SIMON says


The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

MORE than 50 years ago Paul Simon made a life chang­ing de­ci­sion not only for him­self, but for the mu­sic world. Like many kids in Queens, New York, Simon honed his skills at stick-ball and gen­eral neigh­bour­hood tom­fool­ery. But un­like the other chil­dren, Simon was lucky enough to find his call­ing as a song­writer from the age of 13.

‘‘If I could go back and talk to that kid I would say – nice in­stinct – thanks a lot,’’ he says, laugh­ing. ‘‘He gave me some­thing that I’ve loved my whole life.’’

He’s clearly not the only one. With 12 Grammy Awards to his name and count­less record­ings, the mu­sic world – and its ge­og­ra­phy – would be a vastly dif­fer­ent if Simon hadn’t come along.

‘‘I was a 13-year-old who de­cided he wanted to write songs,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s great be­cause I never had to think about what I wanted to do in my life. I’m really for­tu­nate that I’m do­ing what I wanted to do since I was a young kid.’’

Cur­rently tour­ing Aus­tralia – his first shows here since his Old Friends tour with mu­si­cal col­lab­o­ra­tor Art Gar­funkel in 2009 – Simon, 71, says he’s not tired of singing his hits, some of them al­most 50 years old.

‘‘It can go in and out. That’s why I don’t tour a lot. Usu­ally I’m fine if it’s played right and the rhythm is right, then it’s alive,’’ he says.

‘‘If you’re be­ing a cover band of your own stuff, it isn’t fun. Once you’re bored some­thing is wrong and you have to recog­nise that quickly. ‘‘Mu­si­cians shouldn’t be bored.’’ The same ap­plies to his stu­dio ef­forts. ‘‘Ev­ery time I make a record I’m go­ing to a place I’m in­ter­ested in,’’ he says.

‘‘If you keep mov­ing and fol­low­ing the mu­sic and where it takes you it’s an end­less process that can take a life­time. There’s no limit to where the mu­sic can take you. If you stay in the same place – it would drive me crazy. I don’t do that.’’

The first ev­i­dence of Simon break­ing away came in 1965, when he re­leased folk al­bum Song­book in the UK. He says the record gave him a chance to write for him­self but un­like other break­through changes he made later in his ca­reer, he soon found out that this pe­riod of time be­longed to his work with Gar­funkel.

‘‘ Song­book was coming out of the English folk scene and it was ba­si­cally about what was go­ing on in my life,’’ Simon says.

‘‘From there, Simon and Gar­funkel hap­pened. It took off so rapidly. We were pop stars. That was in­ter­est­ing for a while to be a pop star, then we did Bridge Over Trou­bled Water and it wasn’t about be­ing a pop star any­more. It was about where I wanted to go.

‘‘Writ­ing those big bal­lads – Sounds of Si­lence and Bridge Over Trou­bled Water – in my 20s, I had no idea where they came from,’’ he says.

‘‘I had no idea they would last. All I was think­ing was ‘I‘d like to travel to this coun­try and try this’. I then moved from scene to scene and it was a nat­u­ral devel­op­ment lead­ing to a jump into Grace­land.’’

While many artists take cues from Simon and utilise mu­sic from a va­ri­ety of cul­tures, Simon rec­om­mends they im­merse them­selves in them, not sim­ply bor­row. ‘‘It’s worth it. There’s so much to learn,’’ Simon says. ‘‘I could go to an­other cul­ture and make an­other fu­sion record like Grace­land but it was the peo­ple who played on it – they were the masters. I learnt so much from what they were do­ing. I had to do so much lis­ten­ing to find out what’s go­ing on.’’

Simon has re­leased more than a dozen al­bums since leav­ing Simon and Gar­funkel, five of which topped charts around the world. He says he’s look­ing to switch­ing things up on his next record, the fol­low up to 2011’s So Beau­ti­ful So What.

‘‘I think it’s go­ing to be an EP of about five tracks,’’ he says.

‘‘I’ve writ­ten one song which I’m really proud of. It’s a bal­lad with some really in­tri­cate gui­tar. I have some more ideas but I think re­leas­ing some­thing smaller will work. I don’t know if an al­bum is the way. Once again – it’s (the sound) dif­fer­ent al­to­gether for me again.’’ Vin­tage Simon? ‘‘I guess so,’’ he says, laugh­ing.

Paul Simon plays the By­ron Bay Blues­fest on Easter Mon­day.

What’s on, Wilco, Page 30-31

I’m with them: Paul Simon on stage at last week’s Tim­bre Rock & Roots Fes­ti­val in Sin­ga­pore.

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