A Talk with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy< < Back to
Jeff Tweedy is a busy man.
Besides being an in-demand record producer and a music festival organizer, the indefatigable 45 year-old is hitting the road this summer with his critically acclaimed band Wilco, playing a number of outdoor fests, including the Nelsonville Music Festival on June 1.
WOUB’s Emily Votaw had the opportunity to ask Tweedy about his summer plans, his recent studio work and how fans can request a song to be played at an upcoming show.
WOUB: I’d like to start by asking you about the Nelsonville Music Festival, since Wilco is playing there next week. How are you preparing?
Jeff Tweedy: (laughs) Aw, the same way we always do. Actually, we really don’t prepare a lot. Ever. We’ve just played together enough that it usually comes together pretty quick. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a new festival for us and I’ve never been there before. It’s certainly a great lineup.
WOUB: I see you’re playing right after Mavis Staples, who you’ve worked with in the past.
JT: It’s great, I look forward to seeing her again. Hopefully there will be some interaction, maybe we’ll get up and play together.
WOUB: Since Wilco’s last album, you’ve kept yourself busy by producing other acts’ albums, including Mavis Staples. Who else have you been working with?
JT: Well, I produced Mavis’ newest record, which is coming out next month, and I produced a record for the band Low that came out last month. I’ve also been working with Sarah Lee Guthrie and her husband, Johnny Irion. They have an album that they recorded at our studio. So, yeah, it’s something I really enjoy doing.
WOUB: I know Wilco plays a lot of requests, and there is even a “request a song feature” on your website. How do you work those into your live performances?
JT: We’ve been doing that for a pretty long time. It’s just a matter of getting to the place we are playing, taking a look at the list of suggestions from the requests list and try and weigh it against it whatever we played the last time we were in the area. We try to make it a different show, as much as possible. But, yeah, anybody who wants to hear anything specific should go to our website and let us know.
WOUB: After the Nelsonville Music Festival, you’ll be playing other fests this summer, including Bonnaroo in June and your own Solid Sound Festival in July. What’s it like, setting up an entire arts and music festival?
JT: Oh, it’s a lot of work. Solid Sound is always an “all hands on deck” sort of thing. You know, doing lots of work, getting the different installations together, and it’s a lot of work for our management. It’s all nuts-and-bolts sort of things, like getting hotel rooms for everybody. It’s a full-on operation, you know. But it’s worth it. It’s such a great time.
WOUB: Any performances you are looking forward to seeing in particular at Solid Sound?
JT: Well, that’s one of the fun parts of setting up your own festival–there isn’t anybody on the bill I don’t want to see. The other two times we’ve done the festival, I’ve been able to check out a little bit of every act. So that’s really what I’m looking forward to again.
WOUB: What can you tell me about the upcoming “Americanarama” tour, which starts next month and continues through August?
JT: Americanarama? Well it’s a crazy tour with Bob Dylan and My Morning Jacket and–I’m not sure–but Richard Thompson is playing some dates, and so is Bob Weir. I think Beck is on one date, and it’s something we’re really exicted about. It’s just going to be…well, I’m not even sure what it’s going to be yet. We’ll definitely play a set, and hopefully there will some interaction will happen between acts…some bonus music.
WOUB: Has the band been doing any recording?
JT: I’ve been getting material together and doing demos and slowly, but surely, making plans for future records, but nothing concrete. Nothing much to report, other than thinking about making a new record.
WOUB: I think of each one of Wilco’s albums as being pretty distinct. How, in your mind, has the band’s sound changed over the course of your career?
JT: Oh, that’s pretty big question. I don’t think we’ve looked at it too much, I don’t think we’ve ever tried to do anything but keep our heads down and make records that we like. I guess over the years that has meant exploring different territories and incorporating different things into the band to stay interested, and that’s what I foresee us continuing to do. But I don’t know how it’s changed, really. To me, the process isn’t that different than in the beginning. It’s just like we use the process we use and the ideas that we use get different results. You know, different records out of those ideas.
WOUB: Wilco has been recording and touring since the mid-’90s. Do you feel like your audience at the live shows has changed at over the years?
JT: It’s really hard to generalize an audience from my perspective. We certainly have some older fans who have grown with the band over the years and it seems like it’s actually pretty diverse age-wise at this point. I don’t really spend much time dwelling on what the demographics are, I’m just happy there are people out there listening.
Wilco will perform at the 2013 Nelsonville Music Festival on Saturday, June 1 at 10 p.m. For more information, visit www.nelsonvillefest.org.