As soon as someone calls you a songwriter

sam harris photo
©Sam Harris

“As soon as someone calls you a songwriter, you automatically get the melancholy tag. Also, ‘Why aren’t you playing dance music?’ and ‘Why are your songs so sad?’ They’re just clichés. If it wasn’t those, it would be different ones. You can’t always expect people to relate. There are all kinds of people, and some people understand each other and some people don’t. NSYNC sells nine million records, so there’s nine million people that can relate, and I’m not one of them. So even if you sell millions and millions of albums, there’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t get it. If you want to be creative and do what you do, it’s going to be kind of idiosyncratic.”

Elliott Smith


Fragile. That’s such a bummer.


“Fragile.That’s such a bummer. It’s not true, not to me. Some people who are used to listening to the radio equate acoustic songs with fragile songs, which I never did.”

Elliott Smith

“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 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

Staking out the shadows between melancholy and fatalistic


“Staking out the shadows between melancholy and fatalistic, Elliott Smith wrote pretty tunes that assumed the worst. At least that’s the critical shorthand on one of the more easily stereotyped artists of the last decade. But there’s more to Smith and his music than such faulty caricatures suggest.
A lyric from the song that opens Smith’s final studio album, “From a Basement on the Hill” plays right into the tortured-artist cliché: “I’ll never be good enough for you.” Of course, it’s tempting to read even more into Smith’s pessimism now that he’s gone, his death from two stab wounds last year instantly elevating him to rock-martyr status. Continue reading

They only notice my music being dark

©Daniel Coston

“They only notice my music being dark because most of what’s played on the radio is so . . . I don’t know, not dark. So they hear this one thing about my songs, and they make that stand in for what they are.But there’s humor in them sometimes. They don’t make me feel worse. They make me feel better.”

Elliott Smith

I’m supposed to be a rebel rock’n’roller

©Nick BK

“I’m supposed to be a rebel rock’n’roller who thinks about nothing but rock’n’roll and wants to die, but I like to read – Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, that Kierkegaard guy. Other people always say how heavy and depressing they are, then you usually find out that they’re just good. I mean, Raymond Carver – that’s not any more heavy and depressing than a Nirvana record.”

Elliott Smith

The mainstream keeps describing me as depressing


“The mainstream keeps describing me as depressing and I don’t need that anymore. I mean, you can go see a sad movie and find beauty in it. You don’t walk away depressed. It can be inspiring. When people talk about how I’m all gloom, it makes me feel bad. Nobody wants to be described as depressing. Sometimes I’m depressed, and sometimes I’m not, just like everyone else.”

Elliott Smith


I’ve just received a hefty volume about Elliott Smith


“I’ve just received a hefty volume about Elliott Smith that’s been put together by the photographer Autumn De Wilde. Flicking through, it looks great, and it really hammers home something that bugs the shit out of me when people often talk or write about Smith. It’s just too easy to write about him as this “troubled”, “unhappy”, “doomed” figure, to spend an hour with a profoundly shy man and divine from it that he was somehow not long for this world. Of course, Smith had problems: at times, when I was never quite sure whether he was talking on or off the record, he was fairly explicit about them to me. But really, the habit of simplifying his life into one inexorable downward spiral winds me up time and time again; it reminds me, too, how glib writers can come across – and i’ve certainly been guilty of this – when they try and psychoanalyse their subjects. Continue reading