I recently stumbled across an older interview between Stopsmiling magazine and Wilco’s frontman Jeff Tweedy. I found some of the things that Tweedy was saying about creating music and the lack of control he has over the way it is received by the world at large to be interesting.
STOPSMILING:Now that Uncle Tupelo/No Depression mythology of your first band has really come to pass, do labels scare you? The way people typecast music? Does being typecast worry you a little bit – as a human being and a songwriter?
Jeff Tweedy: Not at all. I think one of the healthiest things I ever learned out of all of this is that you don’t have any control over what the world makes of what you do. It’s something that you can’t help but think about. I think you’re lying if you say you don’t think about it – what your hopes are about, how people perceive what you do. But the more energy you spend trying to control that, the more you’re diminishing your energy for the parts you can control. You can control how much you enjoy it, how much you’re present for the process, how much you grow, how much you enjoy what you’re doing. All those things you can control or have some elements of control over. But you have zero control over what other people think about it. It’s impossible. It works in really great ways. I believe in that connection in a beautiful way. A lot of times, the world makes something much more rich and beautiful out of it than you could have ever intended, especially in rock music. Think of what the world has made of Elvis Presley compared to what his intentions might have been. You can turn everything off to the point where you can put something really honest and beautiful and powerful on tape and give it to another person – one consciousness at a time. They find enough of themselves in it to pour themselves into it: that’s what the song “The Late Greats” is about on the new record(A Ghost is Born). Everybody talks about it as this literal interpretation of the radio – an element of that is definitely there, but it’s kind of about when you’re listening to a record, where a song is not just being sung. It’s a piece of plastic. It’s being sung inside the listener. It’s an internal process. It might even be more than 50 percent of the equation. To me, it’s probably more important than the side of it that the artist provides. That consciousness is going to try and find that somewhere – whether you made it anything or not. They need to find some way to feel more human. I don’t know how I got this far off on a tangent.
Well, there is a lot to mull over. I think I connect with this idea of “letting go” to some degree, because as I was graduating from SFAI I was so concerned about where meaning resided in my work that it became debilitating. I did not want to take any step without fully “understanding” it first. Currently, I acknowledge that meaning exists in my work, but I also feel that it is futile to try and control it like I once wanted too. I think now it is most important to make something that I really feel and after that the world will understand my work as each person is able to connect with it.
With that said I am going to once again give it back to Jeff Tweedy and Wilco and for anyone who is interested at having a listen to the track he mentioned in his interview, The Late Greats just click the link below.