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In This Lost Interview, Elliott Smith Reveals How He Found His Unique Voice

PBS delivers an intimate, animated interview with the late musician in a new episode of “Blank on Blank.”

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It’s hard to imagine Elliott Smith screaming anything.

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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.

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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