Each week, PBS’s Blank on Blank digs into the network’s bountiful archives to present “riveting stories from American newsmakers that might otherwise be lost forever.” Pairing rare, sometimes unheard insights from rock stars, actors, and comedians with surreal animation, the end result is a slightly whimsical, always fascinating peek behind important social figures. For the series’ latest episode, producers have unearthed a never-before-heard interview with singer Elliott Smith.
The singer’s chat with rock critic Barney Hoskyns occurred just weeks after Smith performed at the 1998 Oscars in support of his Good Will Hunting contribution “Miss Misery”. Whether by coincidence or design, Smith focuses the conversation on the subject of “being a freak” and his path to acceptance. He talks about being bullied in high school, finding salvation in Elvis Costello LPs (“they made me feel like a freak among other freaks”), overcoming self-doubt to find his signature sound, writing songs about addiction/addicts, and the ultimate analysis of his own music: “It’s not happy and it’s also not really sad, but I couldn’t say what it is.”
Given Smith’s tragic legacy, it’s wonderful to hear him so lively, aware of his own demons and issues, while also working to find a certain kind of beauty and truth in a very ugly world. Watch the video below; for more from the Hoskyns interview, head here.