Nick Cave has shared a new letter to a fan, in which he reflects on the death of his son Arthur.
Arthur Cave died after an accident in 2015, and this experience of loss and grief lingers in Nick Cave's recent work.
Using his Red Hand Files project to communicate with fans, Nick Cave has opened up about his song 'Girl In Amber'.
A powerful evocation of mourning, it's author describes it as "a song wrapped around a mystery. It is a song that formed itself as if from a dream and it seems to possess a special, almost mystical, power."
The original sketch came to the Australian artist while working at cohort Warren Ellis' studio in Paris.
He recalls: "I recorded a version of the song that day, improvising the repetitive, mantra-like lyric, and then forgot about it."
The letter then moves forward in time. He explains:
"A year or so later, I was in another studio in Paris attempting to finish 'Skeleton Tree'. Things had changed. Arthur, my son, had died a few months earlier and I was existing in a kind of fugue-state, numbly sitting in the studio listening to the songs, trying to make sense of the material we had been working on over the last year, and as I listened to the version of ‘Girl in Amber’, I was completely overwhelmed by what I heard."
Nick Cave continues, discussing the moment 'Girl In Amber' found its place:
"It was suddenly and tragically clear that ‘Girl in Amber’ had found its ‘who’. The ‘who’ was Susie, my wife — held impossibly, as she was at the time, within her grief, reliving each day a relentless spinning song that began with the ringing of the phone and ended with the collapse of her world. The eerie, death-obsessed second verse seemed to speak directly to me, and I added the half-line ‘Your little blue-eyed boy’, but left the rest of the verse as it was."
The songwriter explains that in a 1998 essay he pondered the notion of second sight in songwriting, and adds:
"'Girl In Amber' seemed to possess an uncanny clairvoyance, a secret intelligence — the song was already deep in mourning before the tragedy had occurred."
Released as part of 'Skeleton Tree', the subsequent performances tapped into raw experiences within Nick Cave's own life.
"When I sang ‘Girl in Amber’ on the Skeleton Tree tour, it felt very much as if I was singing into the terrible present — my wife still trapped in the amber of her grief. Last month I performed it on the In Conversation tour. Three years had gone by and it struck me as I sang it, alone at the piano, that I was speaking to the past, and that Susie had been released, at least in part, from the suffocating darkness that surrounded her. There was some air and some light between her and the world. Time had done its work."
Ending the letter, he said: "Liz, I would like to think that ‘Girl in Amber’ went some way toward releasing both my wife and me from the paralysis of our grief, as you suggest it helped you. I would also add that it has been my experience that although we are all, in some way or another, imprisoned by the events of our seemingly intractable pasts, in time, patient time, we heal."
Read the full letter HERE.
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