Sean Nelson is many things to many people. To some he's the centerpiece of Seattle's Harvey Danger, who, outside the Northwest, is "that band from the '90s who did that 'Flagpole Something-or-another song'" ("Flagpole Sitta"). To others he's a writer, who worked for years at The Stranger in Seattle, freelanced for the Mercury, and recently published a book about Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark album as part of the 33 1/3 series of pocketbook-sized music tomes.
My view of Nelson is simple. He's a guy in glasses who rocks. Of course, when I say "rock," I'm not talking about the devil-horns stuff. Simply put, Nelson's lyrical wit and visible insecurity lift him above your average songwriter. Whether that has anything to do with his glasses, I'm not sure. But I'd like to think so.
In 2006, Harvey Danger released a record and an EP, the Joni Mitchell book was published, and Nelson appeared on over half of Robyn Hitchcock's LP, Olé Tarantula. The man is busy, but luckily I caught up with him.
"I have three or four unfinished albums laying around, each with different band names and collaborators. Sean Nelson and His Mortal Enemies is the clearinghouse name that conglomerates all my unfinished, unreleased projects," explained Nelson via email. "It's only just recently that I've allowed myself to believe I was a musician, because I don't play any instrument very well. These issues are complicated by the fact that the first record my band ever made was really successful and then nothing else we ever did was ever noticed by anyone outside a very small (very devout) cult of admirers. That kind of thing really shakes your confidence. It shook mine anyway."
Whatever Nelson is, he's good at it. The glasses just top things off. He needs them to read all those clever words of his, and to focus on all the people who see him as more than just that guy from Harvey Danger. And naturally, as insanely busy as he is, they come in handy for checking his day planner.