Love Letter To A Record: Holy Holy’s Tim Carroll On Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this new series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.

Tim Carroll, Holy Holy: Jeff Buckley – ‘Grace’

Dear Grace,

You came to me burnt into a blank CD. Handed to me in the schoolyard as I stood there sweating and awkward in my uniform, my father’s high actioned acoustic guitar strung to my back, uncased and nude.

You weren’t long enough to fill the entire disk and so, as was the trend back then, my schoolmate had usefully filled the remaining space with something else. In this case some incredibly harsh and unrelenting djembe drumming. A decision I would come to regret.

I placed you into my Discman on the bus that day. The anti-skip technology ensuring the songs would play through the bumps of the ride. ‘Mojo Pin’ began.

You were and still are, a masterpiece. That voice both tender and harsh. The guitar playing, crazy making. Downloaded tabs confounded me as my clumsy fingers tried to trace the melodies within you. I borrowed a Strat and Fender Twin regardless, giving up my father’s acoustic to once again gather dust in the corners of the house.

Your writer was dead I discovered later. Drowned in the Mississippi the year I had started high school. This knowledge only magnified the melancholy that ran deep within you and I thought of him often, surrounded by the warm waters, as his voice reached out from beyond the grave.

11 songs. Not all of them by Jeff, but those that weren’t were transformed by him and those that were stood proud and strong next to their companions.

So how do I love you? Let me count the ways.

Perhaps most of all it is the takes. As a singer, I have an understanding of what it’s like to be in the hushed and hallowed confines of a studio. Headphones on, standing just centimetres away from a mike. The producer’s voice coming down the line from behind the glass as the red light illuminates and the tape rolls. Layers of reverb and compression washing your voice in space and majesty as the track begins. It’s a wonderful experience but delivering a worthy take in that moment is not always easy.

In you, Jeff’s takes are a thing of wonder. Showing an artist who could twist and turn on a dime. A vocal range, that could whisper softly and coo like a dove or dive and cascade with the force of a waterfall. There is a freedom and chaos to these songs that is something I find hard to fathom.

Your production is lush and simple. Serving to illuminate the genius in the songwriting. At times the full band accompanied by an orchestra of strings and at times, and perhaps most powerfully, it’s just Jeff and his guitar.

Your lyrics. Emotive and cinematic. You spoke to me, especially in that time of young adulthood. My body testing out feelings with the random extremes of a system not yet calibrated.

For me, as an aspiring songwriter, you were both an inspiration and a curse. For your writer had it all. The voice, the mind, the skill and the heart.

Sad as it is that you are alone, being Jeff’s only complete studio album, you are a giant in history and we are lucky to have you.

So thank you.

With love.


Holy Holy’s new album ‘Paint’ is out now. This June and July the band will play a string of shows around the country on a national tour and will appear later this year at Wollongong’s Yours & Owls festival.


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