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The neck of my Guitar
A Conversation with Paul Simon (January 2003) KGSR Radio Austin
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Q
It's really a privilege to speak with you. And we've really been enjoying the song Father and Daughter. And of course, you're no stranger to writing songs for movies. Mrs. Robinson was written for The Graduate. How did this hook up with the Wild Thornberrys movie come about?
A
Paramount/Nickelodeon approached me to write -- to see if I was interested in this movie. And I was, because my children know the Thornberrys from television. So I got to see a little bit of the movie and read the script. And I thought it would be fun to write a song that I could take my kids to see, because it would be a PG movie. And I began to work on it to -- you know, write some music to see how the music would fit in with the soundtrack处the other artists on the soundtrack and how it would fit against picture. And once that, you know, seemed to find a good space, I started to work on the particular scene that they wanted me to write a song for. And at that point I was trying to write something that would help the specific scene, but also have a larger theme that would apply -- you know, that would go even beyond the movie. And that's how I chose a father's love for his daughter. A theme that wasn't hard for me to write about, since I have a daughter.


Q
How many young children do you have? Do you have a son as well that's young?
A
I have two young sons. I have one grown son and a daughter. I have four children.


Q
And you're married to a Texas lady who we know, Ms. Edie Brickell.
A
Sure do.


Q
Do you get to come back to Texas at all for family visits or anything?
A
Yeah. Yeah, that's right. Edie's mom lives north of Dallas. And so we're down there and the kids are down there every year, a couple of times.


Q
Well, you've been in Austin, I guess it was not last summer, but the summer before, at the Backyard. You were touring behind the album "You're the One." And looking at the lyrics for Father and Daughter and also your stage movements on stage, you just seem to be in a very spiritual place right now. Not that you always haven't been, but do you agree with that? Do you feel that?
A
Uhh处yes, I do. My only -- the reason I'm hesitating is, I don't mean to say it permeates my every, you know, moment, but I'm certainly able to access that part of my, that part of my being, since I'm very grateful for my life and aware -- more aware than when I was young, just, how fortunate -- how fortunate we all are to be alive. To that degree that that filters into what I have to say, I certainly allow it to, because it feels -- you know, it feels so. I don't really make a particular effort to make the point. I don't really believe in actually making a point. I don't think that making a point is very interesting. But if it does come out, it's because I do feel, I do feel that way.


Q
You just seem so free on stage, as well, on the last tour and on the DVD that I have for "You're the One." One of the interesting things musically about your latest song Father and Daughter is we have that skittering guitar line, I believe it's Vincent Nguini that opens the song.
A
No, it's me.


Q
That's you. Beautiful. Beautiful line.
A
Thank you. Vincent is playing the acoustic guitar. (Mimics Vincent's rhythmic sound). And I'm playing the electric guitar and the -- that nylon string that's a Riquinto.


Q
Well, great work.
A
Thank you.


Q
And also, it just seems to combine the ethnic flavors of "Graceland" and "Rhythm of the Saints," perhaps, with some of your earlier solo work. And that was present on "You're the One." It's present on Father and Daughter. And I understand you're working on some new material?
A
Yes, that's so.


Q
Are you far enough into it to where you have an inkling as to where it's going yet?
A
Yeah, just about an inkling. I'm just about that far. I've completed a couple of songs. They're not -- obviously, not exactly like Father and Daughter, but they have that simple, clear kind of simple. Not simple as in simplistic, but a kind of clarity that the music of Father and Daughter has. Which is not surprising, because Father and Daughter comes out of the same musical time frame as what I'm doing now. So I guess I would be able to tell that that's the music of this particular phase of my thinking. It's just a bit different from "You're the One" in that it's a little bit harder, it's less about percussion, more about drum kit. And the guitars are like a mix of acoustic and electric. It's a certain proportional mix that seems to be nice.


Q
We're talking with Paul Simon, who is live in snowy New York City. And live with us on 107.1 KGSR. There's been some repackaging of your work lately. Let's start with the compilation "On My Way, Don't Know Where I'm Going." Do you have input into a repackage like that?
A
Uh-huh. Sure. I have input into most of the decisions that go on about my work. I can choose -- choose the material. And I sequenced it. And I sort of take it up to that stage, I didn't go to the mastering. I picked some live tracks that I -- hadn't been heard and that I thought were interesting, like the Aaron Neville duet on Bridge. That's from the New Orleans' Jazz Festival. So I'm involved -- yeah, sure, I'm involved in it.


Q
How about when a record comes out like "Simon & Garfunkel Live From New York City, 1967." Was that your idea to bring out this archival work or did someone approach you at the label and then you listened and said, "That's a good idea, let's do it"?
A
Yes, that's what happened.


Q
The latter way?
A
Yeah, because I didn't know that that concert existed on tape. I didn't really remember recording any of our concerts. But there's a couple of them that have been recorded. I think they plan on releasing at least one other live Simon & Garfunkel album.


Q
You've done so much classic work, Paul. The "Graceland" album, of course, towers for so many people. But "The Rhythm of the Saints" was a wonderfully commercially successful record and a great artistic record. Do you feel like sometimes there's things that people don't notice because other things overshadow them? Like "Graceland" being such a cultural totem that maybe the "Rhythm of the Saints" didn't get its proper due, or did you feel that it did?
A
No, I think it did. I think it did. I think "Graceland" was -- "Graceland" was a breakthrough kind of album. Not just for me, but it was for a kind of music that -- you know, for world music. And very, very infectious rhythm album. "Rhythm of the Saints" is more complex in that it's a percussion album. And the audience narrows when it's a percussion. And I think it becomes more intense. Like I mean, drummers like that album a lot.


Q
So when you sit down to write now, first of all, where do you write? Do you write at your home in Long Island? Do you have a place that you go where you like to write?
A
I write处yeah, I write at home. But I write a lot in the car.


Q
Really?
A
Yeah, I write a lot in the car when I'm driving. I play my, you know, whatever piece of music I'm working on and I write melodies against it and play with the lyrics. And when I finally put vocals down, you know, I decide to modify the phrasing or maybe change a melody or something. I do a lot of it when I'm driving.


Q
That's amazing to me. Is there a way for you -- and we've got one or two more questions and we're going to wrap up with Paul Simon - is there a way for you to clear your mind? You have such a body of work and so much of it is so important to American culture. Is there a way for you to just clear the slate, clean the slate when you're writing so that you're not competing with your former work or finding it trickling through?
A
I don't mind when it trickles through. That's fine with me, actually. It's -- it's just me. That's fine. I don't have a sense of competing with myself. I'm sort of always at the place that I'm at. I don't write unless I feel like I have something to say. So the only thing that I would say on the -- so all of that's very comfortable. The only thing that's a frustration, if and when it occurs, is when you write something that you really like a lot and then you can't get played. That's why it's important to have stations like you that will be interested in playing a wider range of musical thinking. It makes it possible for artists like me to reach people, to talk to people. It's very different from the days when everything that I did was immediately played on top 40. And even though I don't expect that that would occur again, there's a certain natural处generational处- whatever. You know what I mean?


Q
Yes, I do.
A
I think that's fine. That's natural. I don't need to be -- I don't want to or mean to be competing on a level with the most current popular artists. But you do need to know when you're writing whether you're talking to anybody or whether you're talking to yourself. Because if you're talking to yourself, then a lot of times, I think, well, I'm just -- maybe I'm just talking to myself here. In which case, no reason for me to say what I just said, because I know it.


Q
I don't think there's any reason to worry about that, because there's a core audience that you have of people that you originally reached. And we're still listening. And if the song Old was released 30 years ago, perhaps it would have been on top 40. But we heard it anyway when we heard "You're the One" and it reached us. And it's a song that grew with us. And your songs grow as time goes on.
Mr. Paul Simon, it's been just a pleasure to talk to you. In the aftermath of 9/11, there is no artist who's music was played more on our station than yours, because it was so quintessentially American and quintessentially New York. And the songs, whether it was American Tune or America or Bridge Over Troubled Water, they just seemed to grow with the times. I remember the skit you once did on Saturday Night Live and you were dressed as an older man and you went in the elevator and your songs were on Muzak.
A
Oh, yeah, yeah.


Q
And it was a bit odd. But you are part of who we are. Do you sense that?
A
Yes, I really felt that on the night of the Kennedy Center. In a way it's -- it's like -- it's almost a little embarrassing to feel that. It's a lot of affection coming, coming to me. You know, respect and affection coming to me, which I really appreciate. But it's -- in a certain sense, it makes you -- I don't know. It's a little -- it's strange, you know, to find -- it's strange to find myself, you know, at this place. But I think it's -- if you want to look at it that way, it's strange to be in any place. (Laughter.)


Q
Well it's karmically correct. You've given us respect and affection and love and insight so naturally the good things in the best of cases flow back to you. (I) look forward to the new album this year, Paul. And thank you for Father And Daughter. I don't have a daughter but any friends of mine that have daughters are attached to this song. You have reached them in a special place so for them I thank you. I thank you for spending time with us today and I hope to talk to you again soon.
A
I hope so too. Thanks a lot





See also these last articles

Paul Simon, 'Old' or Born at the Right Time? (December 2000) The Forward - NYC - 0000-00-00 posted by unknown

Simon, Garfunkel Reunite After 10 Years (Feb. 23, 2003) Newsday.com - 0000-00-00 posted by unknown

Online interview about the Capeman (January 27th, 1998) The Book Report - 0000-00-00 posted by unknown