…or Jefferson Parsnip or Substack Lightning or Heaven Has A Paywall or whatever we end up calling this thing here. Basically it’s Jeff Tweedy (me) digging a little deeper into the types of connections one can make with strangers when one shuts off a few of the filters neurotic worry brings, and lets shit fly.
I know I’ve shared a lot — been pretty prolific for a scary long time now. But a couple of things happened this past year (which I’ll get to in a sec) that have me craving a bit more of a direct experience with my collaborators (you). Social media has never quite met these needs for me. Occasionally I’ve dabbled with Tweets and whatnot, but I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on the reason for the emptiness I feel trying to engage with all of you folks while using those formats.
So, here’s what happened. When the pandemic hit blah blah blah blah… Ok I’ll spare you the wind up. Shortest way to put it is this — I think I started to miss having an audience, and I was confronted with the very real prospect that audiences might be hard to find for a long while, and if and when they came back, they might never be the same. Well, you know how they say you don’t miss your water until you don’t have any goddamn water at all and you’re super fucking thirsty? (I’m paraphrasing.) Now, I know, if you’ve been paying any attention to me over time, you might be surprised by the idea that I’d have such a warm glow discussing the notion of an audience. I was surprised too. Thorny. That’s the word I’ve seen used quite frequently to describe my presence on a stage. Anyway, I’ll resist the digressive urge to delve into the not-so-subtle distinctions between an audience (lovely) and a crowd (dickheads) and just tell you what happened when I confronted the psychological need to share, entertain, think and commiserate outwardly.
First, I started writing songs like crazy. Like even more than my normal fairly steady output. And I started sharing a song a day with some close friends, and felt the simple joy of making something for a very specific set of ears. I got tons of thoughtful feedback and an occasional dismissal, but the stakes remained extraordinarily low. And yet the reward felt so outsized to the risk I was taking. I knew my friends were going to listen each day in the same spirit that the songs were being delivered. There was a common feeling of connection through the stuff we were all making as we struggled to make sense out of such a strange time.
Which leads me to the second amazing thing that happened. My wife got an idea after seeing some of Wilco’s longest-running fans’ heartbreaking posts online over our canceled shows. She got the very deep, empathic notion that these weren’t just rock shows being canceled, and that the hole being left unfilled was somehow bigger than just missing someone’s favorite band coming to town. It felt more like a community being separated and families being distanced, which of course is what was happening for everyone. So totally separate from my own awareness of audience withdrawal (I’m not even sure it had sunk in yet) she suggested we start an Instagram live stream on her account. Her point was this — there are no stages anymore, so let’s allow people into our home to see how much we’re all going through the same thing, and both cope and share how we’re coping by letting people in. Many of Wilco’s most devoted fans had befriended Susie after years of attending some of the more die-hard events like benefits etc., so she was sure there would be at least some crossover with the followers expressing such loss and sadness.
And that’s what we did. And holy shit was she right (she always is… hi honey 👋). Almost immediately, bunches of people showed up on her account, and watched me take a bath, of all things. I didn’t even play a song. We just hung out for a bit in the bathroom with around 150 or so of our closest “clients.” The next night we went live again and played some songs and basically hung out the way our family always hangs out. Next thing you know, we had a theme song and title sequence for what we’ve come to call “The Tweedy Show.” Now we’re getting close to the 200th episode of our crazy bathtime check-in. And Wilco’s finally getting back on the road, so it looks like The Tweedy Show will be on hiatus for a while. I’m so ready to rock again! But honestly, I’m not so into the idea of letting go of this feeling of community that built itself around our nightly unscripted forays.
So that’s what has led me here. I really want this (Starship Casual or Goofball Gazette or Shoddy Kerning Quarterly) to be an extension of that experience, and to put into practice some of the insight I’ve gained about my past attempts to make social media feel worthwhile and honest to me. It’s the community I’ve always missed. For me, blue checks or not, I'm not sure anyone is really themselves — or who they say they are. So I’m gonna settle in here and share all kinds of things with an added emphasis on a feeling of direct interaction. What do you want to know? Need advice? I’m here. I always have way more music recorded than I could ever put out and I can’t wait to share a ton of stuff you’ve never heard. I’d like to talk about things I’m working on. Share some of the many stories from 30+ years on the road. Tell you about things I love (mostly other people’s records and books… oh and people, too). Maybe I’ll share some songwriter’s thoughts about how and why some of my favorite songs work. Mostly I just want to be here where you can find me. If you need me. Because I like you. Let’s spend some time together. OxO Jeffy
PS— So why the paywall?
Well, good question. I’d like to point out that at least half of what I’ll be doing here will be free. However, after a year and a half with no shows and close to 200 totally free live streams, we’ve come to the conclusion that I should in fact get paid for what I do occasionally. I really think it’s gonna be worth it if you have the spare cash. And it’s easy to gift subscriptions if you know someone on a tighter budget that might like this kind of thing. Anyway, times are tough all over... but it could always be worse. Talk soon.