"AVC: Back when you were with Uncle Tupelo, did you find working beside a songwriter as strong as Jay Farrar daunting or inspiring?
JT: I didn't find it daunting. I was very taken with Jay at a young age. Even before I played in a band, or played guitar, I was a classmate of Jay's. He was always a mysterious, kind of big character, even though he was very, very quiet. He seemed to possess some knowledge that everybody else didn't have. I was really inspired to work hard, not only on my songs, but on helping bring his songs to life. I worked so hard at getting better as a songwriter, because I wanted our records, the things that we were doing together, to be awesome. I wanted to write something that sounded good next to his songs. I never felt daunted—I felt much more inspired.
AVC: In the early days of Uncle Tupelo, you seemed to be more the spokesman for the band in the press.
JT: Well, Jay's just so socially awkward that it was by default that it fell on my shoulders to talk. It was so painfully uncomfortable to be in a room with him, for me at least. Jay and I are just so different. He sort of appeared to be comfortable with making people uncomfortable by not saying very much. I could never be that way. So I always spoke up. I answered the questions. I got tired of waiting, most of the time.
AVC: Back when you were a young rock 'n' roll fan, were you ever let down by a band that went in directions you weren't expecting?
JT: No, I honestly can say I don't ever remember feeling that proprietarily toward any band. [Laughs.] There have definitely been bands that changed and I lost interest. But I didn't hold it against them. It wasn't something they did to me, like they disappointed me or let me down, because they still had their other records that I loved. And honestly, I've never made a record other than No Depression that people didn't say something like that about. Still Feel Gone was way too polished and produced. March was obviously a big disappointment because it didn't have any electric guitars on it. And so on.
My question is: Could anybody imagine the Wilco record that would make everybody happy? I can't imagine it. So you're confronted with that reality—anything you do is going to be a disappointment to somebody. We just have to do what we do, and that's make a record that we fuckin' like. [Laughs.] We really don't have any other options. If we'd made a record that followed up on every impulse and stylistic sensibility that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had going for it, can you imagine the criticism? Not to mention that it would be impossible for us.
I hope I don't sound too defensive here. I don't want to come across as being up in arms about any of this. I just have a very pragmatic approach. I understand that a lot of people aren't going to see it, or aren't interested in seeing it. But that doesn't really have anything to do with me."
The whole interview is