This is the first in a series of posts I’ll be doing over the next few weeks about the recording process. While we wait for news of a new GPN record it’s interesting and illuminating to look at other artists viewpoints on the process. Feel free to send suggestions of your own for inclusion in the process.
Jeff Tweedy, frontman for Wilco, spoke recently about the recording process and his general thoughts about what “making a record” actually means in GQ.
What Neil Young record have you listened to the most?
Tonight’s the Night. Easily.
Is it your favorite Neil Young album?
Yeah, I think so. If I made a list of my favorite songs from Neil Young’s career, it wouldn’t be all of those songs. It might not even be any of them. It’s more the idea of it as a record. It’s an insight into what a record can be. It’s like an anti-record or something, and something I think that Wilco kind of aspired to at some point. Maybe even to our detriment.
I don’t think you can manufacture that kind of mood or vibe. It was just a document of a place and time. I guess that’s what I mean more than anything. That record informed what it means to take a more documentary approach to record-making. Tonight’s the Night doesn’t feel finished. It also feels like a window into a particularly dark period of his life, and that’s pretty fascinating.
If Wilco were maybe grasping a little too hard at that once upon a time, how is that different now?
I don’t know, it just is. You learn. You just get better at making records. Whether or not they’re records anyone else wants to listen to, you get better at doing it. You get better at making records that you want to listen to.
Recall that Grace echoed a similar conversation with Jeff in an interview last year.
Are you happy with the ultimate result on the last record with that struggle between live and studio sound?
I am proud of it. I would listen to it, I would. But I don’t listen to it. Jeff Tweedy from Wilco told me that one mistake you can make is to overlisten to your own [recorded] music. Just let it be what it is. Just leave it alone – record your record and let it be a moment in time because that’s exactly what you sounded like. Be honest with yourself. I mean, be the best version of yourself –don’t underedit, don’t sell yourself short– but pick the best parts of yourself, put them out there, and then forever from that moment on recognize the fact that that was back when you recorded it, in . . . November of 2006 or whatever, and that that’s not who you are now, and that’s okay.