Recently, our friend Bob Margolis spoke with Nels Cline about what got him into the music of Wilco, who creates the setlist each night and much more…
When asked if he had developed an “attitude” towards playing in more song structured environs, after a long career at home in more free-form orbits Nels Cline answered no, pointing out that he fell in love with the guitar in large part due to, well, songs. Cline had a specific composition which turned him on to the song writing elan of Wilco’s frontman. “I was in a van traveling as part of drummer Scott Amendola’s band (Ed note: please check out that record, Believe) when (Wilco’s) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was all the rage. I really liked it then but grew to love it soon after. I was home, sick in bed for days, and put on that same Wilco record. The song Reservations came on and when that piano drifts in towards the end of the tune as a sort of coda, I realized there is some serious shit involved here. We also just clicked from the start. I remember when Jeff and I were talking on the phone for a long time one night where we were figuring out how to set up a kind of trial run to see if there was chemistry – At some point in the conversation we both realized it was already working.”
When asked to what degree is the band a democracy, he said it has become that way regarding arrangements of tunes in the writing process, but as far as which tunes get played on certain nights, he deferred to Tweedy. “Jeff makes the set lists and he really does take into account the day of the week, where we are and what the setting is. It’s an art. One night recently, Mike came up with a list which was totally wacky with all sorts of tunes in odd places. We thought it might happen. Jeff saw it and just said ‘come on, guys…’ So, right, we are in a stadium on a weekend for this gig coming up – don’t expect a lot of ballads.”
Despite Wilco taking up the bulk of Cline’s time, he is still active in other projects. For those who reside in New York, the week July 30-August 4th is a mini Nels-stock, where he will play in groups including BBC with Tim Berne and Jim Black at The Stone July 31st, a stellar freakfest at Summerstage with M. Ward, Mike Watt, Dougie Bowne and Yuka Honda on August 1st, and with Jenny Scheinman, Matt Penman, and Jim Black August 4th at Joe’s Pub.