Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

6. Elliott Smith – Either/Or

This album is my album of his albums. It connects very well to being a teenager and being severely depressed. [Laughs] I wonder when I got that … Maybe 14, 15, 16? I don’t remember. All those years morph together anyway. Growing up I was really shy, but then I phased into being a class clown. Somehow around 15, when shit started getting real, I really retreated back into being morbidly shy. Everything was internal. I had even moved school, I got sick and was moving in and out of the hospital a lot with Crohn’s Disease, I was on a shitload of antidepressants too. It was a really weird time, and I didn’t really have any reference point to how I was supposed to feel. I felt crazy, and this album became a really good companion to me. I truly loved all of it. It’s so hard to talk about something that you love that much.

Especially because these albums are attached to the most formative moments in your life, and Either/Or is one of those albums that hits on most people’s lists, because paradoxically Elliott Smith feels like an intimate companion here. Is good art possible without coming from a place of conflict and deep emotion? Do you feel as if suffering is an inherent part of art?

I don’t think depression is, and definitely not addiction. But sadness is. I think you can be content, you can be healthy, and still have moments of deep sadness. A lot of the songs that I made that people consider quite depressing were written in, comparatively, the happiest moments of my life. [Laughs] I don’t glamorise it at all, but I think it was important to hear someone that was using it, that was making something out of it. I felt very stuck and was just wandering around with this heavy void. It was inspiring to hear someone that either came from that, someone that still had it, and made something from it, something beautiful and human. Depression doesn’t feel human. It feels very clinical, very empty.

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