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Folk Guitarist James Elkington Has a Crush on Chicago

The musician discusses a career of collaboration, Jeff Tweedy, and more

Photo: Tim Harris

Growing up outside London as an aspiring musician, James Elkington developed a crush on Chicago. “I would buy anything that local labels like Thrill Jockey and Drag City put out,” he says. “It was just so consistently good.” The folk guitarist moved here in 1998 and quickly became a fixture on the local music scene, collaborating with some of the city’s most cherished talent, including Jeff Tweedy and Tortoise. Now the 46-year-old Andersonville resident makes his solo debut with Wintres Woma, an elegant acoustic album recorded in Wilco’s Irving Park studio, the Loft.

On a career of collaboration

I’m interested in putting myself in different musical situations. But if someone needs me to rip a Van Halen solo, I can’t.

On stepping out on his own

I constantly asked myself, Why am I doing this? I don’t seek out being in the spotlight. But I’ve developed this collection of songs, and it felt honest and personal. I knew it wouldn’t be just another record.

On Jeff Tweedy as a mentor

He came into the Loft one day, stood there, listened to a song, told me a banjo should be somewhere where a violin previously was. And then he went and took a nap.

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