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10 years later: Remembering musician Elliot Smith

Elliott Smith, of Montrose, Colo., sings
Elliott Smith, of Montrose, Colo., sings "Miss Misery" from the film "Good Will Hunting" at the 70th Academy Awards in Los Angeles Monday, March 23, 1998. Smith was nominated for Best Achievement in Music Original Song.

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Believe it or not, its been 10 years since LA-based musician Elliott Smith died violently at his home in Echo Park. 

Despite his immense success in an industry in which very few people make it, Smith suffered from depression and drug abuse, ultimately leading to his death at just 34 years old. He left behind a canon of music that was incredibly beautiful, and often incredibly sad. 

"Torment Saint" is the title of a new book about the life, work and tragic death of Elliott Smith by William Todd Schultz. He joins the show to tell us more about Smith's life and music. 

Interview Highlights:

On the first time he heard Smith's music: 
"I wandered into the study of our home in Portland, Oregon, and my daughter had I think it was "Waltz No. 2" playing on the computer. My daughter went to Lincoln High School where Elliott also went, and it was just one of those "eureka!" moments where I was like 'Who is this guy? This music is spectacular.' From then it was a pretty short step from thinking I might want to do a book about him."

On Smith's earliest foray into music:
"He was a little bit of a prodigy, I believe. I do believe he was a songwriting genius. In sixth-grade when he was about 13 or so he started to become friends with this group of guys that he knew from band in Texas. Band is really huge in Texas. Elliott played clarinet and they played other instruments. 

"One of his friends, a guy named Steve Pickering, who went by the nickname "Pickle," his dad had a four-track reel to reel setup. So they just started writing songs together. About 90 percent of them were Elliott compositions, but they started writing songs together and they just got into this recording mania. I've been lucky enough to listen to a lot of those songs from sixth-grade, seventh-grade, eighth-grade, really ambitious, fairly complex compositions for a 13-,14-, 15-year-old."

Smith was in a band in Portland called Heatmiser, which was pretty successful, but he decided to go out on his own. Why did do you think he left that band?
"One thing he didn't like was the way his voice sounded in Heatmiser. He didn't feel like it was authentic or it was the best way for him to express what he wanted to express musically. A lot of the songs that ended up on his first couple of records, "Roman Candle" and the self-titled record "Elliott Smith," they were actually made when Elliott was still in Heatmiser. 

"He would just record these songs as a sort of form of note taking because he had them written, he had them in his head. He didn't always feel they would be appropriate for the Heatmiser format so he would be recording all of these songs at the same time that he was in Heatmiser, and I think those songs just became more artistically satisfying."

Needle In The Hay

Miss Misery video