In the recent tradition of Tex Perkins becoming the Man In Black and Clare Bowditch channelling Eva Cassidy, Melbourne singer-songwriter Jordie Lane is presenting the story of cosmic cowboy Gram Parsons in the US musical drama Grievous Angel: The Legend of Gram Parsons. He tells Time Out about his respect for the man who pioneered the sweet country leanings of the Byrds and the Stones, not to mention his own outfit the Flying Burrito Brothers, before dying, aged 26, from a cocktail of morphine and tequila.
You wrote much of your own solo album, Blood Thinner, at the Joshua Tree Inn, in the room in which Gram died. How did that pilgrimage feel?
I’ve done that pilgrimage five times. It felt amazing; the energy of Joshua Tree is quite an instant feeling. It felt warm and inviting to stay in room 8 especially, very calming and peaceful. But it also made me feel alert and energised at the same time, if that makes sense.
What's your favourite Gram Parsons song?
‘A Song For You’ from GP, which was Gram's first official solo album released in ’73 before his death. Firstly, I do love songs that roll on the same chord progression right through – and this is one of the best examples of that ever – and secondly, I love all the biblical references and its classic romanticism. And, of course, his heartbreaking vocal delivery.
Have you had any nudie suits made for you?
A nudie suit, almost exactly the same as Gram's famous white one has been made for this production. I would like to get my own suit made but it wouldn't feel right wearing the Gram one after the production, no way! That's his story on there.
Are you older than Gram was when he died now?
Yes. Just. I'm 27. But I was 26 when I was in room 8 for the first time. I didn't tell my mum that at the time, she would have freaked out. You know how parents worry.
Would you have approved of the post-death treatment, had that been you? [Gram’s tour manager, Phil Kaufman, stole his body, took it out to the desert and cremated it.]
Yes, if that was what I asked my friends to do, then yes, I would have been very pleased that they were honouring my wishes. But it was unfortunate how it all played out, with it being something that his family couldn't understand – and therefore it had to become a theft, and a rushed cremation which Phil and Mick [Martin, friend] didn't have the knowledge to do properly. But hey, they tried their best!
How did you first get into Gram’s music?
My best friend started playing me all these different records spanning the whole history of American music throughout our late teens, but it wasn't till we finished school that I think he played me some Gram records, and then I was hooked from there.
Can you introduce Clare Reynolds, who plays Emmylou Harris in the show?
Clare Reynolds is a singer-songwriter from the Sunshine Coast. I was introduced to her when I was asked to perform at her coveted ‘The Round’ songwriter night in Brisbane last year. She is a very talented songwriter and has had her songs placed on some big US television stuff, and also done a lot of co-writing in the US. The writer of Grievous Angel, the producers and I all agreed she was perfect for this role as Emmy Lou Harris.