Spencer Tweedy is a pretty cool kid—and not just because his dad is Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of Wilco, an alternative rock band based in Chicago. Though he’s only 13, Spencer already has several significant accomplishments under his belt. He started playing the drums at age two, started his first band at age six and now plays with the band Tully Monster. On his 13th birthday, Spencer was dubbed “boy genius” by Rolling Stone magazine after he got to perform a killer drum solo Madison Square Garden during a concert featuring Wilco and Neil Young—not your typical bar mitzvah celebration, but pretty awesome.
Lucky for Spencer, he did have a very special and significant bar mitzvah—not every kid can say they got to share their bar mitzvah with their blind grandfather. Spencer chose to document his bar mitzvah in a blog he calls “All About Mitzvah” where he explains why he chose to donate a portion of his bar mitzvah gifts to charity. Spencer also writes several other thought-provoking blogs, including “Spencer Tweedy’s Blog,” where he writes about politics, music, social action and general stuff that’s going on his life. He also uses his blogs to share one of his other passions—photography.
To top off an incredible 13th year, Spencer was named one of JVibe, the magazine for Jewish teens, “18 under 18,” an award honoring extraordinary teens, and he is nominated as a hero in the United Jewish Communities’ (UJC) Jewish Community Heroes campaign. Check out other locally nominated heroes here at Oy!
Oy!’s Stefanie Pervos caught up with Spencer this month to talk music, blogging and bar mitzvahs:
Stefanie Pervos: How does Judaism play a role in your life today?
Spencer Tweedy: My family belongs to a Reform temple where Sammy (my little brother) and I go to Sunday School and Hebrew school. I had my bar mitzvah there in May and it was absolutely amazing!
I know you love music and have been playing drums since you were two years old. What’s it like having a famous musician for a dad?
Music to me is a lot of things. It's a form of art, but really I think it's an awesome, awesome way to express yourself and share emotions and communicate with other people. Both of my parents played huge roles in me becoming a musician and are both really involved in the music industry.
What made you start blogging? How does your Judaism influence your blogging?
At first, my blog began about two years ago as a random writing outlet. I'd post school language assignments, articles I'd written. I was really into this "child-professionalism/entrepreneur" thing, and that's what kind of got me started on blogging. Then, just last winter a Wilco fan emailed me a link to another teen's blog, Style Rookie. I'm not into fashion, but seeing Tavi's – who I'm now friends with – writing really, really helped me realize a whole 'nother side of blogging, and one that I like a lot more. Now I write mostly about my life and what's going on, with posts about other things (music, photography). And I love it.
Why do you blog? What’s your message?
I blog because it's an outlet for my writing and a way to express myself. Aaand it's fun! I've met so many awesome people through blogging—it's just great. I don't think of myself as having a particular message. I'm really proud that in a lot of emails I get (mostly from adults – I think most of my readers are adults) people are inspired that there are kids like me "out there" and that it gives them hope. And that's my message really, I guess.
What was it like to share your bar mitzvah experience with your grandpa? What made you decide to donate a portion of your gift money?
Aaah my bar mitzvah was the best I could have asked for. If you haven't heard the story, my grandfather was too poor to have a bar mitzvah as a child and didn't even have enough money to continue his Jewish education, so it was really cool to see him become a bar mitzvah – in his 70s. He's also blind, which made training a little more difficult. But he did it and it was great! As for the money: It's custom for (people celebrating their) b'nai mitzvahs in our temple to donate a portion of their bar mitzvah cash to an organization. For mine, I chose Direct Effect Charities, which helps children in-need living in Chicago.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I would like to be a musician and a writer, and take photos as well.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Hmm…Well, I think it kind of depends on what I'm talking about. In general, I think it would be my parents because they're the biggest role models in my life. I think they've done a pretty sweet job of raising my brother and I. Aside from us being pretentious brats, you know.
How did it feel to be named one of JVibe’s 18 under 18?
It was awesome! I'm really proud about it.
And what does it mean to you to be nominated as a Jewish Community Hero?
I have to admit, I was (am) really surprised to be acknowledged as a "Jewish community hero." I don't really think of myself as a hero by any means – especially after reading other nominee's profiles. There are people on there [the website] the have started up organizations, raised millions of dollars.. And then you go to my page and it's like, "I blog." Haha. Regardless it was an honor. :)
What’s next for you?
High school! Education! Music!