One listen to Matt Bellamy’s piercing falsetto reveals his huge admiration for Jeff Buckley, and now the Muse frontman has purchased perhaps the ultimate piece of Buckley’s musical history: his iconic 1983 blonde USA Fender Telecaster.
In a new interview with Guitar World on his leadership of Manson Guitars, we quizzed Bellamy on the last piece of gear that impressed him - and suffice to say, we were not expecting the answer that followed.
“I’ve gotta say, I just bought Jeff Buckley’s guitar that he used to record the Grace album,” Bellamy revealed.
“I’m not kidding! I had a whole team of people doing due diligence on it to make sure it was absolutely the right one, interviewing his family and all sorts. I managed to get it verified, and I’ve got his Telecaster that he recorded the whole Grace album with, and the song Hallelujah.
“I haven’t bought it to hang it on the wall with a picture of Jeff saying, ‘Look what I’ve got.’ I’ve bought it to actually attempt to use it and integrate it, and keep this guitar part of music. I’d like to believe that’s what he would have wanted.”
Bellamy soon called on his team at Manson to investigate the guitar’s unique tone - which, as many fans of Fender’s iconic solidbody have noted, sounds quite unlike any other models in existence.
“It sounds so weird - it doesn’t sound like any other Telecaster,” Bellamy continues. “I’ve had all the electronics analyzed - nobody’s changed anything - but the pickups, they think the neck pickup was a mistake by the manufacturer because for some reason it’s slightly out-of-phase, and there’s also something weird about the wiring.
“To cut a long story short, it’s got an extremely glassy, bright sound, and it doesn’t really sound like any other guitar I’ve used before.”
Bellamy first encountered the guitar in Paris, France at Matt [Lucas]’s Guitar Shop several years ago, and requested the owner contact him should the guitar ever go up for sale. Earlier this year, Bellamy got the call.
“Out of the blue, about six months ago, Matt contacted me and said, ‘Oh, by the way, I am maybe looking to move this guitar on, if you’re interested,’” says Bellamy.
“And at that point, we had a lot of talks about where it came from, and all the background, and he’s even got a letter from Jeff’s best friend at the time, who’s a girl who lived in New York [Janine Nichols]. It was actually her guitar - Jeff didn’t have a really good guitar at the time [Buckley’s apartment had been robbed around this period in 1991], and when he started touring, she lent this Telecaster to him.”
The guitar returned to Nichols following Buckley’s tragic death in 1997, before she sold it to New York guitar store Chelsea Guitars, where owner Dan Courteney estimated the guitar’s value as $50,000 in 2011.
According to Guitar.com, the guitar was then sold to a British collector for six years, until Lucas purchased the prized Tele and brought it to Paris in October 2017. From then on, Buckley’s guitar rarely left the shop, except to accompany Myles Kennedy’s December 2019 performance of Hallelujah - and that fateful encounter with Bellamy years ago.
And, as it turns out, Bellamy’s intention to play the guitar, rather than simply add it to a collection, is in line with Nichols’ wishes.
“She wrote a long letter with the guitar, saying she really wanted it to go to someone who’s actually going to play it, not just put it on the wall,” he says. “So that’s what I’m doing - I’m trying to adhere to the letter she wrote to make sure it gets some play.”
What’s more, Bellamy has already recorded with it - and even plans to feature it on the next Muse album.
“I’ve already used it, actually. It’s on a cover song that we’re doing with the Jaded Hearts Club. But I’m hoping to use that a little bit here and there on the next Muse album as well.
“It’s amazing to have a bit of history like that, and to just feel a little bit of his greatness. The only problem is I don’t think I’ve written any songs good enough to play it on yet! [laughs] So the pressure’s now on.”
As for whether Bellamy will play the coveted Tele live, the jury’s out.
“I think [it’s a studio guitar for now],” he ponders. “Maybe one day I’ll bring it out for something - but we’ll see.”
For more from Matt Bellamy, including his thoughts on the future of guitar and how Manson will stay at the forefront of its evolution, read our full, in-depth interview.