Former New Bohemian is current mom and singer. Chatting about her new Volcano disc, Mrs Paul Simon explain her love of Central Park, her rapport with Charlie Sexton, and her Thanksgiving plans.
It's not easy being an Edie Brickell fan. Those who were beguiled by the wide-eyed vocals on "What I Am," her 1990 hit with the New Bohemians, have had little to go on since. In 1994, the singer released a solo album called Picture Perfect Morning, but most of her time was taken up by raising a family with her new husband, the songwriter Paul Simon.
The Dallas songwriter-turned-Manhattan housewife hasn't been abandoned by her muse. She spent years compiling a catalog of tunes and waiting for the opportunity to make a record she would be happy with. Her knight in shining armor turned out to be Charlie Sexton, the Austin guitarist who's a longstanding member of Bob Dylan's touring band. Brickell loved what he did to a demo of her song "Volcano," and the pair decided to spread the magic over a whole album.
The 37-year-old's voice is as candid as ever. Volcano finds her languid phrasing being stretched all over Sexton's bluesy canvas. Fans might consider it a letter from a long-lost friend. There are songs about the man who won her heart ("Once in a Blue Moon") and updates on day-to-day life ("Take a Walk"). She told VH1 about how her songs sneak up on her, why it's okay for Paul to play with Art, and dinner with the Brickells.
VH1: Did you and Charlie Sexton both know each other before working together?
Edie Brickell: No, I didn't know him. I admired him from afar, but I never imagined I'd work with him. My manager said that I'd do well with a producer like Charlie. I kept saying no, because I wanted to put out a record that I loved and didn't want somebody to come in to make it commercial. My manager sent Charlie my demos. He picked the song "Volcano," recorded the most beautiful music over it and sent it to me. I was blown away. I said, "That's my soul brother." I haven't been the greatest communicator to other musicians about what I wanted to hear. I just hoped they'd be intuitive. This was the first time anybody came in and just nailed it. He helped me to make the first record I can stand up and say I love.
VH1: What's the inspiration behind Volcano's title track?
EB: A lot of the songs start with an image. I was sitting there playing the guitar and I pictured this old, dirty green car, with the window rolled down, in the hot, hot, hot Texas heat, and this beautiful woman I knew when I was a kid sitting behind the wheel, looking out at me, going, "Hey." I just described in the song what I saw and what I knew of her life and her character from that image on. So many of [the songs come] that way. You're just playing, playing, playing, and then an image or something will come into your mind, and basically you're just narrating it with music, letting it move along.
VH1: You mention Central Park's Sheep Meadow in "Take a Walk." Do you spend a lot of time there?
EB: I love the Sheep Meadow. I'd walk by there every day with the kids. That song is a tribute to the Sheep Meadow and me trying to get my kids outside! It's about trying to get my husband outside, too. He won't go outside! He's always working, the hardest-working musician I've ever met. I need to go outside. I wouldn't say I'm an outdoors person, but I like to go outside. [Laughs.]
VH1: Is the album affected a lot by your present life as a wife and mother?
EB: I don't know. I guess it represents a person looking for [a] perspective that's going to bring greater health and greater joy in life. I'm always trying to do that every day. I hope I'm better today than I was yesterday. I don't believe in glory days or anything like that, so I think the best is tomorrow or later this afternoon! Oh wait, this minute! Right now! [Laughs.]
VH1: Do you miss Paul when he's out on tour?
EB: We miss him and everything, but it's never hard, because he's enjoying himself. He needs to be free and get out there. I'm not going to say it's hard - that would make him feel bad! [Laughs.] He calls and he's all happy and excited about what he's doing. It's kinda good for our marriage, because then I'll realize, "Oh good! You're back!" as opposed to, "Oh, you're still here!" [Laughs.] He knows I love him. It's healthy!
VH1: Were you surprised that he hooked up with Art Garfunkel again for the reunion tour?
EB: Not after the Grammys performance. They did such a great job together and got along and everything. I said, "Here it comes," and then "There it is," and then, "There they are." I thought the timing was a little funny, that's all! The tour started on the day my record came out! [Laughs.] I goosed [Paul] a little bit for that.
VH1: Are your kids as musical as their parents?
EB: My son writes songs and plays. He sings like an angel. My daughter can play piano very well. My youngest doesn't. He picks up a pair of drumsticks and says he wants to play drums. They're doing a lot better than I did. I want them to have it all under their belt so, if that's what they choose to do, they can play and have fun in their '20s, as opposed to struggling to learn it in their '30s, like me. It not like I'm pushing them. I'm just encouraging them to learn! [Laughs.]
VH1: What musicians do you admire?
EB: I like Rufus Wainwright a whole lot. He makes me wanna be even more musical. I'm like, "Boy, you can be even more melodic and be a better musician." So he makes me want to keep learning. I'm inspired by that. I just heard Travis. I kinda like that. I like the way that band feels.
VH1: Are you going to be doing the turkey for Thanksgiving?
EB: I come from a big cooking family. My grandmother was the greatest cook in the world. She could just go in there, the whole kitchen would look like a tornado hit it and then she'd come out with the best food. Then she'd sit at the table and she wouldn't eat! She'd just say, "I don't think I got the right scald on those beans." The whole table would go, "Oh no! They're delicious!" Five minutes later, she'd say, "I don't think that chicken turned out so good." Everyone would go, "No, no!" She'd just sit there and watch everybody enjoy her food. Then my mom took it up and she can cook like that. Now, I'm trying. I can make dressing - or stuffing. Y'all call it stuffing up here, we call it dressing down there. It's really good dressing. That family recipe was passed on, and I love to make that. I have taken the marshmallows off the sweet potatoes, however. They would make a big pan of sweet potatoes and cover it with marshmallows. My kids would love it if I would do that for them!