“That image of me as the pale, morose artist, the only people that really buy into it are journalists. They go with the cliche. They don’t really care if it fits or not. It’s always kind of ridiculous to compare what somebody’s doing with records made 30 years ago with only a very passing resemblance. Comparisons don’t take up very much space. I guess that’s their appeal.”
“The thing I really wanted to help do with this film is shift the mythology of Elliott Smith, the sad-sack, depressed guy who made depressed music, the junkie, blah blah blah, when all the other stories I was getting from his friends were, he was this incredibly creative, generous, funny, great-to-be-around friend, brother, lover. He was so much more than how the media summed him up at the end of his life. It was, “Depressed singer-songwriter guy does himself in.” There was so much more to celebrate in Elliott’s career than, ‘yup, sad guy, possibly killed himself.’ There was all this music! And it’s all really amazing music. So why aren’t we remembering that part? Continue reading →
“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.”
“‘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.”
“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.”
“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 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.”