"....In 1991 I moved to Athens, Georgia
in search of God, but what I discovered
instead was Vic Chesnutt......"
– Jeff Mangum, December 2009
A rare musical genius, Vic Chesnutt was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964. He was adopted and moved to Georgia at the age of 5.
Vic began writing songs in early childhood, helped by his grandfather, who played country guitar and wrote, and his grandmother, who wrote lyrics.
Vic started playing trumpet at the age of nine, but was a multi-instrumentalist; he bought a ukelele from the Sears catalogue at age 15. By this age Vic had discovered rock and roll and had many influences including The Beatles, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.
At age 16 Vic played trumpet in a cover band called Sundance, who sang Velvet Underground and other covers. That year, his parents gave Vic a guitar for Christmas to help him get over Lennon’s murder. This year also saw the first signs of Vic's depression, something that would follow him throughout his life.
Life and Career
Vic played rhythm guitar in new wave band called Random Factor, but was fired because he refused to tuck in his shirt. He subsequently started a new band with Todd from Dashboard Saviours.
In 1983 Vic was in a car crash which left him partially-paralysed. Subsequent to the crash, he couldn’t play guitar or trumpet but discovered ‘a whole new understanding of music’. He sold his trumpet and bought a synthesizer and began writing pop songs and strumming.
Influenced by Stevie Smith, Wallace Stevens, Kafka, F. Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger, his songs took on a more literary form. Vic moved to Athens, Georgia to study English.
Vic was initially spotted in Athens, singing at a party, by Deanna Varagona, and got a gig the next night
before the band’s soundcheck. He subsequently formed a folk-rock band, the la-di-das, and gigged regularly in Athens, opening for local bands.
Vic later married Tina and formed a new band with Tina on bass and Jeffrey Richards of the band ‘Hazeldine’ on drums. Michael Stipe (of R.E.M.) spotted Vic in the 40-watt club. In 1990, Stipe produced Vic’s first album, ‘Little’ and later produced his second, ‘West Of Rome’.
During his career, Vic Chesnutt recorded sixteen full albums on a number of labels, including Texas Hotel, Capitol, New West and Constellation Records. He also produced albums,
composed a soundtrack for Sebastian Schipper’s, ‘Mitte Ende August’, and made numerable contribututions to other artists' albums.
In 1996, a tribute record to Vic Chesnutt was released, ‘Sweet Relief 2 - Gravity Of The Situation’. The album featured many artists including Kristin Hersh, R.E.M., Garbage, Lucinda Williams, Soul Asylum, Nanci Griffith and Madonna. Proceeds from the tribute went to the charity Sweet Relief, who work to provide financial assistance to musicians who struggle to support themselves.
Film and Theatre
In 1993, Vic Chesnutt was the subject of Peter Sillen’s ‘Speed Racer’ documentary film, ‘Welcome to The World Of Vic Chesnutt’. A re-release of this movie is currently in the works.
In 1996, Vic also featured in the film ‘Slingblade’ with Billy Bob Thornton, with a bit-part as Terence.
In 2000 he collaborated with artist/director Janie Geiser and composed fourteen songs for ‘Josiah Meigs and Me’, a puppet theatre project.
In 2007, Vic featured in and wrote songs for Jem Cohen's film ‘Empires Of Tin’