Before I saw his picture


“Before I saw his picture when he tragically died in 2003, I had no idea that singer-songwriter Elliott Smith was my old friend Steve Smith. We were both clear outsiders at our Texas middle school and he (being a masterful fighter) protected me from the school bullies. Now I recognize him for his artistic genius and rich contribution to music. This morning, when I played Elliott Smith’s album XO in the car, my son Aidan remarked, “His music makes me feel strange – both happy and sad at the same time. There aren’t many musicians I can think of that do that.” I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks, Steve, for your voice.”

Andreas Engel

I’ve been thinking of the kids we went to school with

“As the Class of 89’s 30-year high school reunion approaches, I’ve been thinking of the kids we went to school with. My Facebook feed is a flood of pictures and memories. Some pictures make me laugh, some cause confusion, some bring – most bring – all of the insecurity back.
That knot in the stomach.

Some pictures and the memories they trigger make me curious about what life would have been like if had been a little more courageous, a little more of myself. Mostly, I am astonished by how interesting these children have become. And these are just the children who were in my class. There are so many more who were older or younger who I watched from afar who went on to the extraordinary. Continue reading

I didn’t know Elliott Smith. I knew a Steve Smith


“I didn’t know Elliott Smith. I knew a Steve Smith. He and I went to the same school in Duncanville, TX, a Dallas suburb. He had blonde hair, and a characterful, acne-scarred face, even as a thirteen year old. He was quiet, older kid, with a demeanor that implied intelligence and maturity. It’s possible he wasn’t mature for his age, but at the time I imagined he was. I liked and respected the guy, even though I didn’t know him that well. The fact that he was also a year older than me—an 8th grader—didn’t hurt his image, either. That made him almost as intimidating as a teacher.
I wasn’t friends with Steven Paul Smith (who later changed his name to Elliott Smith). I was friends with his friends. I very briefly dated a girl he once dated. I wasn’t in a band with Elliott Smith, but I did play in rock bands with a few guys who, reportedly, played in Elliott’s first band. Pathetic joke: actually, I did play in one band with Elliott Smith: The Byrd Junior High Symphonic Band. He played clarinet; I played xylophone and snare drum. I was sometimes first chair; he was almost always first chair. Continue reading

Elliott Smith went to my high school



“Elliott Smith, or Steve Smith as his yearbook picture says, went to my high school. He was a senior when I was a freshman. I’m not that familiar with where he came from, but I remember seeing him play in this prog rock band and he had a pink paisley guitar. They were called Stranger Than Fiction and he was a great musician so I think I looked up to him. He’s an amazing guitarist. The guy would never remember me from high school. If anything he’d remember me from bands we played in high school.”

Josh England

The first thing that happened

©Timothy Greenfield Sanders

“The first thing that happened when I moved to Portland was that I got assigned a locker partner who was supposed to shepherd me around this new place and be my pal or whatever and he stole my Walkman, like, the second day. It was weird. There were no fights but there were mass cliques and just weird attitude, you know, a very ’80s, Breakfast Club kind of situation, which I couldn’t relate to at all.”

Elliott Smith

In Junior High, I joined the school band

©Steve Pickering – Kevin Denbow, Elliott, Mark Merritt, Steve Pickering

“In Junior High, I joined the school band where I learned to play the trombone but the guitar was still my so-called passion. I met up with some friends who had similar addictions and we began getting together for youthful jam sessions with the notion that we would all become future rock stars. It should be noted that it was during this time (puberty, mind you) that I realized that some chicks were kinda into guys who played guitar. This was a somewhat unexpected yet welcome event, albeit one that did not help my social status one iota. My friends Steve Smith and Steven Pickering, my best buds at the time, started opening up my musical mind to other types of music, particularly, rock. Continue reading

It was pretty obvious that he and his stepdad didn’t get along

bunnyandcharlie (1)

“It was pretty obvious that he and his stepdad didn’t get along. I just attributed that, at the time, to that natural inherent resentment a lot of kids have towards their stepparents. The ‘you’re not my dad’ thing. Charlie did come off as an authority figure. Charlie would be like, ‘No, you can’t come out and play this weekend, you have to stay and mow the yard.’ I remember it being a bone of contention more  than it should be, and Steve being just ‘grr’ about it. I think about that time I remember Steve becoming an anti-authoritarian. That was probably how a lot of kids felt about their stepparents. I remember a couple of conversations where he specifically was angry at Charlie but it was nothing at the time I construed as exceptional.”

Steve Pickering

Were you at college with Elliott Smith? I was.

dontfollow2 (1)

“Were you at college with Elliott Smith? I was. I remember him very, very slightly. I remember some band that he was in, vaguely. I remember not liking it very much. I remember his friends seemed like jocks at Hampshire. His music is pretty earnest. Yeah, he was kind of on a different wavelength than Hampshire, than my cohorts. He wasn’t in one of the more important Hampshire bands of the day.”

Richard Rushfield