by Jeff Niesel
Laurie Trombley was working at her college newspaper when she got an advance copy of singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley’s first EP, 1992’s Live at Sin-e. She was so taken with the music, she wrote him a letter telling him about how much she liked the album. His management called her and told her they were looking for a good intern and could she come work for them. She said yes and eventually became his “fan relations manager.”
“I wouldn’t say we were best friends, but he was very kind to me,” says Trombley in a recent phone interview from New York, where she now works in marketing. “I was nervous when I first met him. I was freaked out by being around somebody I thought was so talented. He was so sweet to me. He really appreciated the help I gave him. He would send me gifts from where he was.”
Then, a few years later, Trombley was working at the A&E channel when Buckley passed away after a drowning accident. She had wanted to make a film and after he passed away, it made sense that she’d direct her energy into a Buckley documentary. Trombley, working alongside another young filmmaker, Nyla Adams, first just wanted to make a short, but as they started working on a the project it turned into a feature-length film. The two ended up co-directing and co-producing the venture for their own Once & Future Productions.
“Because I had a connection to Jeff, it was easier to get access,” Trombley says of her film, Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley. “He knew me and trusted me and his estate trusted me. They knew I wasn’t doing it for any reason but to pay tribute. It was more about him as a person than I needed to honor. He was such an amazing person.”
That certainly comes through in the countless interviews included in the film as Trombley pairs live footage with interviews with everyone from Buckley to his bandmates and other musicians who count themselves as fans (Sebastian Bach amon them!) of the soft-spoken singer whose falsetto vocals have inspired everyone from Radiohead's Thom Yorke to bluesy singer-gutiarist Ben Harper.
The film made its way to festivals but never got a commercial release and hasn’t been available on DVD. Until now. It’s among the three discs included in the deluxe version of the new Sony/Legacy package, Grace Around the World, arriving in stores on June 2. It’s a comprehensive look at the 1994 album Grace that includes what would become signature Buckley tunes (namely, his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and the single “Last Goodbye”). With nearly three hours of previously unreleased video footage, the deluxe edition of Grace Around The World includes two DVDs plus a CD of live recordings. Grace Around The World is also available in a standard DVD + CD package that does not include the documentary film.
Trombley is just thankful her film has finally made it onto DVD.
“We had a lot of false starts,” she says of trying to get it released on DVD. “This seemed to be our time. We had the honorable intention of making a tribute film and putting our blood, sweat and tears into it. But we weren’t listening to the business aspects. When we got lawyers and started negotiating for licensing rights, we couldn’t believe what we had gotten into. It took some time to clear up.”
And it’s all the more remarkable that interest in Buckley, who died over a decade ago, remains high.
“It’s been amazing to see how his music has grown,” she says. “There are so many people who were obviously influenced by him and are turning on younger generations. He explored so many different types of music and really was a true artist. It’s pretty incredible that when he passed away, the general population didn’t know that much about him. But people who are musicians and artists and have a lot of music in them appreciated it and talked about him. His fanbase grew that way.”