Sony (USA) Grace Press Release
June 1, 1994
Sony (USA) PR
Sony Music Entertainment Biography
Source Region: US
Source Country: United States
Repertoire: All Other, Alternative, AOR, Easy Listening, Heavy Metal, Jazz/Jazz, Rock, Rock
Biography Date: 9406
Late last year, songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Jeff Buckley emerged from New York’s underground cafe scene with Live At Sin-é, a four song CD-5 capturing one sweltering night in the East Village. That recording was one sliver of sound taken from two year’s worth of innumerable solo electric performances. Now, Jeff Buckley is releasing his first full-length album, the ten song Grace.
Recorded in the fall of 1993 at Bearsville Recording Studio in Woodstock, NY, Grace features Jeff on vocals, guitars, keyboards, dulcimer and tabla; Mick Grondahl and Matt Johnson, members of his touring band, on bass and drums respectively; and production by Andy Wallace (Paw, White Zombie, Soul Asylum). Noted classical composer and jazz vibraphonist Karl Berger wrote and conducted string arrangements assisted by Jeff. Within the walls of this studio, Buckley and company created a unique blend of sound and vision: emotion-drenched vocals laced throughout extraordinary instrumental work. The record includes seven originals and one cover performed with his band and two covers done solo.
Grace gives voice to those secrets of the human experience that lie mute and waiting for sound. “Eternal Life,” is a sonically bruising plea for emotional tolerance and psychic liberation. “Eternal life is now on my trial, “he sings, “Got my red glitter coffin, man, just need one last nail / While all these ugly gentleman play out their foolish games / There’s a flaming red horizon that screams our names.”
“Lover, You Should Have Come Over,” holds a candle in a dark circular staircase, lonesome vocals wrapped around slow tender chords and lines like “It’s never over, she’s the tear that hangs inside my soul forever.” “Mojo Pin,” co-written by Buckley and former Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas, is a powerful ensemble reading of a song first introduced on Live At Sin-é, a testimony to Buckley’s avant-garde and free jazz proclivities. On the moody “Dream Brother,” the singer offers a warning to a friend, a mysterious message swaddled in the unconscious. Tipping his hat to the master, Buckley renders his interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” a solo track recorded live-in-the-studio; the song is one of Jeff’s most enthusiastically-received tunes in-concert.
“The experience of creating and performing with a band was different from my solo work,” Buckley says about the recording of Grace. “All the spontaneity and attention to the dynamics of the moment is extended four times and maybe beyond. It’s the difference between the eight year-old and the twenty-eight year old: you still contain the eight year-old, but two decades exist around you. The object of going solo was to attract the perfect band. All my favorite music has been band music. I love listening to Bob Dylan, Robert Johnson and Thelonious Monk alone, but, the fact is, there are so many other areas you can go with other instruments going at the same time. You can reach a trance like stage where what’s really going on inside the human psyche is being sung to… the music aims at what’s really going on underneath… not what people pretend to be or what they hope they can buy at a store. The little scared kid or the full-on romantic lover is being accessed. There are really majestic qualities about people that can be reached through music. People are incredible to me even though I am healthily cynical sometimes. It’s because we are spirits and the whole tension is that we don’t know we are. Yet, music is able to touch this.”
The first member of this “perfect band” to come on-board was bass player Mick Grondahl who had seen one of Buckley’s solo shows inside a crypt at Columbia University. A few months later, Mick ran into Jeff on the street and offered his services. Weeks later they met at a neighborhood bar to talk, then returned to Jeff’s apartment. “We jammed,” Jeff recalls, “making this two o’clock-in-the-morning type music. And I thought, he’s the one! He had all the qualities I dug. There are bass players all over the city that can play rings around him in terms of technique, but nobody else could ever make the music he makes. And that’s more powerful!”
Drummer Matt Johnson was recommended by some friends. Not only is Matt technically adept, even more crucially, he’s got a quality that’s all-too-rare in drummers: a strong sense of song. Jeff, Mick, and Matt began playing together four weeks before going to Woodstock to record Grace. “We really became a band during the album,” Jeff admits. “Even now, we’re still evolving.” Following completion of the bulk of the album’s tracks in early 1994, Jeff took to the road for the first time, playing solo electric shows throughout the US and Europe. Guitar player Michael Tighe – who plays on Grace’s darkly confessional “So Real”- will perform with the band on Jeff’s first full-band tours of the United States and Europe.
Jeff Buckley wrote his first song at age 13, “some stupid thing about a break-up,” he claims. His horizons as a lyricist have expanded considerably since then; he now explores complex themes of love, inner strife, and separation. “Sensitivity isn’t being wimpy,” he explains. “It’s about being so painfully aware that a flea landing on a dog is like a sonic boom.” His lyrics are sharply-focused, yet enigmatic, revealing simple truths shrouded in the riddles of their origin. “I enjoy a lot of mystery,” he admits. “It provides a bit more movement without too much trivializing scrutiny.”
Describing himself as “rootless trailer-trash born in southern California,” Jeff Buckley grew up singing in the car with his mother, a classically-trained pianist and cellist. At the age of five, he discovered his grandmother’s guitar and began to teach himself to play. At 17, he left home, finished high school and wound up in Hollywood. The widening orbit of his sensibility led him through a motley series of rock and reggae bands and he did scattered studio session work “for grocery money.”
In 1990, he moved to New York, performing with various local outfits before striking out on his own. Hanging out on the Lower East Side, he found himself feeling very much at home. “More than any place,” he claims, “this is where I felt I belonged. I prefer the Lower East Side to any place on the planet. I can be who I am here… I couldn’t do it any place I lived as a child. I never fit in in California, even though my roots are there.”
Jeff Buckley describes his music as a “low-down dreamy bit of the psyche. It’s part quagmire and part structure. The quagmire’s important for things to grow in… do you ever have one of those memories where you think you remember a taste or a feel of something… maybe an object… but the feeling is so bizarre and imperceptible that you just can’t quite get a hold of it? It drives you crazy. That’s my musical aesthetic… just this imperceptible fleeting memory. The beauty of it now is that I can record it onto a disc or play it live. It’s entirely surreal. It’s like there’s a guard at the gate of your memory and you’re not supposed to remember certain things because you can only obtain the full experience by completely going under its power. You can be destroyed or scarred… you don’t know… it’s like dying.”