There goes Rhymin Si­mon

Mu­sic le­gend, Paul Si­mon is pre­par­ing to walk away from ma­jor tour­ing and ad­mits he may not write an­other song. He speaks to AN­DREW ARTHUR about what prompted that de­ci­sion and why Don­ald Trump is a dan­ger to the planet

Harefield Gazette - - SOUND OUT -

IT’S hard to imag­ine one of the most cel­e­brated singer­song­writ­ers in the his­tory of pop mu­sic be­ing starstruck.

As a flat­tered Paul Si­mon thanks me after I ex­plain how sur­real it feels to speak to him, he quickly blows that per­cep­tion out of the wa­ter.

“Yeah, that is kind of a mind­blow­ing thing,” the 76-year-old ac­knowl­edges down the phone from his home in New York, where he is look­ing out across the At­lantic from the tip of Long Is­land.

“I had the same feel­ing when Ar­tie and I per­formed with The Everly Brothers. We kept say­ing, ‘Can you be­lieve it? The Everly Brothers are in our show!’ They were our child­hood idols. It’s a funny feel­ing.”

He adds: “I just saw Don Everly when I played in Nash­ville. He came up and we sang Bye Bye Love to­gether, which was kind of touch­ing for me, you know?”

That song seems poignant as Paul pre­pares to close his farewell tour with a run of US shows.

In Fe­bru­ary, he an­nounced he would stop tour­ing fol­low­ing his lat­est global jaunt, which took in Lon­don’s Hyde Park in July.

There’s a sense of re­lief in Paul’s voice as he ex­plains his rea­son­ing for hang­ing up his gig­ging hat.

“I keep try­ing to in­tro­duce a cou­ple of new songs ev­ery time I play. I feel like I have to play the well-known songs be­cause peo­ple want to hear them.

“The show I do is kind of locked into a cer­tain reper­toire. And it’s a good one too. It’s just... I’ve done it now. It’s a good time to stop be­cause noth­ing is bro­ken.

“My voice is still good, my en­ergy is good, the band is great. I don’t want to be the last one at the party.

“I’d like to per­form again in a while. I want to re­ally stop and clear my mind of 60 years of per­form­ing, so that will take a while.

“Then, when I per­form again, if I do, I’d like to do it in smaller places that are acous­ti­cally right and give the money to causes I sup­port.

“I don’t feel I need to work for money any­more, I’d rather be giv­ing it. I could see my­self com­ing back to the UK and play­ing for some­thing that is of value.

“But I’m not go­ing to go on a long trek and be away from my fam­ily on the road any­more.”

Draw­ing up a set list that ac­com­mo­dates You Can Call Me Al and lesser known gems from his solo ca­reer must be dif­fi­cult.

It’s the lat­ter that Paul has turned his at­ten­tion to for his lat­est stu­dio al­bum. He has re-recorded 10 of his per­sonal favourites that he feels didn’t have an im­pact when they were first re­leased.

“I re­ally ap­proached it like a new al­bum. I was us­ing new mu­si­cians and to­tally dif­fer­ent ar­range­ments. It was the first time for me play­ing with all jazz play­ers.

“These songs are ac­tu­ally as good as any­thing I am writ­ing now. I haven’t writ­ten for a cou­ple of years now. I don’t know if I’ll do it again or not.

“I have to stop in or­der to make some­thing re­ally in­ter­est­ing. It’s not like I’m writ­ing hits any­more.

“What’s im­por­tant for me as an artist is to re­vi­talise my think­ing. What’s im­por­tant for me is to just stop. Maybe look at the planet for a while and get the pic­ture of who I am and what we are as a planet.

“I’d like to travel to places that I haven’t been to.

“I’m cu­ri­ous to stop for the plea­sure of it and what, if any­thing, comes from break­ing the mode of how I cre­ate.”

Paul re­veals the lyrics he has re­vis­ited still speak to the di­vi­sive at­mos­phere in Don­ald Trump’s Amer­ica. A vo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, the de­ci­sion to with­draw the US from the Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change clearly trou­bles Paul.

“It’s crim­i­nal rolling back on clean air acts. It makes no sense to al­low more pol­lu­tion so some­body can profit from it. “It makes you just won­der, ‘What’s wrong with these peo­ple?’ “It’s very tense here and peo­ple are very an­gry. They seem to be that way all around the globe. “The anger is ex­act­ing a toll on peo­ple’s health, I’m sure. It cer­tainly doesn’t help in solv­ing prob­lems. “You’re much bet­ter off try­ing to solve prob­lems if you have a cool head. This an­tag­o­nism is detri­men­tal to the fabric of so­ci­ety. “Racism, sex­ism, the LGBTQ com­mu­nity, are all hu­man is­sues. But if there is no planet to sus­tain the species, all these is­sues be­come moot. Let’s try and fix this planet’. “I don’t agree with the idea that we’re go­ing to find some other planet when we have a po­ten­tial par­adise here. “I think we have to save this place, it’s in­cred­i­ble. I feel re­ally bad about leav­ing this to my kids.” As our con­ver­sa­tion draws to a close, I ask Paul – given he has re­worked some of his old ma­te­rial – which artist has done the best cover of one of his songs. “I would say Aretha Franklin’s ver­sion of Bridge Over Trou­bled Wa­ter was ex­tra­or­di­nary. So was Ar­tie’s ver­sion. They were both very dif­fer­ent. “Of course it’s sad that Aretha passed away, but this is my gen­er­a­tion. We’re all grad­u­ally leav­ing. For­tu­nately her record­ings re­main. “She was go­ing to do a fi­nal tour, but I don’t think she ever got there. It makes me feel that I did my fi­nal tour at the right time. “I don’t feel di­min­ished by time at this point, but even­tu­ally I would be. “It’s a good time to stop while I’m still go­ing strong.”

Paul Si­mon’s new al­bum In The Blue Light, left, is out now

He­roes and vil­lain: The Everly Brothers and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, whose de­ci­sion to pull out of the cli­mate change Paris Agree­ment frus­trated Paul

Paul says the ver­sions of Bridge Over Trou­bled Wa­ter by Aretha Franklin and Art Gar­funkel are among his favourite per­for­mances of one of his songs

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