Jeff Buckley's career was on a steep upward trajectory when he drowned in 1997 at the age of 30. The late singer had an amazing voice and musical genes. His father, Tim Buckley, was a singer-songwriter with a cult following in the early 1970's who also died tragically young of an overdose at the age of 28. Both father and son are the subject of the new movie Greetings From Tim Buckley, which stars former Gossip Girl star Penn Badgley in the role of Jeff Buckley.
In an interview with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Badgley discusses the challenges of the role, shares his favorite Jeff Buckley song, and explains how music was his first passion.
Due to rights issues, the film does not include Jeff Buckley's original songs. Badgley, on why it works:
Not using Jeff’s music is in some ways the best way to get at him, because he wasn't really a typical writer, he wasn't a typical artist and musician in the way people think of him. They mythologize him as this ethereal, talented Bob Dylan type, but he was really much more in the vein of a Nina Simone or Billie Holiday, where he’s interpreting brilliantly, unlike anyone else.
On the role that music has played in Penn Badgley's life:
I'd grown up singing, I’d grown up loving and playing music. As much as I loved it it’s kind of strange that I never pursued it, and I think it’s because I started acting at such a young age...It’s always been my first passion, and now there’s some space and time to work and write. I mean the truth is, you look at a musician like Jeff [Buckley], he was a diligent, self-taught, guitar virtuoso. He put the time in, anybody who’s a real musician puts the time in, I just need to put the time in.
On channeling Jeff Buckley for this role:
Even in the moments where I do him justice, I’m still not even close to his quality. It wasn’t just his range; there are a million people with range. I actually have range, but he had this quality, he had this lightening, this electricity in his voice, and that’s his.