the wilco book

jeff tweedy on writing a ghost is born

“People take what they need from songs and leave out the rest of the story. Sometimes you want to spell everything out, but I’ve found that when I try to do that, I don’t have much interest in singing those songs for very long. It’s best if I’ve left enough windows or holes in it for myself so that the meaning can shift and I can integrate myself into it over time. The easiest way to do that is to be a really brutal editor, to pull out things that aren’t just essence, to leave an impression of the original story—so that there’s different ways to shade it over time. It’s like when you have your heart broken, and you turn on the radio, and every song is about you specifically, and your situation. I love that, I love that humans do that. We look for that structure and can identify it. I don’t know if you can really consciously try and construct those open spaces, but you have to leave those holes there, as opposed to filling them and making the story airtight. Like “Muzzle of Bees”—it’s very, very direct in some ways. There’s a very specific message on an answering machine. The rest of it seems to be almost simultaneous—like having one or two lines that just poke out and speak in a direct way and crack the facade enough for the listener to be aware that there’s a consciousness on the other end of it—like “I’ve been puking.” Just so they realize that it’s not just a disembodied voice—you can feel a consciousness lurking under there.

In the end, you make this record, put all these ideas into it, and accept it. And accept that it’s hard playing, and unschooled, and romantic, and passionate. Accept that you cried making it. I can’t listen to “At Least That’s What You Said,” when the music comes in, when the drums come in, without crying. It sounds like a panic attack to me. It’s representational, you know. The second half of the solo when the guitar becomes more frantic is unsettling to me in a really beautiful way. It says more than anything I’ve ever written lyrically, and it just happened.

Those are things that we really couldn’t have made happen but were hoping would happen if we had faith in our process. It’s an awful lot of highfalutin shit to say about a rock record. But that means the world to me. It’s pretentious—that’s the word for it. But I don’t know anything that isn’t based on pretense.”

ily, jeff. 


Wilco // Hummingbird (Alternate Version)

An alternate reality/alternate version of “Hummingbird” that showed up on the Wilco Book disc. Glenn Kotche’s hammered dulcimer for the win. I like the original version better, but in another world, this could’ve been a nice reprise to fade into after “Less Than You Think.”