Every November since 2005, I have been fortunate enough to be asked to play The Jeff Buckley Tribute Concert held annually at Uncommon Ground in Chicago, IL. As we near this year's tribute, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what Jeff Buckley's music means to me and tell you a story of a musical pilgrimage that eventually became immortalized in the song “The Chaos We've Become”.
My musical and spiritual journey with Jeff Buckley began back in the early 00's. I was 20 years old. A young college kid skipping around from one major to another, an aspiring renaissance man, who despite incredible enthusiasm, still lacked a tangible direction. I loved music, but was apprehensive about my voice. Like many fledgling artists, my confidence came and went.
At the beginning of my junior year, I moved into my first apartment; a majestic old blue and red victorian home in the heart of Kalamazoo that had been unceremoniously split into four separate units. Upstairs lived a beautiful & mysterious raven-haired woman from who's apartment came all sorts of wonderful sounds and smells. For a kid use to living on ramen noodles and cafeteria food, the smell of saffron and sauteed red bell peppers was as hypnotic as her enormous cat-like sapphire eyes. Needless to say, I was smitten. We eventually became friends. We would spend hours on the porch discussing the meaning of life and all things magical. She was the definition of a muse.
One night she pulled out a CD from her collection that sported on the cover; a glitter jacket-clad man clutching an old fashioned Frank Sinatra-style microphone. He looked pensive or at least distant in some way, like he was lost deep in thought. “Have you ever heard Jeff Buckley before?” she asked. I shook my head no and watched her eyes narrow and a thin knowing smile cross her face as she put the disc in the stereo and pushed play. A soft falsetto wafted in over the speakers as the opening seconds of “Mojo Pin” started penetrating my brain. The voice was un-like any I had ever heard before. It was at once ethereal and feral, like a beautiful angel cursed by the full moon into lycanthropic madness.
The song kept building, chords accumulating like storm clouds, Jeff moving through all five gears of his elastic tenor voice into a thunder-clap of emotional orgasm. It was thrilling, dangerous and beautiful. It was like he was singing everything that I was feeling. Angst, longing, and fear blended seamlessly into the ecstasy, magic and wonder. He transmuted pain into a rose, but never let you forget about the thorns.
I borrowed her copy of Grace and had it on an endless loop for months. I was obsessed. Every note became etched into the far corners of my consciousness. I went hoarse trying to mimic the sweeping screams while also trying to absorb the more subtle points of the album's essence. Certain music often become the soundtrack of our lives and Jeff Buckley's Grace will forever be associated with my coming of age and falling in love.
Check out Pt. 2 Here: