Jeff Tweedy was born on August 25, 1967, in Bellville, Illinois. His high school punk band with Jay Farrar evolved into the influential alt-country group Uncle Tupelo. After Farrar's departure, Tweedy formed Wilco from the remains of Uncle Tupelo. With Wilco, Tweedy's music went into experimental and critically acclaimed directions—one testament to this is their 2002 release, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Tweedy lives in Chicago with his wife and two children.
Singer, songwriter and musician Jeff Tweedy was born on August 25, 1967, in Bellville, Illinois. First rising to prominence with the alternative country band Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy has established himself as an influential force in the music world. He started his first band in high school, a punk quartet called the Primitives, with Jay Farrar, Wade Farrar and Mike Heidorn. After Wade's departure, in 1987 the remaining members formed Uncle Tupelo.
Uncle Tupelo emerged as one of the leading acts in the burgeoning alternative country—also called alt-country—music scene. The band members combined their love of punk and country music to create their own distinctive style. Tweedy worked with Jay Farrar on writing many of the group's songs and was viewed by some as the weaker, more pop-oriented member of this songwriting duo.
After playing numerous gigs in St. Louis and around the Midwest, Uncle Tupelo landed a recording deal with the independent label Rockville. Their first album, 1990's No Depression, featured such songs as "Screen Door" and "Whiskey Bottle." The title track was a cover version of a song by A. P. Carter of the Carter Family. The album was warmly received by critics, as was their next effort, 1991's Still Feel Gone.
For their third album, March 16–20, 1992, Uncle Tupelo worked with Peter Buck, the lead guitarist of R.E.M., who served as their producer. After switching to a major label, in 1993 the group released their most critically heralded album, Anodyne. But this country-rock recording proved to be their last studio work together. Drummer Heidorn left the group and was replaced by Ken Coomer. The group also added John Stirratt on bass and Max Johnston on fiddle, banjo and guitar. But in 1994 Uncle Tupelo broke up following the departure of Jay Farrar, who left to start a new group, called Son Volt.
The Birth of Wilco
Stepping out of Farrar's shadow, Tweedy soon formed Wilco with the remaining members of Uncle Tupelo. In 1995, the band released its first album, A.M., which showed a further progression in Tweedy's musical style. While true to his Uncle Tupelo country roots, he incorporated more rock and pop elements into Wilco's sound. The band, which now included Jay Bennett, earned raves for its next effort, 1996's Being There, which drew from such musical references as the Rolling Stones and Phil Spector's wall-of-sound style of 1960s pop.
That same year, Tweedy collaborated with Dan Murphy of Soul Asylum, Gary Louris of the Jayhawks, and many others to create the side project Golden Smog. In 1995 the all-star alt-country lineup released its first full-length album second album, Down by the Old Mainstream. Tweedy continued to experiment musically when Wilco joined forces with British folk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg for 1998's Mermaid Avenue. With this joint venture, Tweedy helped create music to accompany lyrics written by famed folk singer Woody Guthrie. Two years later, Wilco and Bragg reunited for Mermaid Avenue Vol. II.
Wilco's next album, 1999's Summerteeth, featured an unusual juxtaposition between somber, disturbing lyrics and bright-sounding pop music. While some critics did not know quite what to make of the album, Tweedy faced an even greater battle with Wilco's next recording. He continued to experiment musically, and the album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot led to a clash between the band and their record label. Reprise refused to release the album, claiming it was not commercially viable. Wilco eventually sold the recording to Nonesuch Records, and it received stellar reviews after its 2002 release. The making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot became the subject of the documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. The film also captured the growing tension between the rest of the group and Bennett, who was fired from Wilco in 2001.
Despite his critical and commercial success as a musician, Tweedy struggled in his personal life. He battled with depression and anxiety and suffered from chronic migraines. As a result, in 2004 he went into a rehabilitation facility to deal with chemical-dependency and mental-health issues. Returning to work, Tweedy continued to create interesting experimental rock on Wilco's next release, 2004's A Ghost Is Born. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he said that much of the album's songs dealt with "searching for identity."
Other Projects and More Albums
In addition to his work with Wilco, Tweedy joined forces with producer Jim O'Rourke and drummer Glenn Kotche (who would later join Wilco). They called themselves Loose Fur and put out two records on the Drag City label—a self-titled album in 2003 and Born Again in the USA in 2006. Tweedy also collaborated with the likes of Beck and the Minus 5 as well as producing recordings for Mavis Staples and indie group Low.
In 2007, Wilco released Sky Blue Sky, which pulled from a number of inspirational sources, including folk, soul and gospel music. "There's probably not any kind of music that means more to me than gospel and soul. If I could be any type of singer in the world, it would be like an Otis Redding. I heard somebody say that soul music is being proud of where you're from and what you've accomplished, and letting that show," Tweedy told Mother Jones magazine.
In 2009 Wilco released its seventh album. Working toward simplicity and musical clarity, Wilco (The Album) featured such songs as the ballad "You and I," on which Tweedy sings a duet with musician Feist. Another important song on the album, at least to Tweedy, was "Bull Black Nova." The song "feels like it might be a centerpiece. There's a certain urgency and anxiety to it. It kind of sounds like there's a phone off the hook somewhere. There's a precise wildness to it," Tweedy explained to GQ magazine. The album reached No. 4 on the charts and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album.
Two years later, Tweedy and Wilco took a step in a new direction when they announced the formation of their own label, dBpm Records. Wilco's eighth album, The Whole Love, was released on dBpm in 2011 and was streamed on the band's website for twenty-four hours. It received generally favorable reviews, and Wilco was again honored with a Grammy nomination, this time for Best Rock Album.
In 2014, Jeff Tweedy began a new side project called Tweedy, which features his son Spencer on drums. They released their first recording, Sukierae, that September. In July 2015, Wilco released its second album on dBpm, this time for free on the band's website. It is scheduled for release on CD and vinyl later in the year.
Tweedy lives in Chicago with his wife, Sue, and their two sons, Spencer and Sam.
We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!