Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy is a direct man, a bandleader who has moved beyond multiple high-profile collisions with bandmates, not to mention a couple of brawls with his own demons. And he’s come out a stronger musician.
When asked about the obstacles he’s faced throughout his lengthy career in alt-country, folk, and rock music — be it a battle with migraine headaches and the painkiller addiction that followed, or the crippling anxiety issues that have made live performances an occasional near-impossibility — Tweedy responded with the casual thoughtfulness that has become his trademark.
“I don’t dwell upon things like that,” Tweedy said. “That’s one of the ways I’ve been able to get better. I haven’t really dwelled on the things I’ve struggled with any longer than I had to. I take care of myself, and I also know they take a certain amount of maintenance.”
Tweedy clearly finds therapy in music. Wilco’s output is among the most consistent in modern rock and roll, allowing two years between releases (on average) and touring incessantly. The band’s latest, “The Whole Love,” was released in September, revealing a slightly different, more mature sound for the band while still relying on the experimental noises and tactics of its beloved opus “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”
Like any other band, Wilco writes music and releases records so it can tour — thus paying the bills with concert revenues. But Tweedy has an artful way of talking about the dynamic relationship between the two sides of music: recording a song and playing it live.
“It’s nice to have new material to play,” Tweedy said. “It’s a reason for people to see you again. It’s a calling card for your live show. I don’t think it hurts anything to put more music in the world. ... But it’s a way to stay connected to the thing that is most important. Because being inspired to create has been the most important aspect that has brought me to this point in my life.
“I enjoy playing in front of an audience too. I enjoy the connection. The whole point is, I’ve always had a desire to connect. Making music and making songs up is an effort to connect in one way, and playing them is another way of connecting — but it’s a part of the same thing. It’s a desire to have a connection with people you don’t really know.”