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RIP Bill Doss

July 31, 2012

I’m still mostly at a loss for words, but I’d like to share what few I can muster about Bill Doss, who died today at the age of 43.

Bill was one of my favorite people to interview, and not just for this project—I mean ever. I’ll save the biographical details for the book, and in the short-term, I’ll leave them to be shared by those who lived through them firsthand with Bill. For now, I only want to talk about my direct interactions with him.

I never heard Bill answer a question off the cuff. He had done tons of interviews in his life, and as maybe the most publicly gregarious member of the Olivia Tremor Control, he probably logged more time with reporters than any of his bandmates. But he never treated our conversations as quotidian. I’m sure I asked him many questions he’s been asked before, but he never responded with a platitude or anything banal. He never sounded like he was repeating himself. Bill reacted to every question as if it were the first time he had heard it, and he considered it deeply before answering.

And always with a smile on his face.

Our conversations were always fruitful as a result. I interviewed Bill a few different times, for a few hours each time, and in every instance, he invited me into his home to talk to him. When we weren’t sitting in his living room, we were on his front porch, swatting away mosquitoes, or in his upstairs studio listening to very early mixes of songs that’ll likely be on the next Olivia record. From his bright red sideburns and even brighter grin to the bowls of cherries and freshly sliced watermelon he put out whenever I came over, Bill’s warmth was always at the fore. Just a sweet, kind, generous, endlessly loving person. I felt at ease talking to him in a way I rarely do around anybody.

I should also mention that he seemed to hate talking about himself. He could and would talk about anything, and if you brought up any of his friends, he’d go on for days about how great they were, as musicians and as people. Ask him to talk about ol’ Billy Don Doss, though, and he’d get all shy. Add “super humble” to the list of adjectives.

He’ll be missed by an awful lot of people, none of whom would have any trouble talking about how great he was.

I’ve embedded “Hideaway” below, one of my favorite Olivia songs and one Bill agonized over, mixing it “three or four times a day—whole, finished mixes of it—for six months,” by his estimation.

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