Monday, September 8, 2008


Listen to MISS MISERY (EARLY VERSION) by Elliott Smith.
Listen to MISS MISERY (PIANO VERSION) by Elliott Smith.

"The places I used to play were like punk clubs -- especially in Portland. But Gus Van Sant used to come and see me play. We just kind of became friends. I'm not so sure I knew much about him at the time. I knew he made movies and that they were considered sort of indie. Initially we hit it off because he also records. We would talk about microphones and sing the praises of 57s -- really underrated mics." Most of you probably know what happened next, but in case you don't: In 1997 Van Sant made his first studio blockbuster hit with the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck-penned Good Will Hunting. Van Sant decided to use a few of Smith’s songs for the soundtrack to the film, and the whole thing blew up in front of Smith’s face, resulting in an Academy Award nomination for his original song "Miss Misery."

"I didn't intend to play it, but then they said that if I didn't play it, they would get someone else to play the song. So for all the songwriters who don’t want to perform their songs, they’d get someone like Richard Marx to do it. I think when they said that they had done their homework on me a little bit. Or maybe Richard Marx is a universal scare tactic." In the end, Smith did perform on the Oscar's, and it still remains one of the most surreal nights of his life. "It was kind of ridiculous," he says. "But at a certain point I threw myself into it because it seemed to make my friends happy. You know, all of my friends were like, 'One of us is on the moon!' When really I was on this ridiculous awards show playing this song. It was a little weird. I walked out and Jack Nicholson was sitting about six feet away, so I avoided that area and I looked up at the balcony in the back and sang the song. It was surreal enough that it didn’t seem like it happened to me."

Although the Academy Awards ceremony didn't sit too well with Smith, and he, as well as his bright white suit, was trashed on television, he says it did force him to change his mind about Celine Dion, who performed right after he did. "She was really sweet, which has made it impossible for me to dislike Celine Dion anymore. Even though I can't stand the music that she makes -- with all due respect I don't like it much at all -- but she herself was very, very nice. She asked me if I was nervous and I said, 'Yeah.' And she was like, 'That's good because you get your adrenaline going, and it'll make your song better. It's a beautiful song.' Then she gave me a big hug. It was too much. It was too human to be dismissed simply because I find her music trite."

Photo: All is forgiven (1).



Corbett said...

The 57 is the greatest mic ever. Better than a Neumann.

bill said...

In "researching" this series, it seems like Smith was a pretty big tech guy. No surprise really, but I knew you would like to see a little recording dorkery in there