A stunning new documentary, “Heaven Adores You“, about the life and music of Elliott Smith, has just started making the festival rounds. I had the pleasure of privately screening the film this past week in advance of upcoming public showings in Detroit and Portland, and I suggest you go see it the first opportunity you get.
The film is an intimate tribute to Elliott Smith’s greatness and light, told by his closest friends and collaborators, and woven through original music and stories from his time in Portland, New York City and Los Angeles. “Heaven Adores You” is a beautiful experience, start-to-finish — just as Elliott’s life was.
Watch the “Heaven Adores You” trailer, then read our conversation below.
Logan Lynn: I just finished the film, which I watched through a mix of tears and laughter – very appropriate for the man it is about, I’d say. The music is such a big piece of the story, and you used it expertly. How did you decide which songs to use?
Kevin Moyer: It was such an honor to be able to use Elliott’s own music, and of course it was also crucial for us because we have said all along we wanted the focus to be on his creative output rather than more sensational aspects of his life and death. But have to also show his life if you are intending to show Elliott progressing as an artist, so we did that again using the music as the anchor — as the tent poles for the journey. We take you through his life by using the music he created and the albums he released as the kind of life chapters or sections of the film, starting with music he made as a young kid in Texas all the way up to the album he was working on when he died. We you where he was at when creating each one and we used those physical and tangible artistic achievements as the musical check points to tell the story. We wanted to use stuff that would be new and interesting to the existing fans who can be very hardcore and already knowledgeable of almost everything he ever did, balanced with stuff that was already familiar to the casual fan who only slightly knew his music, and also include stuff that was accessible and representative for the people who had never heard his music at all. And we wanted to also show his progression as a song writer.
Moyer: You can feel his sound forming and his evolution as an artist as you move through the film. I got to look into the vaults of both labels (Universal and KRS) and spent a good amount of time with friend and Elliott archivist Larry Crane, too. Basically, I dug through lots and lots of music and then narrowed it down to just the stuff that that I thought would be interesting and most relevant for us to use — probably about 150 tracks or so — and then that’s what I brought to the team; stuff from both labels, as well as stuff from friends, his high school days, his childhood in Texas, tapes from rehearsals, live performances, alternate versions of studio recordings, etc. I slowly began sending them to Nickolas (Rossi) who was huddled up in New York editing the footage together to tell the story. Every morning for about two weeks I would send him a batch of tracks — usually stuff he had never heard before, two or three songs at a time — because I wanted to give them each space to breathe so they could each be considered on their own accord. With each one, I’d tell him how I felt it might fit with different things we were discussing, what energy or vibe it might bring, what the lyrics might help to showcase, and so on. On his end, Nickolas compiled all of what I was sending him and then he did the same and put them through his own creative filter…
Nickolas Dylan Rossi: The short answer of course, is that some of these tracks were chosen for personal reasons, some for utilitarian reasons, but more often than not, they were the melody and the words that paired best with the visuals for the feeling that I had experienced while listening to Elliott that I wanted to share with an audience. The music is one of the main characters in the film, as are the locations. Throughout the process making the film, Read the rest of this entry »