Sylvie is heading back to Tucson, Arizona soon to record a new album. Howe Gelb of Giant Sand will once again be producing and adding his musical magic along with Thoger Lund. The new songs Sylvie is recording include several that she has played at recent shows – including “Keep Dancing,” “Nothing,” “Creation Day,” “Waiting For The Shadows,” “Imaginary Boy” and more.
Sylvie will also be doing a few shows in the Tucson area. Please see the tour page for details.
Here’s a pic of Sylvie performing with Howe and Thogerat the Henry Miller library in Big Sur.
Well, we don’t know who the winner is yet – but we do know that Sylvie’s debut album Sylvie, produced by Howe Gelb and released on Light In The Attic Records, has made it onto the ballot for Best Folk Album for the 58th Grammy Awards!! Voting in the first round begins this week, so we’re crossing our fingers and lighting candles that she’ll make it to the next round!
Here’s some photos from a show Sylvie played with Howe and Giant Sand at the Aarhus festival last month. There was an amazine line-up onstage in the grand finale – including M Ward, Grant Lee Phillips, Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan bassist Tony Garnier, Maggie Bjorklund, Giant Sand, Howe and Sylvie and more.
Midway through the encore – a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “A Thousand Kisses Deep”, with Howe, M Ward and Sylvie on vocals, Howe led Sylvie in an impromptu tango during an accordion solo, while managing not to knock over the violin players!
Sylvie spent the last two weeks back in San Francisco after a short but super-sweet trip to Chile where she performed to 500 people, made a TV appearance and did three radio shows (with Chilean’s best-known DJs Alfredo Lewin and Hernán Rojas) and, on the morning of her long flight home, went into a studio to record a bootleg album with her two Santiago accompanists, Matías Cena and Diego Alorda, with Alejandro ‘Perrosky’ Gomez at the mixing board.
Now she’s off to Scandinavia again – Denmark this time – for the amazing Aarhus Festival. Sylvie has three events, each of them different: she’ll start with a Leonard Cohen-related appearance at Kristian F Møller book shop on August 31st; then on Sept 1st she’ll be onstage interviewing the festival’s keynote speaker, the legendary Jac Holzman. And last but by no means least, she’s playing a concert with Howe Gelb (who produced and played on her album ‘Sylvie’) and Giant Sand, Grant-Lee Phillips Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) and more in what will be a very, very special evening!
Full details of tickets, times and dates are on her tour page.
Two of Sylvie’s song will be featured in the upcoming American movie Widows. A dark comedy about a group of women friends who take revenge on a bad boyfriend, only for things to go badly wrong, it has an predominantly female soundtrack. The movie’s opening song is ‘Midnight Cowboy Reprise’ – which is the closing song on her album Sylvie! – and elsewhere in the film there’s an outtake from that live-in-the-studio session. Here’s a link to the trailer.
Sylvie is heading back to South America at the end of the month to play two shows in Bogota, Colombia on 1st and 2nd May. At Que Viva La Musica, part of the Bogota Book Fair, she will talk about her life in music, first writing about it and then writing songs and performing herself. Following the staged interview, she will sing some songs. The second show is a full concert, featuring songs from Sylvie’s Light In The Attic Records debut, and a selection of Leonard Cohen songs, where she and her ukulele will be accompanied by Bogotan guitarist Nicolas Holguin. Please check the tour page for details.
Hi, Sylvie here. Happy new year! Hope it’s a good one for you.
So far mine’s been a whirlwind – just as it was at the end of 2014, nonstop shows, interviews and radio sessions. In fact just this morning I was being interviewed by a journalist who asked me what it felt like changing sides from writing about music to making music. A good question except that when he asked it, I was busy writing an album review for MOJO! But I did find time to write a new song over the holidays (yep, another sad one) and there’s another song simmering in my head that I can’t wait to get to.
But back to this morning’s interview. I answered that in many ways it had felt surprisingly natural to make an album, once I’d finally plucked up courage to do it. I mean, I’d always played music for myself, as well as listened to and written about it, and I’d seen the inside of enough recording studios for them not to intimidate me too much. The hardest part, I told him, was trying to grow thicker skin in time for what I assumed would be very harsh reviews – because I’d broken the first rule of music journalism, which is that a rock writer should never release a record. The old cliche goes that all rock writers are deep-down failed or frustrated musicians, and maybe there’s some truth to that, even if my “inner rockstar” stayed hidden for quite a few decades.
He asked if it was strange reading reviews of my own album – and it was, it felt surreal. One of the strangest things though was how great they’ve all been, every one of them. What’s also been great is how supportive musicians have been. One of the highlights of last year was when Jim White, whose albums I’ve loved and written about for ages, asked me to sing with him in New York City in November at a benefit for the literary magazine Radio Silence. And in February – when I get back from Cartagena, Colombia, where I’m going to be appearing as both a writer and a singer at the Hay Festival of the Americas! – I’m going to head on the road with another singer-songwrite whose music I’ve admired and reviewed, Jason McNiff.
Well, one of my resolutions is to try and blog more often – I’m sorry things got so busy that I didn’t get around to writing about all the great stuff that’s been going on since I released my album – trips to Oslo, Helsinki, Dublin, London, Liverpool, Winchester and now back playing in California. I’ve put links to a few videos and radio shows on my website’s Sounds page, along with some of the reviews and interviews. Another resolution is to keep my Tour page updated every few days, whenever a new show or radio session is confirmed, so please check in on that page now and then, as I’d love to see you. And if you’re a Facebookie, feel free to friend me since I post there every day.
And I’ll leave you for now with a piece I wrote on Bob Dylan for Radio Silence
On a dark street in San Francisco’s Mission District, just a few steps from the fancy restaurants and bars yet light years away, a locked, unmarked door leads across a jigsaw-puzzle floor and up into the Secret Alley. I had never heard of this place until a few days ago when it became the venue for my album launch party. That wasn’t the original plan – there was talk of doing it in a club in Martinez then that fell through, and so did the second place, an old sailors club down by the bay, But sometimes plans have a way of changing for the better, and nothing could have been more perfect than the Secret Alley. I knew that from the moment I walked past the machine by the entrance that promised to stamp the Lords Prayer on any coin you fed it and into a small, magical space. A tiny skateboard ramp had been built into one corner, and in the opposite corner a minature marquee, next to a stage. There was also a tree – and a tree-house – and, in the middle of the room, a wooden swing. And all of this indoors, upstairs, in a room that held maybe 45 or 50 if they didn’t mind sitting up close.
My band that night was Josh Pollock on guitars and a suitcase full of pedals and effects, and Joe Lewis on upright bass and the show was streamed live on Pressuredrop TV. I’ve been told that the show is going to be edited and archived and they’re going to tell me when it’s up. I’ll let you know.
Meanwhile here’s their event page – http://pressuredrop.tv/portfolio/sylvie-simmons/ – and some photos
It was two and a quarter years ago, with the first edition of I’m Your Man The Life of Leonard Cohen about to come out, when I had the crazy dream of going on the road with my book and a ukulele, reading, talking about Leonard and singing his songs. Taking my uke, if I’m to be honest, was as much a security blanket as anything else. Writers, especially writers of lengthy books, tend to spend more time alone, sitting and staring at the wall, than standing in front of a roomful people pretending they’re not shy. So, at least at the outset, until I gradually got comfortable with performing, my ukulele was something to hide behind. It was also good company. During the year or so I travelled the world researching and interviewing people for the book, I took the uke with me everywhere, from a seedy rental apartment in Montreal to a hut in the monastery on Mt Baldy. Ukes tend to make you friends – a bit like a puppy, but with nothing to clean up! The tour – well some of you reading this might have come to one of the shows, either in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, New Zealand or Australia during 2012-2014.
Today I was deleting a bunch of old files from my computer to try and speed it up, and and I came across this one: a video. A friend had suggested that if I was going to tour, I ought to post a Youtube video. I’d never made one before so I called my friend Christian, an indie record producer, and asked if he knew someone who could shoot it. One of his artists, Annie Girl, had made an album which featured classical musicians as well as her rock band the Flight; I’d loved that album and had made it my Americana album of the month in MOJO. I asked Christian if he could hire the violin player for my video and I said I’d like to shoot at night, maybe two or three Leonard Cohen songs, me and the violin player in my bedroom. I would call the video Songs from a Bedroom in tribute to Leonard’s second album.
A few days later he turned up mid-afternoon, on the hottest day of the year, with a video maker and a violin player – the great Matthew Szemela. But he’d also brought with him a viola player, the brilliant Charith Premawardhana, and a shy young woman with an acoustic guitar who it turned out was Annie Girl. It was the first time I’d met any of them. I swiftly printed off two more chord sheets and we piled into my bedroom, closed the black-out curtain and lit candles to make an artificial night.
Annie sat beside me on the bed, Matthew and Charith sat on the floor, all of us sweating pints from the heat. The next door neighbours had thrown open their windows to let in the sun and were playing Mexican music at full-blast, the bass rattling the candlesticks on my bedside table. I love mariachi, but not so much when trying to record a Leonard Cohen song. So Christian, being fluent in Spanish, went next door to try and quieten things down. Apparently he offered them $50 to turn the music off for an hour. (Memo to self: I.O. Christian 50 bucks.)
And this was the first song we recorded: Famous Blue Raincoat. Just one take. Charith’s viola-playing still gives me goosebumps. As to Matthew’s violin – unbelievable! You might notice in the footage tha his violin solo made me cry; I had to lean my head back and try to get the tears to run back inside my head again before coming back in for the final verse.
Annie, who had never heard of Leonard Cohen before that day, went on to love his songs and play many of them with me on the S.F Bay Area leg of the tour. We often sit around the apartment and jam- her songs as well as mine. I love her songs. She’s playing electric guitar this days and doing a gig at the Chapel in San Francisco tomorrow ( Saturday) night; you should check her out.
Anyway here it is, Leonard Cohen’s mother Masha’s favourite song and mine, my first-ever video, which led to a book tour, which in turn led to me plucking up the courage to go into a studio and record my own songs and release my debut album on Light In The Attic Records, Sylvie.
Sylvie has signed a recording contract with Light In The Attic – the renowned US record label that’s released albums by legendary musicians including Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg, Lee Hazlewood, Karen Dalton, Rodriguez, Mercury Rev and Kris Kristofferson! They will release her debut album -Sylvie – on 28th October in the US, UK and Europe. The album – 11 original songs and one cover song- was recorded at Wavelab Studio in Tucson, Arizona with Howe Gelb of Giant Sand producing. Here’s a peek inside at the lyrics booklet.And here’s what some celebrated names are saying about it: “Fragile and fearless, direct and poetic, timeless and absolutely beautiful.” -Devendra Banhart
“Sweet music just like Sylvie.” – Brian Wilson
“A lovely voice, a unique voice, the kind of voice that people will get into- that they’ll want to get into.” -Bob Johnston (producer of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash)