Chelsea Walls (which premiered in 2001, but saw a wide release the following year) chronicles the lives of five artists living in the famed Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Hawke, a fan of Wilco, asked Tweedy to score the film, and the frontman went on to enlist drummer Glenn Kotche to help him craft and record the project (Kotche soon joined Wilco, making his first appearance on the group’s 2001 classic, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot).
Tweedy and Kotche largely improvised the music on the Chelsea Walls score, while several members of the film’s cast — Robert Sean Leonard, Steve Zahn, and jazz great Jimmy Scott — provided vocals. The soundtrack also featured contributions from Billy Bragg (with whom Wilco had just collaborated on Mermaid Avenue) as well as Wilco. One of Wilco’s two contributions was “Promising,” which is being released as an official single to accompany the soundtrack reissue announcement (the song was previously released on the band’s 2014 rarities comp, Alpha Mike Foxtrot).
Speaking of how “Promising” came about, Tweedy said, “Ethan wanted me to write something for Robert Sean Leonard to sing and I think they originally wanted something like ‘The Lonely 1.’ I don’t think I was willing to give up something new that I was working on at the time, so I pitched the idea of ‘Promising.’ Ethan had been pretty set on ‘The Lonely 1,’ but he obviously hadn’t heard ‘Promising’ at that point. They both ended up being included. Ethan’s very cerebral and earnest about his artistic goals and that was really fun and liberating to be around.”
The Chelsea Walls reissue will come with new liner notes by Hawke and Kotche, as well as a conversation between Tweedy and set producer Cheryl Pawelski. The two bonus cuts include Leonard’s performance of “Promising,” which was previously available only in the film, and an extended version of Tweedy and Kotche’s “Finale.” The reissue will arrive digitally and on CD, while it will also be released for the first time as a double-LP vinyl set.