Q&A with Wilco's John Stirratt

Touring behind their eighth album, the Chicago alt-rockers bring their triumphant live show to Ninth Street.


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When: Sunday, Sept. 16 Doors: 6 p.m., Show: 7 p.m. Where: The Blue Note, outside on 9th Street Cost: $35

It’s hard not to love Wilco’s humility despite its ever-growing popularity and critical acclaim.

Ever since its 1994 debut A.M., the band has continued to reinvent its experimental rock sound with each subsequent album, most recently on its eighth studio LP, The Whole Love. Although its music evolves, the six-piece outfit keeps its loyal fanbase coming back for more with low-key hooks and lead singer Jeff Tweedy’s signature vocals.

Before visiting The Blue Note for an outdoor show on Ninth Street, Wilco co-founder and bassist John Stirratt chatted with MOVE about new material, upcoming plans and a special translated single.

[MOVE]: You guys are still touring in support of your new album, The Whole Love.

[John Stirratt]: We are. I guess the record is coming up on being a year old now, so you know, we just try to stay on the road. We’re such a road band. We’re still really busy but looking to finish on a high note for the year.

[M]: How has the tour been different from past ones you’ve done?

[JS]: Personally I like seeing in different areas the bigger venues. Like, we’re doing the Hollywood Bowl in L.A. and we’ve done the Greek Theatre for, you know, 10 years now ... It’s nice to graduate to something else. It feels good. We underplay a lot -- we play smaller venues often, so it’s nice to know that when we go to a place that everyone who wants to come can come. It’s generally not always like that. A lot of people just aren’t able to see us who want to see us.

[M]: You did The Incredible Shrinking Tour of Chicago earlier this year. Why did you guys choose to do those shows?

[JS]: We thought it was a nice idea. We might be a little bit too big for some of the venues physically on stage, but it’s always nice to play places this small, like Lincoln Hall, which is like 700 (capacity) and a tiny stage. It’s good to get on a small stage once in a while and get in touch with being that close to each other.

[M]: How’s the reaction been to your new material on tour?

[JS]: It's really been a positive vibe for the record from the get-go, from release and everything ... People know the lyrics, and they seem to know the material and anticipate it, and it is a lot of fun playing new stuff live. That’s the most fun -- the freshest stuff, so it’s naturally the most fun to play.

[M]: Speaking of new material, you released a Spanish single of “Dawned on Me.” What was the inspiration behind that?

[JS]: It was just sort of a special single for that market ... Spain has just been so good to us, so Jeff (Tweedy) got a vocal coach or Spanish coach to come in to help get a good translation. We’re going to go over in October before the end of the year. There’s definitely love between Wilco and Spain (laughs).

[M]: Coming to Columbia, do you guys prepare differently for a college-aged crowd?

[JS]: Not really. It’s been several years since we’ve been to Columbia. We’re going to play a lot of the new record and then just try to touch on every record really, and maybe some B-sides. It’s an outdoor show, and in this case it’ll be a Sunday, but people will probably be ready to rock. If we are playing a festival, we’ll generally try to make it a more upbeat, a little more rocking, and with the college age, I imagine it will be a little more uptempo.

[M]: You guys are finishing this tour in October in Europe. What are you doing afterward?

[JS]: Different people have projects going on. Jeff has got production with Mavis Staples’s record, the follow-up to the record last year ... Mike (Mikael Jorgensen, lead pianist and keyboardist) has the Pronto record coming out in the fall, and Autumn Defense, me and Patrick (Sansone, multi-instrumentalist), have a record probably in the next year finishing up over the winter ... It’s been a crazy year, so it’s definitely time to take a breather for a little bit, but I’m sure we’ll be getting in again sometime.

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