One day when I was the Features Editor at Time Out Chicago, I got a call from Wilco’s publicist: She wanted a cover story on the band and promised an “exclusive.” In the end, I got 45 minutes with Jeff Tweedy and some phone time with Wilco’s guitarist Nels Cline and bassist John Stirratt. I also tracked down former Wilco member Jay Bennett (R.I.P.), who many saw as key to their unique sound on the widely adored Summerteeth album. I was very proud of the story, and thought it turned out really well. Tweedy, however, wasn’t quite as pleased with it and hasn’t spoken to Time Out since. (Time Out Chicago, May 10-16, 2007)

Time Out Chicago

May 10, 2007

Jeff Tweedy has a problem: No one believes he’s not miserable.

“I was in Spain, doing an interview for this TV show, and this woman kept saying, ‘Jeff, your songs are so sad—why are your songs so sad?’ ” he recalls. “And I was like, ‘Well no, actually, on the new album….’ But she just wasn’t believing it. And after the interview was over, she said, ‘It’s okay, Jeff, I know you’re sad. And I like that!’ ” he says with a chuckle.

But Tweedy isn’t sad these days. In fact, it seems he might be, well, almost…happy. His band Wilco is about to release the first studio album with its latest lineup, including widely acclaimed improvisational-jazz guitarist Nels Cline. Tweedy, married with two sons, is out of rehab for a painkiller addiction, and he’s discovered a regimen that’s ended the debilitating migraines and anxiety attacks that plagued him for years.

“I think that my life is better than it’s ever been—I’m really healthy and in shape, and I don’t even smoke anymore,” he says.

The album, titled Sky Blue Sky, reflects that newfound fulfillment. The first song, “Either

Way,” begins with a gently plucked guitar and the lyrics, “Maybe the sun will shine today/The clouds will blow away…” Soon, violins and keyboards kick in as Tweedy sings, “I will try to understand/ Everything has its plan, either way.”

“I think there’s an idea of acceptance on the record, and being content with the way things
are, good or bad,” Tweedy says.

Which is wonderful. No one wants to be miserable, and Tweedy certainly has paid his dues. After the band began streaming Sky Blue Sky on its website (wilcoworld.net) in March, some fans gave the album the adoration typically heaped on Wilco releases: “ ‘Impossible Germany’ is one of the best songs Wilco has ever made,” reads one post at MetaFilter.com. “That’s how you make an album—thank you, Wilco,” another listener posted at Stereogum.com.

And yet, to other ardent Wilco fans…

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