip Lethen

“The last few years he was alive, thinking about him was too painful…it would make me cry at the drop of a hat. After he died, what was really beautiful was that, slowly, when I allowed myself to think about him, the good stuff started floating back. Eventually, I was just flooded with happy, good stuff. Sitting around playing songs for each other or, you know, an in-joke that started with us at the bar downstairs. One time we were just talking about life for hours and hours, and he was going on about something, and he got hit with this moment of self-doubt that he had perhaps been talking too much and that maybe he was boring us and whatever, and he said in that voice, “Well, I’m just talking out of my ass.” And Flanagan and I both started laughing so hard, ’cause it was this moment when he wasn’t talking out of his ass, and we started doing impressions of him, in front of him, for the rest of the night. Every time we said something, we would add:”I’m just talking out of my ass.” It became this constant joke that any of us would interject when we felt we had been talking too much… Continue reading