Jeff Tweedy on his privacy, the music industry, and the future of Wilco

From The A.V. Club:

Jeff Tweedy is an enigmatic guy. Equal parts emotionally transparent and publicly guarded, the Wilco frontman is embraced by his fans as an everyman, but also revered as deity. Though The A.V. Club talked to Tweedy a little less than a year ago around the release of Wilco’s The Whole Love, we’d be remiss if we didn’t seize the opportunity to dig into his brain a little more before the band headlines A.V. Fest on September 15. Using some reader-submitted questions, The A.V. Club asked Tweedy about his privacy, the state of the music industry, and the future of Wilco.

The A.V. Club: We asked our readers for some questions to ask you. A lot of them were incredibly personal, though. One reader asked if you remembered in 2010 when he had the sniffles at a concert and another asked if you could help him be a good dad. Is it weird, the idea that everyone thinks they know you, or have you come to terms with it over the years?

Jeff Tweedy: I don’t know if I’ve come to terms with it. I think I’m kind of confronted with it infrequently. That might be the case. Mostly I feel flattered that someone has formed that kind of relationship with my music or my persona. I think it’s really sweet. [Laughs.] I don’t know if I’ve come to terms with it because I haven’t really been forced to come to terms with it. I’m not at that level of celebrity where it’s inescapable.

AVC: You seem like kind of a private guy. You’re not having these all-night parties with fans and you don’t have a Twitter account to talk to people. Do you think that perception is true?

JT: Well, I’m not an attention whore I guess. [Laughs.] I don’t know what that’s all about. I didn’t sign up for that. I just wanted to be in a rock band and make music and write songs and stuff. That’s more about actively participating in your celebrity. It’s like an inability to go 10 minutes without somebody saying, “Look at me.” I don’t know. That’s not really being private, I think that’s just being sane.

AVC: You do have to participate in the machine to some extent, though. We’re talking on the phone right now. You can’t just put out a record and disappear into the void. How do you find the balance between what people want you to do and what you want to do?

JT: I think there’s a big difference between being asked questions and answering them. Sometimes it’s a drag to actively have to work to sell records other than just putting them out there and saying, “They’re so great everybody’s going to find it because it’s so amazing.” I don’t believe that. It doesn’t necessarily bother me to talk to people that care a lot about music and have questions about music and work basically in the same business for the most part. I obviously have somewhat of an adversarial relationship with your profession just because that’s the natural order of things.

AVC: This ties into another question: What do you think about the position of most artists in America and making ends meet? Do you think record companies are a good thing in some way, because theoretically they keep musicians more than spottily employed?

JT: That’s somebody that really does not have much understanding of how the record business has worked for decades. Record companies do not keep musicians employed. There’s definitely a place for record labels, but record labels are more like banks than employers. They subsidize things, and you have to pay them back. Really what keeps people employed in the music business is whether or not you are at all able to sell records. That’s really not changed, I don’t think. The only way it’s changed is that it’s more skewed toward the live performance now, and that’s fine by me. That’s the way we’ve kept ourselves alive for a long, long time. If a band can attract an audience or attract some people to see them play, then generally they can work. It’s always been really hard to be a musician and make a living. It’s never been a really sure-fire, rock-solid career choice. [Laughs.] And I think you’re really fucking screwed if that’s what you’re going into it for.

AVC: Or these new bands that are like, “We need to tour to make money.” You’re not going to make money. You’re going to make $150 a night and that’s going to go back into your gas tank. You’re going to split that four ways.

JT: Right. You have to look at it as some sort of adventure. You’ve got to be willing to sleep on people’s floors and be excited about the fact that you can play music for four people five hours away from your hometown. I don’t know. That’s pretty fun. Like camping.

AVC: Do you guys tour more now to make up for record sales?

JT: We tour a lot, and we’ve always toured a lot. It’s more or less on any given year, and some years we’ve been making a little bit more money than we used to for each show on average. Somehow it averages out. Somehow it’s all kind of worked out that we’ve kept up a pretty manageable work schedule and it hasn’t really fluctuated that much. We don’t really rely upon record sales for anything, and we never really have. It’s nice that we make money on a record. That’s great. And we have made a little bit of money on some records. But it’s never put into the budget as something that we have to do.

Continue reading the rest of the story on The A.V. Club