It’s hard to imagine Elliott Smith screaming anything.
His soft, often vulnerable, voice is a direct reflection of his vocal style that fans of the late musician, who died in mysterious circumstances in 2003, came to love on tracks like “Waltz #2” and “Needle in the Hay.” But in a new Blank on Blank episode, PBS’s animated web series featuring lost interviews with celebrities, Smith reveals in a 1998 conversation with Barney Hoskyns from Rock’s Backpages that to find his own voice, he had to silence a roaring (and false) bravado:
I didn’t like how I sounded singing in my band, but it was hard to sing like how I wanted to because playing live I had to just be at the top of my lungs all the time, and it made me sound like I had a really bad cold or something. It sounds really hoarse and kind of macho and weird. I mean I’ve been doing four-track songs by myself since I was like a teenager, where I’d sing in a way that I…I just didn’t think other people would like it, so I didn’t play it for them but eventually I got over that, which I’m happy that I did, because it’s kind of a drag to be playing a kind of music that you don’t really like as much as another kind.
Hoskyns’ full 43-minute long interview with Smith is available in Rock’s Backpages’ online archive.