Published Oct 06, 2014This year has been a fruitful one for fans of the late songwriter Elliott Smith. Not only has Heaven Adores You, a documentary about his life, been making rounds at film festivals, but now more material has arrived in the form of a previously unreleased song.
The track is called "Ocean" and was recorded when Smith was 14 years old. The track did not appear in Heaven Adores You, but Smith's friend Kevin Moyer (who also produced the film) recently shared a portion of the song with the Portland Radio Project.
Here's a statement Moyer made about the song [via Pitchfork]:
It's a song I don't think anyone has ever heard before. ... It's from his Texas days. At the very beginning of the film, we show Texas and his good friend Pickle, Steve Pickering. And it's basically Elliott when he's young, before he came to Portland, these guys, they got together and they were playing music for the sake of playing music. They were doing Led Zeppelin songs and covers, stuff like that. I think it was a group: Steve Pickering, Steve Smith (who was Elliott before he changed his name), a girl named Kim and another guy named Kevin and a guy named Mark, I think. Different variations of these kids would get together at Steve Pickering's house and play music and make music.
Then Elliott moved and he came to Portland, and he wasn't coming back. He was not going back to Texas. But he would come back to visit, and when they would visit, they would get together and jam. So what started as kids getting together and making music started to turn into actual songwriting, and I think it's the very start of Elliott writing his own songs.
So this song is something from 1984. Elliott was 14 years old. ... It's interesting because it's one of the first songs that as they were writing, Elliott would make lyrics for it. It's keyboards, guitars, and Elliott singing. They did the keyboards and guitars first, and the Elliott came back and Steve Pickering convinced him, for demo purposes, to sing. I don't think Elliott was a singer at that point, but they kind of pushed him to sing it, and he did. It's probably one of the first songs that they did that actually has lyrics.
"Ocean" can be streamed below as part of the "Friends of Elliott Smith In-Studio" show on the Portland Radio Project. The song starts around the 32:30 mark.