A previously unheard track from the late Elliott Smith has surfaced, written when the singer was only 14 years old. Titled "Ocean," the track was discovered during the making of Heaven Adores You, a Nickolas Rossi-directed documentary about Smith that features archival footage and unreleased music. The track premiered on Portland Radio Project when the film's producer and longtime Smith associate Kevin Moyer stopped by for an interview (listen to the song at the 32-minute mark).
Although the track doesn't appear on the film's official soundtrack, Moyer gave some background on its origins. The track was recorded in 1984 when Smith was only 14 years old, proving he had talent and profound insight into the world even at a young age.
Here's what Moyer had to say about "Ocean":
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.
Heaven Adores You is currently making rounds on the festival circuit. Check out a trailer for the documentary below.