The unreleased album that Elliott Smith had been preparing for an early 2004 release might see release on a label other than Dreamworks, according to comments on an hour-long tribute broadcast last weekend on the syndicated radio program New Ground. Host Chris Douridas assembled the tribute from interviews with Kill Rock Stars' Slim Moon, Smith's friend and one-time manager Margaret Mittleman, producers Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf, Dreamworks head Lenny Waronker, and Smith's A&R rep, Luke Wood.
Of the unreleased album, known by its working title From A Basement On The Hill, Wood said that Smith probably had more than 30 songs tracked for the record. "I think there's definitely enough of that record that his family will be able to finish it up," Wood told New Ground. "They're gonna decide where it comes out, because that record was his record-- Dreamworks gave it back to him, and it was gonna come out on an independent label of his choosing, and now that'll be the family's choice. So, you know, hopefully next year we'll all get to hear it."
In the interview, Wood also expressed his surprise at Smith's apparent suicide last Tuesday: "As someone who's spent time with Elliott in the last few months, who saw him... he was really clean, and focused... I really thought that the worst days were behind him, and I felt like his drive to get this record out, you know, was what was keeping him looking forward to the next day."
Wood confirmed on the program that Smith's work-in-progress was meant to be a double album that reconciles the hushed intimacy of his earlier home-recorded albums with the ambitious, layered production that characterized XO and Figure 8. Wood called the album, as Smith envisioned it, a "true summary of all of his records" that veered from the "intimate, brutally honest two-track guitar/vocal-- you know, that certainly signified the earlier records-- to these bizarre, lush, beautiful, hectic, you know, really pushing-the-envelope sort of stereo, spectral, soundscape, multi-track drum songs... [like] something you'd hear off of Pet Sounds, but in the most, you know, creative, pushing-the-envelope moments of Pet Sounds."
Producers Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock remembered Smith's creative drive and an often jovial atmosphere in the studio. "People've been asking me, like, well, was, you know... was [Smith] just a miserable person?" Schnapf said. "And, uh, no... we had a lot of fun making these records. For example, XO, a lot of it was made in a wig... you know, we were wearing wigs... we weren't all depressed, we weren't shoegazing the whole time... it was fun, it was really rewarding."
Rothrock fondly shared stories of recording with Smith at Abbey Road, and shared an unreleased instrumental from the Figure 8 sessions, the Beatlesque "Tiny Time Machine," on the program.