Interview by AMY BARRETT
Q: ''Volcano'' is your first album in a decade. Did you ever see your husband, Paul Simon, recording when you weren't and think, I'd really love to be doing that right now?
A: No. I was raised by a single working mother who couldn't afford to be with us. We were left with all the neighbors and in apartments. I treasure moments with my kids. I missed getting to jam with my band. I didn't know any musicians here in New York.
Q: Really? New York is packed with musicians. I would think you could have just picked up your phone and said, ''Hi, so and so, you wanna come over and jam?''
A: That's not my personality type. I don't go out and pursue anything.
Q: How much of your creative process do you share with your husband?
A: I have my own room. I go into it and write, and he'll go in his studio, so there's no interaction at all. I'm really hardheaded that something should be my own and my own perspective. But what I love is that if I'm singing one of my new songs around the house, he'll say, ''Hey, what's that?'' And I'll say, ''That's a new thing -- you like it?'' And he'll say,
''Yeah.'' Now I'm really encouraged and I'm definitely going to go in there and finish it. But there are a lot of times where he doesn't say a darn word. [Laughs]
Q: Did you ever try out your new songs on your kids?
A: I was always singing goofy songs off the top of my head to the kids. I was encouraged by all those old songs, like ''I've Been Working on the Railroad.'' Then when I would go to play, I would think, Keep it melodic and simple. I know that ''Rush Around'' came from that idea.
Q: You never stopped writing songs. What inspired you to get back to recording?
A: Steve Gadd asked me what I was doing, and I said, basically, ''Nothing.'' I figured I had my time. He said, ''Why don't we go into the studio together?'' He really encouraged me. He played the drums almost melodically and so sensitively -- it got me excited to record again. I thought, I want it to be about fun again. I didn't want it to be about pressure.
Q: What happened that made making music feel like a pressure-filled situation?
A: Way back then, when I was 22, first we got signed and then we waited a year before we even went in to record our record. We were still playing in clubs, and we still had a lot of fun. But we didn't know what was in store for us -- photo shoots and a lot of that kind of thing. Maybe it was too much all at once. That was a lesson to be learned that we need to not be in the public eye so much, but to withdraw, get a new sense of life, get a new sense of music.
Q: How many songs did you write in 10 years? Dozens? Hundreds?
A: There's a lot that I threw out. Songs can be like fads, you know, an emotional fad even, and unfortunately I've had to live with ones that fit that description. That was painful.
A: ''Carmelito'' on ''Ghost of a Dog'' is very stupid. I didn't know what it meant, so I tried to rewrite it. I hate that song with a passion, because I was trying as opposed to just letting it flow.
Q: What's it like living with another songwriter? Do you guys listen differently?
We'll be driving along, and all of a sudden, I'll say: ''Did you hear that? That was a funny lyric.'' And he'll say: ''No, I didn't hear that. I was listening to the groove.'' He listens to the whole sonic appeal. I'm interested in Where is this person coming from?
Q: Does it irritate you that people often refer to you as Paul Simon's wife?
A: No, because I am his wife, and I'm proud of it.
Q: But doesn't it make you mad to think that some people say, ''Oh, he helps her out''?
A: Asking my husband to help me write a song would be like asking him to salt my food to his taste. I wouldn't do it. We're not perfectly compatible in our imaginations. It's almost like coming from different countries, being from Texas and New York.
Volcano to be released 10/14/`03