Living the punk rock dream

Don O’Mahony chats to the hard-to-categorise punk-folk singer, producer and nature lover Simone Felice, before his gig in Coughlan’s this week
Living the punk rock dream
Simone Felice.

I FIND Simone Felice at the airport waiting to board a flight to England to begin a tour of the UK, Ireland and Spain. “I haven’t been over for a year in Ireland and England,” he says.

“So I’m going to get my guitar, resurrect my dark poetry. You know, I travel a lot with my good friend Jack and him and I just drive around. So we take some days off. We like to go hiking in the mountains or by the sea and we just try to get the best of the experience of taking a little journey and not just be in the hotel and on the motorway the whole time.

“We like to get out of the cities and do some powerful nature experiences,” he says.

Straight off the back of the tour, Felice reveals he’s going to produce a song for Swedish folk siblings First Aid Kit.

“This is one I’ve been really looking forward to and we’re going to do it in Stockholm. So it’s nice to get out of my comfort zone and do it in a different realm. The realm of the Vikings”, he adds, his voice lowering for effect.

“Yeah man, it’s all good, dude. I’m living the punk rock dream.”

Simone Felice.
Simone Felice.

Felice may have come to attention as a spoken word poet in the New York scene and as a member of Americana outfit The Felice Brothers, but recent years have seen him build a career as a producer, with albums for folk rock outfit The Lumineers and art poptress Bat For Lashes among his most renowned work.

He’s certainly in demand for his services but he says he’s become increasingly selective about who he’ll work with.

“I get asked to do a lot of work these days and I probably take on about 10% of what I get asked to do. Because you have to expend a lot of your energy to help artists and singers find their powerful potential in the studio. You know it can be draining if you just do it all day every day.

“These days, especially after having some hit records and doing well with several different artists, I’m in a pretty thankful position where I can just say ‘yes’ to the things that really give me goosebumps. And just do it.

“That’s like my natural habitat in the studio as well. I always enjoy that part of my work with my brothers even in the old days of being in a studio together and bringing songs to life. So it’s a natural habitat to me.”

Working with his brothers either as a collective or in the case of Ian Felice on his solo album is native to his own sensibilities as an artist but Simone is happy to extend himself as a producer.

“I love doing things that are different than the quote-unquote genre that I have trafficked in,” he says.

“For instance, working with Bat For Lashes was a special thing. We went into new realms together. You know art in general is discovery and taking chances so that’s what we always have to continue to do.”

Simone Felice.
Simone Felice.

Felice’s third solo album The Projector showed an artist being true to that philosophy. Acclaimed upon its release a year ago, Felice looks back fondly on the record but he prefers just living in the moment.

“I just write my songs,” he says. “Any song I record I usually feel really strongly about so whenever I look back on records I’m usually pleasantly surprised at the work I did.

“But I’m a kind of person that tries to live in the moment, but I also really try to honour the work that I’ve done over the years with my brothers and my solo albums. So when I’m coming over for this tour I do a myriad of different songs from all of the periods of my poetry life. The years are adding up so there’s a lot of work there to choose from. And I do feel like there’s some magical work there,” he says proudly.

Unlike his brother Ian, who has suggested that he’s not so keen on what he described as rehashing of old material, Simone relishes the opportunity to rediscover older songs and breathe new life into them.

“As a result, this current tour will see him air the previously never played live ‘Ballad of Sharon Tate’ from his eponymous 2011 album.

“Over the years different fans at my gigs have asked me to play it but honestly, I just recorded it and then forgot all the chords and most of the words. So I’ve had a good time this past month resurrecting that song. I can’t wait to share that one.”

Where did the idea to revisit that come from?

“It just popped in my head. I don’t know. I don’t know, you know. The songs are stories and there are characters in the stories. The characters sometimes they have a mind of their own and they whisper to you.”

  Simone Felice plays Coughlan’s in Cork on May 9.

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