“Creating in spite of illness, not because of it” | Jeff Tweedy

Photo by Jason Green.

It’s a good thing that the Turnpike Troubadours had to reschedule at the Pageant, because the first venue that was booked for this event would have exploded with people and love. As it was, the event for Jeff Tweedy’s book, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. (published earlier this month by Dutton) packed the Pageant as easily as if it were a concert.

Tweedy took the stage with Jon Hamm, actor and St. Louisan, and it was clear from the start that the two had a close friendship. Hamm set the tone for a warm, sweet conversation that ranged between family, friends, and fame. They discussed Tweedy’s musical career, starting in Belleville, Ill., and clubs in St. Louis to the Grammy’s where he was mistaken for a seat filler when he was instead a nominee.

“First rule, I’m not going to talk about the drugs. Just kidding, of course I am.” In a thoughtful way, Tweedy talked about his addiction to painkillers and the process of becoming free of them. Hesitant to write a memoir at his young age, he was encouraged that someone might be helped by his earnest and honest description of his own problems with addiction.

They discussed his free-range childhood in Belleville, where a series of near misses and three pieces of rebar going through his leg led to him picking up a guitar. He’d already told people he knew how to play it, and with weeks in recovery, he finally learned.

The inherent charisma and charm that make Jeff Tweedy such a fascinating artist started early. At age 8, he’d told people that he wrote Born to Run. Not the song—the album.

Creativity is the thread that surfaces over and over in his life. “Creating in spite of illness, not because of it. Playing music together with my Dad was our playing catch.”

The event, hosted beautifully by Left Bank Books, was a homecoming in more ways than one. The crowd felt as if they knew Jeff Tweedy before they got there. There were childhood friends in the audience, a sympathetic and encouraging response to discussing his father’s passing, and cheers when his wife and sons were mentioned. It felt as if we were eavesdropping on a living room conversation between two old friends. (Even though Hamm described himself as a Wilco fangirl.)

Towards the end of the show, Tweedy said,” It would be good if everyone identified themselves as a creator. People still play softball even though they fucking suck at it. It’s good to move your body, but it’s just as good to move your mind as well. Just draw something, for fuck’s sake. You have to sound bad and you have to keep trying. Even now, I still make bad songs and it doesn’t hurt anyone. You’re just killing time without hurting yourself or anybody else.” | Melissa Cynova

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