Elliott Smith ‘Heaven Adores You’: The Untold Stories & Photos Behind The Songs

18 No Name #3_photo credit to Joanna Bolme

“No Name #3”
written and performed by Elliott Smith
Fall 1993 // Produced by Elliott Smith

KEVIN MOYER: This studio track was recorded in the basement of the home of then-girlfriend and Heatmiser manager J.J. Gonson and was released on his first solo album “Roman Candle” while Elliott was still playing in Heatmiser. Elliott played every instrument and recorded it to a four-track recorder on cheap mics using the underside of the stairwell in the basement / laundry room as a sound room. He didn’t even use an acoustic pickup, he just played a really simple Le Domino guitar really close to the mics, practically touching it to his guitar and fingers. It’s a good example of getting good sound from the most basic of equipment and set up, and in this case Elliott was on another level in regards to skill so his equipment didn’t necessarily have to be also. The album was never intended for release, he was recording it mostly as a demo to get interest in doing a 7 inch single, but JJ gave the album to Cavity Search when they were out promoting Heatmiser, and they convinced Elliott to let them release the album in its entirety.

NICKOLAS ROSSI: It’s a great example of Elliott’s first record in the way that it really shows off everything about him that’s great: the melody is great, the lyrics are beautiful, and it’s recognizable if you are familiar with Good Will Hunting, so I used it here to give the audience a first taste of what would come later. But I love this song and wanted to open up his career of solo records with this example.

KEVIN MOYER: Its such a great moment in the film to hear that song and the visuals that go with it too. You and JT Gurzi did a really great job with the cinematography, so beautifully shot, and this is a moment in the film where we rely really heavily on that.

JT GURZI (Heaven Adores You Producer and Director of Photography): The formation of the visual aesthetic and subsequent cinematic motifs were rooted in a strong desire to bolster the audiences capacity to connect with Elliott. It was very important that the visual language compliment Elliott’s music, in our earnest attempt to honor his life. A superb example of this union is when No Name #3 is married to various b-roll imagery. It’s such an emotionally charged moment in our film, so much so that I’m still quite moved every time I view that section.

27 Unknown Song Instrumental_ photo credit Heaven Adores You

“Unknown (instrumental)”
written and performed by Elliott Smith
September 1994 // Produced by Elliott Smith

KEVIN MOYER: This unreleased instrumental comes from the sessions for Elliott’s second album, found on the same 1/2-inch, 8-track reel with “Needle in the Hay”, “Alphabet Town”, “Big Decision”, “Whatever (Folk Song in C)”, “Some (Rock) Song” and is listed simply as “Unknown”.

NICKOLAS ROSSI: The beginning of this song sounds like the very beginning of what would become “Last Call” and I thought it was great that there was this untitled instrumental version of a song with no lyrics that was most likely a rough sketch of a song from roughly the same era. And the melody of it is so clearly full of Elliott’s talent in its Roman Candle era mood. As an instrumental that plays in the background of everyone talking about how Elliott started to shine on stage, it’s a perfect example of where he was headed.

20 No Confidence Man_photo from 7 inch insert

“No Confidence Man”
written by Elliott Smith; performed by Elliott Smith and Pete Krebs
September 14, 1994 // Produced by Elliott Smith & Pete Krebs

KEVIN MOYER: This song is from a no longer in print split single that Elliott did with friend and musician Pete Krebs, the version we used here is a new mix that Larry Crane did. And the performance seen in the movie that we merge the studio track into was the last song of a performance recorded in the living room of a house in Portland Oregon.

NICKOLAS ROSSI: This was put here for a few reasons. It comes right after Pete Krebs talks about being on tour with Elliott, so I wanted to transition into a recorded collaboration with Pete and Elliott, and this song is incredible. I also wanted to include the first few lines of the song that made reference to Elliott’s relationship with his step-dad, as it was a way for Elliott to tell the audience part of that story through his music. I love starting off with the remastered version of this song and then going into a lo fi living room show in Portland of Elliott playing this song, just to bring it closer to actually being there. Slim Moon and Sean Croghan do a great job here of talking about the reaction to Elliott’s quiet music here and I was so happy when we were able to fade back into the remastered version of this song to really deliver the full punch of the song. They’re all talking about how much Portland loved Elliott and the title of the song is so opposite of that feeling.

PETE KREBS (Portland musician and collaborator): These two songs (from the single, shy town and no confidence man) were recorded by Elliott and I at Janet Weiss’s house in SE Portland off Hawthorne Blvd. We recorded the tunes, added some little overdubs and went outside to take a few sleeve photos of us posing around my 66 Volvo wagon wearing masks. Elliott is the bat and I’m the bear.