Recently, the subject of musicians’ memoirs came up in a discussion between myself and Austin-based singer-songwriter Terry Klein. (See my review of Terry’s show.) Terry commented that he is disappointed in how little most of them have to say about songwriting. I replied that it’s understandable from a marketing perspective. As a musician and a critic, Terry and I are far more interested in the creative process than the average fan. The average fan who buys a memoir is likely more interested in the tawdry details of an artist’s life.
Wilco, however is not an average band, bridging between the No Depression crowd and experimental pop. It doesn’t attract average fans, and the typical buyer of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy’s memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) is probably looking for a different kind of book. Tweedy delivers a different and wonderful memoir, shining insight into the artistic process and the music business while still providing enough autobiography to fill out the book. Like Tweedy’s music, Let’s Go is well-written, insightful, at times irreverent and at times experimental.
Let’s Go really shines in Tweedy’s discussion of his creative process. Tweedy goes into depth about his songwriting, providing context for songs and albums going back to Uncle Tupelo. Beyond simply explaining the context of songs, Tweedy talks about how he writes them. He provides concrete discussions of the exercises he uses to generate lyrics and sounds. Without spoiling the details, Tweedy’s methods are fascinating, and some may find them maddening. But anyone with an interest in how artists make music will be enthralled.
Tweedy discusses his life history with candor and humor. From his personal to his family’s demons, to his marriage and children, Tweedy bares it here. Tweedy talks about how his addictions at the very least accelerated the demise of Uncle Tupelo, and he discusses what it took to get clean. Tweedy, who calls himself “moderately successful,” provides a dose of reality in discussing the financial exigencies of life as a musician, especially when he talks about the limited options he faced in going to rehab.
I recommend the physical version of this book. Let’s Go contains a short graphic format story illustrating how Tweedy and his wife Sue met. It’s utterly charming, and it won’t translate to audio. I was able to walk into Barnes & Noble and purchase signed copies for myself and a friend at the standard retail price. I don’t know how many signed copies are floating around retail anymore, but you can certainly find them online, and it would make a wonderful gift for the Tweedy devotee in your life. Also, check out his recent album: REVIEW: Jeff Tweedy’s WARM is Philosophical Questions and Personal Suffering