I lived in a series of suburbs: DeSoto, Duncanville, Cedar Hill. My stepdad was into places with bigger and bigger yards, and we kept moving farther and farther away from people. I remember there were a lot of white folks and there wasn’t much money. I was kind of a violent little person—I was not a very happy kid—and the kids at my school were violent little monsters too. So every couple of weeks there was somebody new to fight. I only won a couple in my whole life, but I was one of those kids who just wouldn’t throw in the towel, no matter how badly I was getting beat. It was like, “Yeah, you’re gonna kick my butt, but I’m gonna try to hurt you before you do.” More than anything, fighting on the school grounds just landed me in the principal’s office, and back then they would spank you with a big wooden paddle that had holes drilled into it. I don’t know if they do that anymore, but it was better when I moved to Portland. Nobody gets into fights in Portland.

Elliott Smith was born in Dallas in 1969 and lived in the Metroplex until he was fourteen. He has recorded four solo albums to date, the most recent of which is XO, his major-label debut, which arrived in stores in late August. His song on the Good Will Hunting sound track “Miss Misery” was nominated for an Academy award this year.