It was 1999 and I was madly in love with a woman who was madly in love with someone else. Classic Susie. Still, how else would I find inspiration for my songs about doomed love and endless longing? She was a head f**k, and she didn’t even know it.
To add fuel to the flame, she turned to me one afternoon and asked ‘have you heard Jeff Buckley?’ – and was horrified to discover that I hadn’t. It seemed almost cruel, looking like that, to then play me Everybody Here Wants You (from Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk) – when everybody did want her, including me.
I know everybody here wants you
I know everybody here thinks he needs you
I’ll be waiting right here just to show you
How our love will blow it all away
Jeff Buckley’s voice was a revelation. Smooth, rough, falsetto, baritone, beautiful and ugly; it is one of the most expressive instruments I have ever heard in my life. Moving between registers so effortlessly and expressing such painful longing – well I hadn’t heard a voice like that since KD.
The song floored me with its space and simplicity – its longing expressed with the constant, practically unchanging bass & kick drum. Like a heartbeat. Allowing Jeff’s voice to float languidly over the top – saying so much, by saying so little. It is a compelling, spine-tingling expression of human desire. And the woman I was in love with played it to me. Yep, thanks a lot.
But actually, I am thankful. Because I was introduced to an artist who in his short life, managed to record Grace – one of the greatest albums of all time. The music he left us is beautiful, life enriching and always brilliant. He inspired me to be a better singer, writer and to always remember to sing from the heart – even when it’s ugly and hard to listen to.
His music saw me through some of my darkest moments – following the loss of my dad and the ensuing depression that seemed to last forever. I would lie on my living room floor and listen to Grace from beginning to end and then all over again. It inspired me and coloured my writing. I wrote and recorded my ‘Bliss’ EP during that time. Some people have said since then that the EP is just ‘too sad’ to listen to – but I’m immensely proud of it. In that moment, Jeff Buckley was my inspiration and I made music that was personal, honest and close to the bone.
I eventually came out the other side of the dark time that seemed to stretch on forever – and my music is possibly a little happier these days. But I still devour every limited edition Jeff Buckley re-release that comes my way and listen in awe to every incredible sound that his peculiarly talented vocal cords seemed capable of producing. Not to mention his freakish ability as a guitarist. Damn him! I MUST TRY HARDER.
And what happened to the woman who was never meant to be, who played me Jeff Buckley for the first time in 1999? Well I married her, of course. ‘Everybody Here Wants You’ may’ve taken 12 years to work its magic, but in the end, it was a song that truly changed my life.