the AU interview: Simone Felice (USA) Talks His New Live Album From the Violent Banks of the Kaaterskill

  • Simon Clark
  • September 23, 2015
  • Comments Off on the AU interview: Simone Felice (USA) Talks His New Live Album From the Violent Banks of the Kaaterskill

Ahead of the release of his new retrospective live record From The Violent Banks Of The Kaaterskill we caught up with American singer-songwriter Simone Felice to discover a little bit more about the recording of the album; just how you decide what to include from ten years worth of songs; and we chat a little about his newly created record label Mighty Hudson Records.

Hi, how are you?

I’m very well. How are you, man?

I’m good, thank you. Pleasure to speak to you again.

Yeah, you too, man.

So after a couple of solo albums, you’re releasing sort of a retrospective live album. What prompted the decision to release that kind of a record now?

Oh, man. Honestly you know, it’s been about ten years since I’ve been putting records out with my brothers, my solo stuff and everything, so I kind of didn’t… you know, fans have been asking me for years, friends and family, ‘Hey there’s a certain magic that happens when you perform live, we’d love for you to try to capture that on a record’. So, for me it was a sort of double-edged sword, trying to do something special for my fans and also… just kind of, you know, go through the book, go through the closet as it were… to shake off some old dusty jackets and suits and try them on again, you know?

And just growing up I really loved live albums as well, I loved that ‘Live in ’66’ Dylan record, live at the Royal Albert Hall. It was one of my favourite records when I was a kid and anyway, yeah, I just wanted to do something a little different and kind of connect with my fans. You know, people came in from all around the world for three nights, it was a really small, intimate thing- only about 60 or 70 people each night and yeah, man, just trying to do something special.

When you think live album, you normally think of a concert recording, but this was just a slightly different kind of concept, I guess.

Yeah, I wanted to do something that was not in a traditional venue, so it’s in this big barn in the woods, just down the street from where I was born and grew up and it’s a recording studio sometimes and sometimes it’s just a barn. So, we set up a really special environment, you know, lit some candles, lit a fire outside and yeah, it was kind of like an old-fashioned séance/poetry reading/hoedown.

How did you decide on the track listing? Presumably, given that you recorded it over two or three shows, there are a number of songs that maybe didn’t make the cut?

There’s a few that didn’t make it, but I kind of took quite a bit of time meditating on what would be the best tunes to do, the best way to do them- obviously I couldn’t do all my songs that I’ve written, but I wanted to kind of boil it down to some of my favourites, and some that people I know- that people dig and yeah, just breathe some new life into some songs that I’ve recorded with my brothers a long time ago, and yeah I just kind of… listened to the voice in my head about what tunes to do, I wasn’t too… I didn’t force it, I tried not to be too rigid about it or beat my head against the wall, I just sang the songs that I was feeling at the time. I feel like it’s really come out in a way that I’m happy with the results.

Presumably, given the nature of live recordings, certain songs maybe didn’t come across quite as well in the recording as they did at the show?

Part of my plan was to do four nights, three nights with the audience from you know, fans, and then one night with just friends and family. We did almost the same songs every night and changed it up a little bit each night. Almost every night we did the same songs so that I would have different versions to choose from for the album, and we could take the ones that captured the magic of the song and that kind of thing. So, that was the way that we planned it, so that we’d have some options for the takes that we were using.

They mentioned in the press release that there’s unreleased material. Is there another solo album in the works as well?

Well, this album- the one that you have there, there’s two songs that never got recorded for solo albums. They’re actually two of my favourite songs that I’ve written in the past year, I just never put them on a record. There’s one called ‘War Movie’, and there’s another one called ‘One Night Stand,’ and that was really great for me to be able to kind of put those songs on the record, songs that never saw the light of day on a studio album.

Another thing was to create; another reason that I wanted to do this was to really clean up my closet, you know, my spiritual notebook and make it more of a cathartic, cleansing experience as well, so that when I approached my next studio record, I can kind of go from a blank canvas or a clean slate in a lot of ways.

So yeah, to answer your question, I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing this summer, toured a new solo record that I’ll probably record next year. I’ve been doing a lot of production work as well, I just produced The Lumineers’ new album, actually just finished yesterday producing most of their second record, and we’ve had an amazing time. We’ve been working together for six weeks on a farm out here in the Catskill Mountains so heading down to Nashville in a few days to mix that record, so yeah, it’s been pretty non-stop, but it’s all great work. It feels good.

Yeah, I didn’t realise that you’re quite as involved in production things, I noticed on your Facebook you recently got a gold record for the Avett Brothers album that they did with Rick Ruben.

Yeah, Rick had me come out and arrange drums on that record, actually quite ago now, I think it was 2009. But yeah, the record went gold in the states, which is half a million so it’s a cause for celebration for those guys, they really deserve it. They’re great dudes, really hard-working… and really talented guys.

I really love working in a studio and I’ve actually in the past couple years been doing a lot of production and producing other artists. I really enjoy it. It helps me to step back from my own crazy brain when it comes to my own writing and when I revisit my own work, then I can kind of come at it from a fresh angle.

I imagine that some of what you do with the other artists would also then filter back into your own work.

Yeah, man, exactly.

This particular record is going to be released on your new label. Is that sort of signalling that you want to do more production work and more stuff behind the scenes as well?

Well, yeah, the Mighty Hudson is just this sort of boutique little label that I’m starting you know, to put out this live record of mine although I don’t really have to deal with the big machine of record labels. Although in Australia I have a really great connection with the guys in Warner Records so we’re still working with them on this one, which is awesome.

Actually, my friend, Dave Laing, he’s the head of the IndoChine label there at Warner. He’s one of the people that’s really been encouraging me and asking me to do this style of record for years so it’s kind of apropos to put it out with him, and he’s been really encouraging me to do that.

The other thing with my starting my label, Mighty Hudson is that it gives me an outline to put out artists that nobody’s ever heard of that I believe in, and work with, so next year we’re doing to be putting out our first studio album of an artist – this girl from LA called Marie. So it’s cool, it’s an outlet and I love helping people bring their music to life. It’s kind of what I really enjoyed about being the Felice Brothers, really being part of something that’s bigger than myself so yeah.

Also on the live record, you feature an original poem in there as well. Have you found yourself working more actively on your poetry and your prose writing as well, recently?

No, I wish I could say yes, but I’ve been so busy honestly that that little thing- that poem that I recorded for the live album… it’s just something that I’ve written over the past year or two, I never wanted to recite it and it came out well so it was worth keeping for the live album.

But I haven’t had much time to sit down and actually do that kind of labour that it takes to write on a piece of paper or on a typewriter, honestly, my life is very chaotic you know, as far as all the work that I have to do for the music so I look forward to that time again where I’ll have that kind of space and time to do some quite writing.

Obviously on this album, you’ve revisited work that you did with your brothers and you’ve revisited some of ‘The Duke and the King’ songs as well. Has that made you want to revisit any of these past projects and do more new work with them?

No, not really. These songs that I wrote, no matter what band they were in, what album they came out on, they’re all just my own songs you know, so whether it’s a solo record, or ‘The Duke and the King’, or Felice Brothers, for me it all bleeds into the same pot of creativity, so I’m not one for looking back too much.

Although this project has been kind of cathartic for me, like I said, just circling the wagons and gathering up some of the ghosts and putting them down on tape in a way that… I guess you kind of hear some of my favourite tunes all together in one collection, and like I said, it kind of helps you move forward as well with what I’m going to do next.

It’s basically just drawn a line under the last ten years and it’s looking now to the future.

That’s a great way to say it, man. Absolutely.

You’re heading out on tour in the UK and Ireland in the next month. Are these shows going to be like the live album in a show, or is it still kind of a general picking and choosing different songs from different albums?

Well, one of the main musicians on the live album is my friend, Anna Mitchell, who is a really great Irish singer and piano player, she’s coming with me so these shows that we’re doing this fall are a duo, me and her and she really breathes some beautiful energy into my songs. I love going out there with her. I even brought her over from Ireland to do this live record in the Catskills with me, so that sort of tells you how much I dig working with her.

A lot of the shows over in the UK and Ireland, they’re going to be like more of the stripped down songs around this live record. Obviously, there’s not going to be bass and drums and the big rock and roll sound that some of the songs have on the live record, but it’s going to be Anna and I and we rock out for two of us, we make a lot of noise.

Is there any chance we might be seeing some Australian dates on the horizon?

Yeah, I really hope so, man. It’d be really cool. I haven’t been down for two and a half years, since maybe 2013 so I love coming down. I have some really close friends in Melbourne and Sydney as well, so I hope I get to come down soon. It’s just a matter of somebody putting that together and putting an airplane. I’m ready to go.

Excellent. Well, we hope to see you down here soon then. Thank you very much for having a chat with me again today.

Yeah Simon, I appreciate it. It’s always great and thank you so much.

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From The Violent Banks Of The Kaaterskill is available now on Mighty Hudson Records and Warner

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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.

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