Interview date: 05/02/2008
Run date: 05/09/2008
Few names in pop music are as recognizable as Carly Simon, and we had the privilege recently to speak to her. Simon has released a new album, This Kind of Love, on the Starbucks Hear Music label, home to the likes of Simon's ex-husband James Taylor, as well as other icons like Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell. Here is what Simon had to say about the new album, her love of Brazilian music, her dislike for Cleveland, and her kids, Ben and Sally.
Carly Simon: Hi, is Mike Farley there?
CS: Hi Mike. It's Carly Simon.
BE: Hey! How are you?
CS: Fine. How are you?
BE: Good. It's really great to talk to you.
CS: Thank you. It's good to talk to you too.
BE: I grew up in the 70's with all the pop music and you were the soundtrack to all of that.
CS: It was the best, wasn't it?
BE: Yeah. Really great times.
CS: Where are you now?
BE: I'm in Nashville.
CS: Nashville. Oh gosh. What a place.
BE: It's great. Have you been here a lot?
CS: No. I really haven't. I would like to. I'd like to sit around and take in the music for a while.
BE: Yeah, it's pretty cool. People go to work to write songs here.
CS: Oh, how great.
BE: So your new album, This Kind of Love, is your first release of your own material in eight years.
CS: It's just hard to believe. I did write The Bedroom Tapes, which was my last album of original songs in 2000. And I released it on Arista just at the time that Clive Davis was being let go. And L.A. Reid came in and he couldn't have been less interested in my music. And so I made a deal with them so that they wouldn't have to pay me for my next album, because I had a contract for two albums. And so I made a contract that they wouldn't have to pay me if they let me have this album. So I got The Bedroom Tapes back and I have that still. I'm going to release it somewhere, sometime.
BE: And how did you wind up signing with the Starbucks Hear Music label?
CS: Hear Music came to me, actually. They came to my attorney, and said that they would like to sign me. They were interested in the artists who were…I don't know how I came to their mind. But I did along with some very impressive people who are my peers like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and James Taylor and Carole King.
BE: I saw Paul McCartney was on there too.
CS: Of course Paul had the first record. And it's a very, very friendly company. They probably sit around drinking a lot of coffee!
BE: Of course.
CS: The man that I had been dealing with personally, Alan Mintz, is just a treasure, just a great guy. And they leave me very free to do what I want and are encouraging. It's been a great experience just recording with them.
BE: Very cool. This album is musically inspired by an affinity for Brazilian music?
CS: Well yes, it was definitely originally inspired by that and it was going to be a kind of completely Brazilian album. And then I listened to the music of Caetano Veloso, who's just an incredible Brazilian artist. Are you familiar with him?
BE: No, I'm not.
CS: You must get The Best of Caetano Veloso. It's so amazing. I listened to that and I realized that he didn't have to sing a Brazilian or a samba beat every time. He himself was influenced by the music of the movies of Hollywood, or the movies of Italy. It became almost world music. So Caetano Veloso, who was influenced by those other elements, influenced me. There is a large feeling of bossa nova and samba rhythms, but they take off from there and they go to different places the way anybody who is influenced by other people are. So I was most interested that Caetano Veloso was doing songs like….I got my song, "People Say a Lot When They Want the Job" really very much from a song that Caetano wrote. And that song on the album is quite different from the others in that it's almost R&B or rap.
BE: Gotcha. I think I picked up on that when I was listening to the album. I thought it was really unique to hear you rapping.
CS: I really love that song because it was a great release for me to write it. And then that George Sanders bit at the end, which was the end of "All About Eve," it just fit in so perfectly. Just the way and what people say when they want a job or when there are candidates out there promising the voters that they'll do things, that they promise to end the war as soon as they get elected, and they're promising, promising, promising. It's a full-time job to be a hypocrite.
BE: (laughs) And it also says in the bio that this is a more personal album as well, with songs about your children and about your friend Art Buchwald, who passed away last year. Tell me a bit about how all that influenced these songs.
CS: Well there are actually four songs that are very much kid-related, my kids-related. There are two songs by them. One by Ben (Taylor), and one by Sally (Taylor). The one by Ben is called Island, and the one by Sally is called When We're Together. So I pay homage to them and their beautiful songs, both of which have an island/watery feel. I think Sally's song is very, very much…I don't know how she knew how to do it; she wrote a Brazilian song when she didn't really know it. She picked up a guitar and played some bass notes and wrote the melody and the lyrics to the bass notes that she picked out.
BE: That's cool.
CS: And then I wrote two songs about them. One is "Hold Out Your Heart, My Darling". The lyrics are …well the first verse is "Oh my boy, what have you done? / Have you gone out surfing on a frozen sea? / Did you scare the living daylights out of me? / But if you ever need an endless night and a moon and stars, just hold out your heart, my darling and I will give you some of mine." And there's a verse about Sally. "Oh my girl, what have you done? / Is it something we can't even talk about? / Did you silence me; remove me from your faith? / Did you make me all but a stranger of your love? / Did you look right thru me, below me and above? / Did you try to ignore me when you needed me most?" It's really a love song to both of them, which is not at all hard to write.
BE: Right, very cool.
CS: And the other song about them is "If They Just Care that You're There". "They don't care if you brush your hair/ They just care that you're there / They don't care if you stay upstairs / They just care that you're there."
BE: Very cool. Also tell me about working with Jimmy Webb and Frank Filipetti. On a side note, I saw Jimmy Webb in a songwriters' round here in Nashville and he blew me away.
CS: Boy, is he great. He's so smart and so talented. He really is. We spent a lot of time together. He came up and we started to work on songs together and chose the songs that we were going to use on the album. I gave Jimmy and Peter Calo the words that I'd written, "The only place I hang my head is in my dreams." It's called "In My Dreams". And they came up with the most gorgeous melody. That's one of my favorite songs on the album too. It's so simple. Do you know that song?
CS: It's really about sleeping into death. It's about how sleep almost prepares you for death if you believe in living on a different plane after you die. And so the second verse goes, "Sometime I'll only dream that I'm not scared of that / I'll move to far the galaxies, wear other hats / Trip on a blink, and inkling of a shadow fill." I don't know where I came up with that. It just kind of means something to me poetically. But anyway, I thought that was a beautiful interpretation of the lyric that I gave them by Jimmy and Peter.
BE: Very cool. Aside from the Brazilian influences, who are some songwriters and artists that have inspired you over the years?
CS: Well most of them are people other than the artists who influenced me in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I was extremely influenced by the writers for Broadway. By Tin Pan Alley, by Cole Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein, Rogers and Hart, and George Gershwin especially. And Lerner and Lowe, and Frank Lesser. And then I was very influenced by Pete Seeger and Joan Baez and Judy Collins, a lot of those singers and songwriters. And of course the classical music, which is not exactly singer/songwriters, but I listened to classical music very often, especially when I was in college. I just had my radio constantly tuned to a classical music station. I was interested in just about everything except for 12-tone music.
BE: Okay (laughs). There are definitely a pretty well rounded group of influences you've had.
CS: Yes, I would say extremely.
BE: And looking back, you've really had an incredibly successful career, including multiple Grammys. What have you not accomplished yet that you would like to?
CS: Nothing in music. I won an Oscar, which is pretty amazing. Just the fact that I won an Oscar is very amazing to me and the Grammys and the Golden Globe. But awards don't mean as much to me. I know this is very weird to say, but I'm fine with being remembered posthumously. Isn't that weird?
BE: It's not so weird. I mean, a lot of people talk about wanting to leave a legacy.
CS: Well I don't even know if I will. But I don't like being highlighted. When people say, "Well you should really be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Why aren't you? That's really an insult since all of your peers are." And it doesn't really bother me as much because I really don't like Cleveland.
BE: (laughs). That is so funny. I actually lived in Cleveland for 10 years. My wife is from there.
CS: Oh, bummer.
BE: It was a kind of happening city when we lived there. It got a lot better and more exciting. For the most part, six months out of the year it's very cold and gloomy. Not somewhere you want to be.
CS: What was good about it?
BE: When we were there, it was when the Rock Hall first opened, and there was the rebirth of the Indians and the Browns. When I moved there, a lot of people didn't live downtown, and that has kind of changed too with urban growth going on there that there wasn't before.
CS: Well maybe I'm missing something.
BE: I just have a few more questions if you have time.
BE: So is there anyone you'd like to collaborate with that you haven't yet?
CS: Well Caetano Veloso, I would say. I would love to collaborate with him. I would also love to work for…what's the name of the director who did "Strictly Ballroom" and "Moulin Rouge?" Baz Luhrmann. "Strictly Ballroom" is my most favorite movie ever.
BE: Okay, cool. And are there any plans to tour in support of this album?
CS: Yes. I'm going to do some typically odd things.
BE: Are there a lot of things with Starbucks that you're going to be doing?
CS: Well what I want to do is, I want to perform in Starbucks stores.
BE: Well that would be pretty cool.
CS: Just to kind of show up unannounced.
BE: Well that sounds really neat.
CS: Yeah, I'd really like to do that. It just takes somebody at Starbucks to hear me and to get that together. Hear Music to hear me.
BE: Gotcha. And of your entire catalog, what are two or three of your favorite songs?
CS: Well the first ones that come to mind are a song called, "It Happens Everyday". And a song called "Orpheus". And a song called, "We're So Close". And they're more obscure songs.
BE: Yeah, I recognize those titles but I don't remember hearing them. I'll have to research that.
CS: Well they're the first ones that come to my mind.
BE: And did you get to see Brooke White on American Idol perform "You're So Vain"?
CS: Yes I did!
BE: What did you think about it?
CS: I thought she was great!
BE: Yeah, I did too.
CS: I thought, wow, if I could sing that song that well, I'd be a star. (laughs)
BE: (laughs) Well I think that song in particular catapulted her in the show.
CS: Well everybody seemed to love it. I'd wish she'd do it again. She could make a record of it.
BE: Yeah. Well, maybe she will.
CS: Well I think she was wonderful. I was so honored and so thrilled that she did it and she did it so well. If you ever run into her, tell her to call me. All right? (laughs)
BE: (laughs) Okay, I will. Lastly, with today's changing music industry, what advice would you give a young and aspiring artist? Or maybe in your case, your kids?
CS: Well Ben is doing it really the best way, which is he's putting his own music out himself. He has his own label.
BE: I actually reviewed his last record, which I loved.
CS: You did?
CS: Oh, I'll tell him. Well, he has a new record that's coming out in September, which is really very interesting, really wonderful. So, you can go online and get all of his music. Go to www.bentaylor.com and see new videos. He's amazing!
BE: Yeah, he really is. So what advice would you give him or your daughter?
CS: I would say be creative through the Internet. That's where music is going to be sold.
BE: Okay! Well very good. It was great to talk to you, Carly.
CS: It was great to talk to you too. Thanks so much for your time.
BE: Thank you. And good luck with the album.