What’s rock dude Jeff Tweedy doing at the Auckland Writers Festival?

by Russell Baillie / 13 March, 2019
Jeff Tweedy. Photo/Supplied

Jeff Tweedy. Photo/Supplied

The rock star author of this year’s Auckland Writers Fest is an actual rock star.

He’s been here half a dozen times before, played everything from Big Day Outs to town halls to all-star collaborations with Neil Finn. Now, Jeff Tweedy of respected American band Wilco is returning to New Zealand. But he will be here as a writer rather than songwriter — he’s to appear at the Auckland Writers Festival in May on the back of this memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.

His appearances at the festival’s gala night and in a Friday night headline slot are Tweedy’s only NZ dates before an Australian tour for his recent solo album Warm.

The festival is promising he’ll be singing a few songs after his discussion with former RNZ music host Alex Behan.

In an extensive interview in the new issue of The Listener, he talks about how writing of the rock memoir didn’t come out of being a fan of the genre.

“For some reason I'm allergic to them. I just I just can't bring myself to care.”

The book covers his take on the dramas in his career, including the break-up of his earlier band Uncle Tupelo (a group credited with helping start the Americana country-rock movement), and the line-up upheavals of Wilco’s early days.

He’s also frank about his early noughties addiction to painkillers first prescribed for chronic migraines and a period in rehab. That came near the time Wilco first played in New Zealand at the 2003 Auckland Big Day Out.

“I wasn't probably feeling very good to be honest,” he remembers. “It was towards the end of my active drug addiction so there were a lot of things in between me and the audience.”

Among subsequent, happier visits, Tweedy and members of Wilco played in Neil Finn’s 2009 7 Worlds Collide live and studio supergroup project alongside members of Radiohead and others. Though that excursion under didn’t make the cut in the memoir.

“Well there's a lot of stuff left out. I would only have wonderful things to say about the Finns and our time and every time we've been in New Zealand it's been spectacular.”

Tweedy isn’t the only rock figure in the Auckland festival.

Veteran local musician Shayne Carter will be discussing his forthcoming autobiography Dead People I Have Known with John Campbell in Auckland before launching the book officially in his hometown at the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival later in May.

Jeff Tweedy appears at the Auckland Writers Festival gala night on May 16 and a special event with a musical performance on May 17.


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