Buckley started performing in little smoky New York bars like Bang On, Fez, and the First Street Cafe - as well as a minute Irish cafe called the Sin-e on St Mark's Place in the fashionably scuzzy East Village- slowly attracting a cult following that, in its turn, began to catch the attention of the A&R men. By the end the of the year record-company limos were crowding St Mark's Place, and soon Buckley had a major record deal. A live EP, Live at Sin-e, came out last spring, demonstrating the heights that his voice and an electric guitar could reach. For his debut album, however, Buckley drew together a band, and they've been together ever since.
"They've become my family. They're my key friends as well: I lucked out on that score," he says. "I attracted them. They saw the show and wanted to play with me, almost the way I hoped it would turn out. Meeting people through word of mouth is a lot more efficient than placing ads in a paper. It's harder to get people who will listen musically. Most just want to rock, rock, rock. That might be fun for a while, but you lose your hearing and you lose your patience and you get a big headache."
For the females in the audience, the band has the added bonus of providing serious babe material. Guitarist Michael Tighe, at 21, draws the biggest sighs, hiding behind his curtain of fair hair, while bassist Mick Grondahl and drummer Matt Johnson have a steady following of their own. Tighe and Grondahl met Buckley after seeing him play in St Ann's church in Brooklyn, while Johnson, who shares an itinerant background with Jeff, was introduced by friends. The three provide a pounding wall of sound to the grungier side of the set, which is divided into intense, solo slots and ear-bleeding band pieces - as well as the occasional moment when Buckley motions for them to be quiet while he whispers " I love you" to the crowd.
One of Buckley's most endearing qualities is this complete absence of embarrassment about coming across as a total luvvie. "I can overwhelm people with my feelings," he's said "It's been a problem of mine since I was a kid." While we're talking he breaks off to scribble manically in his notebook. "I've got to write," he says. "It's an unspoken thing. I want to be loved for something I am. I'm easily hurt, which is why I know I can't pay attention to my press."
Considering how good that press has been so far, you'd think Buckley had little to worry about, but success certainly hasn't gone to his head. Not yet, anyway. "What I never bargained for was the level of attention I'd attract. That's something else. When I first started out, I pretty much figured that people would come and see me because of my father's name. So I just sort of acknowledged the hype and did the shows the best I could. But now it's become all...this," he says vaguely, waving his hands around. "Like absolutely psychotically praising somebody and putting them up on a pedestal. I'm just not comfortable with it, not comfortable with it at all."
OK, so he's a luvvie, but he's a pretty down-to-earth luvvie. Something to do with those years plinking his guitar in gringey coffee-shops, perhaps? " People can get very beautiful or extremely ugly. But that's bar life," he says, a smile breaking out as he recalls those early days. "That's what I've known since I was 16, just the dynamics of the saloon. People drinking, people trying to get laid, people lying, people pretending to be something they're not, hope against hope that everybody will accept them for what they need to be..." He sighs again, and gets lost in his thoughts.
"So," I say, loudly, hoping to break his reverie, "what's life on the road like, then?" Buckley wakes up again.
"Well, I need some reloading time right now, but I'm not uninspired and I'm not unhappy with the situation," he says. "Being on the road offers up some really great gifts which more than make up for having to live on bad buttery ham sandwiches that I detest or endless sliced of flabby pizza. I guess that's the worst part of bring on the road, not having good nutrition or a regular bath life. Because there's no bath life here," he laughs, referring to the highly potent pong that permeates the entire bus.
Buckley brightens up even more when I ask him what he plans to do with his six-week vacation.
" Man, It's like a school holiday!" he says. "I'll do sweet FA. I'll go home to New York and paint my walls and pretend I live there. I'll wake up around 11 , have my scrambled eggs and coffee, make some toast. And either I'll laze around for a few hours or write into the DAT Walkman. Or I'll clean the house. Usually when I clean the house I start at three in the morning and finish at seven. Totally backwards. I'm impossible to live with. Although I'm pretty quiet because I'm paranoid about the walls being so thin.
"I'll write down all those things that have been bugging me for a while. I might take care of some business or read a few books. I'm reading Tropic Of Cancer right now. Any idea, anybody else's work, if it appeals to me and gives me enjoyment, that gives me inspiration. And I'll see some movies. On the bus there's very little time to read and the movies we have on board are horrible, stuff like Twins. Hardly inspiring material."
Some stubbly bloke pops his head round the bus door to tell Jeff that it's time for tonight's gig. Buckley sighs again, ever the reluctant rockgod. "So what do you actually like about the rock 'n' roll life?" I ask as a parting shot.
"Well..." He pauses, staring into space for a few moments before breaking into what actually looks like a bit of a grin. "I guess it's been very educational."