What a damn fine writer

©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

A lot of my favorite things on that record

©David Black

“A lot of my favorite things on that record were recorded years ago, finished years ago. I think the classic, ‘recently deceased artist’ myth is going to take over. People who are misty-eyed are going to go, ‘This is what he was doing before he departed us,’ but a lot of those songs have been around for years.”

Jon Brion

Around ’97 or so my friend Jon Brion


“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


“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


“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

©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

Speaking of someone who can never be forgotten

©Autumn de Wilde

“Speaking of someone who can never be forgotten, I would like to bring up Elliott Smith. I used to watch him transform on your stage. He may not have wanted to perform, but you had a gentle way of reminding him how much he needed to. It went from not being sure whether he’d get on stage to being hopeful that it may not come to an end. Those were special nights. And, in addition to Elliott Smith, you offered us the space to experience the deep friendship between Elliott Smith and Jon Brion. It seemed as if they felt, on some level, that they were the only ones who understood each other. Jon had a way of “being” with Elliott that seemed to put him at ease, or at least make him feel significantly better. And Elliott had a way of sparking a look of pure admiration and awe on Jon’s face when he’d sing “Say Yes” with his eyes closed. This kind of experience can’t happen everywhere. The moments that “happen” at Largo happen because you’ve created, and consistently provide, the space and tone that are required for them to occur.”

Colette Weintraub