Coming just weeks after the release of his memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Jeff Tweedy’s proper solo debut, WARM, can’t help but feel a little confessional. Musically, the 11 songs don’t seem markedly different from his 20-plus years leading Wilco, but chronicling his family’s history and his struggles with addiction in the book forced changes in the writing style of an artist whose most acclaimed album opens with the line “I am an American aquarium drinker/I assassin down the avenue.” “My mind has always been inclined to pick out little details and paint around the edges of a scene, so I had to force myself to find the core of the story and paint a picture more clearly,” Tweedy tells Apple Music. “And then I felt like I had to stay in that mindset to write lyrics.” Like the newly minted storyteller he is, he takes us through WARM track by track.
Bombs Above “A person I was in rehab with said this thing to me about suffering. But it kind of predates me really digging in in earnest on the book, so that kind of shoots my theory to shit.”
Some Birds “This is me trying to be more direct about feeling helpless and not knowing what to do with my anger these days. I hope it doesn’t come off as cynical though. It’s a pretty dark period, but it’s worth the effort to care and to believe. I hope that’s the part of the record that comes through the most.”
Don’t Forget “That song maybe set the tone and laid the groundwork for this more direct approach and has the most direct connection to the book. Early on, the lyrics to that song were more oblique.”
How Hard It Is for a Desert To Die “The things we think of as the most severe and unforgiving environments still have a rich, deep life to them. And some of the worst experiences I’ve had have given my life the most shape and I’ve learned the most from. I think that’s what this is about.”
Let’s Go Rain “I was playing solo acoustic shows and wanted to play some new material. And almost every night, I could get people to sing along with this song they’d never heard. So, if you’re looking for affirmation, that’s pretty great.”
From Far Away “The drums seem so disjointed and unrelated to the song, but it somehow still all holds together. And the lyrics are about the same thing: We all feel pretty separate and different from each other, but the further you zoom out, the more it all holds together.”
I Know What It’s Like “I just didn’t know of another song that used that phrase. It seems almost too obvious, but it’s exactly what I want to say to people who are going through something. At the same time, it’s testing the limits of empathy—nobody really ever knows what somebody else is going through.”
Having Been Is No Way To Be “Peter Ivers had a TV show in the ’80s called New Wave Theatre and was murdered. He had a fascinating career—he wrote that song ‘In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)’ from Eraserhead, he was a harmonica virtuoso and played with Muddy Waters. This started off as me trying to fit a whole bunch of that into a song and then giving up and just making it about myself. That’s more like most of my songs—skirting around the edges of something until something else appears.”
The Red Brick and Warm (When the Sun Has Died) “These two songs are both reactions to the same set of circumstances. The first is a more violent reaction and, in my opinion, an unsustainable one. And the second is the way I truly feel: There is an innate hope that it’s not worth my effort to kill.”
How Will I Find You? “I never know where to put longer songs on an album, except either first or last. I was trying to imagine what someone like my father, who believed in an afterlife, would be thinking while looking for my mom, who died before him. If there’s really something like a Heaven the way that most people picture it, this seemed like a really sad and lonely thought.”
How Hard It Is for a Desert To Die
Let's Go Rain
From Far Away
I Know What It's Like
Having Been Is No Way to Be
The Red Brick
Warm (When the Sun Has Died)
How Will I Find You?
11 Songs, 40 Minutes
November 30, 2018
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