Wilco Bassist Stirratt Juggling Multiple Deliveries

Wilco bassist John Stirratt has a lot to be thankful for, but for the first time in ages, his commitments to the acclaimed Chicago band are getting in the way of an important milestone.

Wilco bassist John Stirratt has a lot to be thankful for, but for the first time in ages, his commitments to the acclaimed Chicago band are getting in the way of an important milestone.

That's because Stirratt and his wife are expecting their first child, who is now two weeks overdue. Doctors will induce labor tomorrow (Nov. 21), but Wilco is scheduled to play the next night in Madison, Wis. "It's insane," Stirratt tells Billboard.com with a resigned laugh. "But it looks like it is going to work out. Madison is close. Still, it's 45 hours into my child's life and I will be gone for five hours. It's pathetic."

The good news is that Stirratt is also about to deliver two new albums: first with his long-running side band, the Autumn Defense, and then in late spring with Wilco. The Autumn Defense's self-titled affair will arrive Jan. 9 via Broadmoor and be followed by a North American tour in February and March.

Stirratt is flanked by Wilco multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone in the Autumn Defense, which indulges the pair's love of '70s soft rock and soul ("We love being able to take it out of the folk/rock idiom," Stirratt says). Songs were hashed out during random patches of free time and recorded at Wilco's Chicago loft earlier this year, "when there wasn't really much going on with the band at all."

"I just kind of used everything I had," Stirratt admits. "But sometimes, in the back of your mind, it's like, 'Well, this would be a beautiful thing to show Jeff [Tweedy] and have Wilco play."

The Autumn Defense will be joined on tour by drummer Greg Wiz, guitarist/keyboardist Mike Kruse and a different bassist for each leg: first, a Nashville session man known professionally as Hags; then, Stirratt pal Brad Jones. Fans can expect the occasional cover, potentially including Love's "Alone Again Or," Tim Hardin's "Misty Roses" or Big Star's "You Can't Have Me."

As for Wilco, the band is "getting close to being done with all the basics and overdubs" on the follow-up to 2004's "A Ghost Is Born." Stirratt says he is "99% sure" longtime collaborator Jim O'Rourke will be back to mix the as-yet-untitled album. "I think people may have an idea in their head about what it will sound like, but it's going to be different than that," he adds with a chuckle.

Stirratt confirms the song "Walken," which has been a fixture in Wilco's live sets of late, will make the cut. "Jeff had a lot of creative fire," he says. "And also, the way we recorded was so cool because a lot of the arrangements just grew right there with everybody sitting around. I'm over the moon about it. I think it will be a really beautiful record. It's a great time to be in Wilco."