An Open Letter to Jeff Tweedy

Dear Jeff,

I recently finished your book and felt compelled to write you a letter. This isn’t my typical response to a book I enjoy. Usually I praise the book to someone I know will like appreciate it as I do, then I put it in their hands. I don’t know anyone who would enjoy it as much as I did, and I’m not giving it away.

I should probably disclose that I am not your biggest fan. I like Wilco, enough to see you back in 1996 at The Coach House, and I bought Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but I hadn’t actively sought out your music until recently, when I happened to hear “California Stars.” I thought it would be fun to learn, a good jam song, and it is.  I’m only telling you to say that I am not star-stuck, not by any means. I’m not intoxicated by some fandom, but I am a writer and rookie guitar player who feels moved by your book.

Right from the start, I enjoyed your voice and felt like I was listening to a friend. I didn’t expect you to be so funny. Or so personable.

I could go on about all the parts I related to, but I’ll jump to the part that felt like a mirror; the passage about your willingness to be vulnerable being your superpower. That paragraph literally took my breath away. I had to close the book for a minute and reflect on it. I had the sensation someone walked right into my head, looked around, and put into words the way I felt. I’m kind of known for being self-aware and expressive, so this rattled me. To hear someone put my feelings into different words in a way that made even more sense was unnerving.

I usually describe myself as a non-perfectionist. A work in progress. I give myself permission to be a beginner, a learner. Not being a perfectionist allows me to strive to do better, but also to share my art shamelessly. I don’t know where it comes from, but I’d guess my desire to connect with someone with my art supersedes the desire to get it right. Some people think I have an abundance of confidence, some say I’m brave. But I’m not. I just think it is okay to share my efforts. In fact, I can’t stop myself.

There are many things we have in common, from music taste to an alcohol problem that changed into an opiate addiction, to recovery, and so much more. We are obviously different in more ways than not, but your ability to express your feelings, your love for your friends, confusion when relationships went awry, along with your need to put it on the table – all these things resonated so strongly that I knew I had to write about it. I don’t know who will read this letter. Not you. Maybe another fan. Maybe no one. But I had to write it.

I wrote a song today. It wasn’t my first; I’m still very new at song writing. What is significant about this one was that I took to heart what you said about “melody is king.” I write lyrics first, but I tried your mumble method and can see why you do it it that way. That tip alone was worth way more than the price of the book. Thank you for that.

I could go on, but no need. Your’s is a book I will refer to again and again. One that I won’t give away, but will highlight and earmark. Thank you for writing it. Thank you for sharing your art with us and giving insight to your craft. Thank you for baring your soul and mirroring mine back to me.

Gratefully,

Not your biggest fan, but a friend

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