Elvis Presley came to life this year on the big screen in Elvis. The film’s visionary director, Baz Luhrmann, recounted the life and times of the King of Rock and Roll with American actor Austin Butler in the star’s Blue Suede Shoes. But while Austin was researching Elvis and his musical origins, he was surprised by one song in particular.
The track had a strong connection to Elvis’s childhood. The star grew up a Christian in Mississippi, where attending church was a ritual he and his family followed every week.
To really get inside the head of the King of Rock and Roll, Austin recreated these scenarios and also began listening to some of the religious music he recorded in later life.
Speaking in a new interview, Austin spoke candidly about which of his songs surprised him the most.
He explained, “Throughout his career, Elvis would return to spiritual music as his solace, so there are a number of different gospel songs he would return to.”
Elvis loved gospel music and passionately studied and practiced religion and spirituality. In the last years of his life, he pored over philosophy books for hours and discussed deep religious traditions with members of his family.
Knowing this, when Austin heard Elvis’ version of (There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me), he was blown away.
He said, “When we went to Nashville and shot all the gospel numbers for the movie, we were able to be in these little churches listening to the gospel being sung for eight hours straight.”
He admitted: “It sent chills down my spine and I couldn’t help but move.”
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The connection Austin built with Elvis during filming was so powerful that after the biopic was over, Austin had to make some adjustments to his life.
He later confessed that he had to “rediscover” himself after embodying the King for nearly two years.
Austin confessed, “It was really a solid couple of months before I really felt anything close to normal afterwards. I had never done anything in the way that I just put my life aside.”
He went on to admit, “I didn’t see my family. I didn’t see my friends. I didn’t see anyone for the two years I was shooting the movie.” [Elvis] or working on it. You don’t know what to do with yourself when you’re done. It’s really weird.”
(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me) was one of hundreds of gospel songs Elvis sang throughout his career.
He has also recorded and released Run On, You’ll Never Walk Alone, Crying in the Chapel and How Great Thou Art to name just a few.
How Great Thou Art became the title track on Elvis’s 1967 gospel album, even securing him his first Grammy Award. A live version of the song later won him another Grammy Award in 1974.
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