Sufjan Stevens Once Turned Down A Meeting With Rick Rubin About Working Together
As you may have heard, a new Sufjan Stevens album is out today — his first proper solo LP since 2015’s Carrie & Lowell. The Ascension’s release has apparently inspired Sufjan’s former manager and publicist, Daniel Gill, to share some old tidbits on Twitter.
Gill briefly managed Sufjan in 2002, and he worked PR on the quick sequence of albums (2003’s Michigan, 2004’s Seven Swans, and 2005’s Illinois) that made Sufjan an indie sensation. A Ringer feature last year identified Gill as the architect of the attention-grabbing ruse known as the 50 States Project, for which Sufjan would supposedly record an album about every state in the Union. In that same feature, Gill recalled Sufjan’s unwillingness to perform on TV shows like Letterman and Conan: “He didn’t want to do it. He thought it was crass or something to play on TV.”
Now, tweeting from his Force Field PR company’s account, Gill has shared some similar anecdotes. “Around the time of Illinois, Rick Rubin was actively trying to work with him but Sufjan wouldn’t even meet with him,” Gill writes. “But just imagine Sufjan working with a producer like Rubin! Would still love to hear what that would sound like.”
Per Gill, a similar snub was awarded to the guy who signed Nirvana: “Also around this time, Gary Gersh, who famously signed Nirvana to Geffen, was actively trying to sign Sufjan to his Strummer label (Mars Volta) but Sufjan refused to even meet with him. I do think he made the right call maintaining control of his catalog but I also wonder what it would have been like if he ever had a major label marketing budget / radio push behind him. Anyways there’s an alternate timeline where he signs to a major, works with Rick Rubin and does not release a sprawling 80 minute self-produced album like the one he released today.”
I’d say Sufjan made the right call in both cases, but I would have liked to see him play Conan back in the day. For what it’s worth, in a Guardian interview today, Sufjan called playing the Oscars in 2018 “one of the most traumatizing experiences of my entire life,” so I guess he still feels about the same about appearing on television. Check out Gill’s tweets — and The Ascension — below.
https://twitter.com/forcefieldpr/status/1309557983957807105 https://twitter.com/forcefieldpr/status/1309558445410979840 https://twitter.com/forcefieldpr/status/1309558946835738625