In 2010 Australian singer songwriter Jordie Lane took a musical pilgrimage to America.
Before he left, he bought a guitar to serve as a sacrifice to his long time idol Gram Parsons.
He sat in the same hotel room where Parsons died and wrote a song on this guitar. Later Lane burnt this guitar out at Joshua Tree near LA where Parsons’ body was burned.
In early 2012 Lane was asked to play the role of Gram Parsons in Grievous Angel, a theatrical concert, and he could not be happier to be playing his idol.
“Having this love for Gram Parsons made me instantly want to do this and then meeting the writer/director Michael Bate in Canada and seeing his passion and love for Gram- you know there’s so much sincerity in the writing. He’s doing it for all the right reasons and I’m really excited to be a part of it”, he said.
Grievous Angel, which opens at the Athenaeum Theatre (Melbourne) on Friday 20 July, is designed to make audiences feel as if they were transported back to 1973, witnessing Gram Parsons perform a show.
“It is set as a live gig with a lot of in between banter but it’s basically the story of his life from his eyes”, Lane explains.
Michael Bate is the writer of the show and has the honour of knowing he was the last person to interview Parsons, one month before he died at 26 from an overdose of morphine and tequila.
Although Parsons never became famous in his own lifetime, his death certainly made him famous. To honour a pact, his road manager stole his body from the Los Angeles airport and took it to the desert to burn.
“Although it didn’t turn out well at all because the body just got left on the side of the road”, Lane says."It is set as a live gig with a lot of in between banter but it’s basically the story of his life from his eyes"
Lane went on to say that although what his manager did was traumatic, he is certain that Parsons would have appreciated that “the guy had a go”! This eventful passing made him hot news at the time, but the quality of his music soon made him a household name for future generations. Such varied artists as REM, Elvis Costello, Norah Jones and Ryan Adams acknowledge Parsons’ musical influence.
Lane’s love for Parsons began in high school, thanks to a friend’s encyclopaedic record collection.
“I fell in love with [Parsons'] fragility and vulnerability. He had this kind of aggressive determination to show people that he’s not going to get pigeon holed into being called Country or being called Rock n Roll he’s just going to try and make good music”, Lane said.
“Now doing this production and learning so much more about who he was and where he came from. Again it’s getting more and more connected. So it’s a real privilege to do this” said Lane of Grievous Angel.
Lane has been rehearsing hard for Grievous Angel and has found some challenges in performing as someone else.
“Gram Parsons didn’t really have a vibrato on his voice and that’s a huge part of my voice as Jordie Lane”, he said.
“So it’s quite a tricky thing at first to get used to all these things. I wonder after the season is over whether I’ll get that vibrato back or it’ll be gone! It’s a huge challenge but that’s why I wanted to take it cause you know that’s what life’s about. Taking risks”, Lane says with determination.
Musing over the heaviness of Gram Parsons’ dramatic life (his parents both died when he was a teenager and his sister was committed to a mental institution) and tragic demise, I found myself asking some insensitive yet light hearted questions. The first being whether Lane would like to share a dramatic fate and Lane jumped unhesitatingly on board.
“You know what? I would. I love food. I’d like to die dramatically with something to do with food. Mama Cass choking on a sandwich, something like that.”
Upon saying this, memories came flooding back. “I shouldn’t joke about that. I did choke on some popcorn the other night”, he laughed.
Being a fan of tequila (but not morphine) I was curious as to whether Lane shared Parsons love of either.
“Never touched morphine in my life, huge fan of tequila”, he quipped.
He went on to confirm instances of his love of tequila and he will be attempting to convince a medical professional that he requires his appendix out so as to experience morphine in the near future. I wished him luck.
Lane’s journey and affinity with Parsons is inspiring and his ‘never fear’ attitude and earnestness has made him a pleasure to interview.
Lane said of Parsons “He’s a definite role model and inspiration to me when I’m feeling a little bit uncertain about things.”
Get in fast, buy your tickets to see Grievous Angel and share one man’s passion for another man’s beautiful music. Jordie Lane certainly has the chops, and the heart to boot.
Grievous Angel The Legend of Gram Parsons
Where: Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins St, Melbourne, VIC
When: 20th -29th July
Booking: ticketek.com.au 9650 1500
Produced by: Room 8 & AT Management