Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Chile bootleg sleeve

In August this year Sylvie played a concert in Santiago, Chile, accompanied by Chilean musicians Matias Cena on acoustic guitar and electric guitarist Diego Alorda. In the early hours of morning, drinking Pisco Sours at the party after the show, Matias and Diego suggested the three of them go into AlgoRecords Studio, owned by their friend and legendary Chilean rock musician,  Perrosky, and play the songs through once again and record a bootleg.

Since Sylvie was leaving the next day to fly back to San Francisco, on a rainy album, after a couple of hours’ sleep, the three went into the studio and, with no rehearsals, just started playing and singing together, and Perro captured it all on tape.

“It was a cold morning”, Sylvie told  Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, “which is why we’re all dressed in coats and hats – but everything else was so warm: the atmosphere in the studio, the little paraffin stove Perro lit for us to warm our hands on, and the camaraderie with Matias and Diego. My Chilean concert was the first time I’ve played as a trio with two guitar players (as opposed to a guitarist and a bass player or something else) but with one being acoustic, the other electric, and each having a distinct tone and style, I loved the effect. I think we captured a real intimacy – a very sleepy intimacy after so little sleep – but it suits the songs so well!”
Algo en Algo,  the Bootleg album, is available free to stream or download here:
Track list:
Midnight Cowboy
Hey That’s No Way
Hard Act To Follow
My Lips Still Taste of You
Bird on the Wire (with Spanish verse)

And the winner is …

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

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!

Grand finale


Sylvie at Howe etc show

Sylvie and Howe Town CalledDance finale copy


Sara and Sylvie

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Tonight in San Francisco: Sara Bareilles in conversation with Sylvie Simmons, onstage at the JCC about life, music, musicals and her New York Times-bestselling memoir Sounds Like Me. SOLD OUT


Sylvie on a soundtrack

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

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.



Book news

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

LC bk Taiwan
The latest new translation of I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen has just arrived from Taiwan! Published  by China Times Publishing Co, it’s a paperback edition, 528 pages in length, with 16 pages of photos.

Going South!

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

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.

She has also accepted an invitation from El Mercurio newspaper in Chile to fly out in mid August  to play a major concert. Here’s a story on Sylvie in El Mercurio.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian edition of I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen is due to hit the book stores in the next few weeks!

Solomon Burke and the dollar bill

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

I can’t remember how the subject came up – I guess a friend must have posted something on Facebook about having found themselves alone in an elevator with a celebrity and I was reminded of an incident decades ago in L.A when I walked into a lift whose only other occupant was Solomon Burke. The king of rock ‘n’ soul was a smooth operator. He took a bill out of his wallet and wrote his phone number on it and handed it to me. (Well, not that smooth really; it was just a one dollar bill). (Though admittedly a dollar bought you a bit more back when this happened). (But still, definitely a hitch in the smoothness department.) Someone had asked me if I still had the dollar bill and I said yep, it’s somewhere,though to the best of my recollection the name and number had faded over the decades Well this morning, quite by chance, on what would have been Solomon Burke’s 75th birthday, I opened a drawer and there it was, the phone number still just about legible.

Solomon dollar


And now I’m going to dim the lights, pour a glass of the good stuff and download an advance of Leonard Cohen’s new album, Can’t Forget.  Good night.

Chick singer – and writer!

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Cool country music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard – the man behind the outlaw  classic  ‘Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother’  –  has immortalized Sylvie on his new album. The song ‘Chick Singer Badass Rockin’  on  The Ruffian’s Misfortune namechecks Sylvie alongside  Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde.  images-1 It also refers to the “dog-eared”  pages of a book –  I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. Hubbard took Sylvie’s biography on tour with him and dog-eared “about 50 or 60 pages”, he wrote in his blog. A hardback copy of  Sylvie’s book also makes a cameo appearance in the video, two minutes in!

Thinking and drinking

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

My last day in Cartagena, I woke up to a very nice mention in the newspaper describing my performance of Leonard Cohen’s songs as “magisterial”. It was a beautiful morning, already 80 degrees and the air as soft as a kiss. I went sight-seeing, looking for a place some locals told me about where they’d built a statue to Prince Charles and Camilla to commemorate a royal visit and someone pulled it down. The city is walled with ancient fortifications built to keep out the English invaders, so you can’t really blame them.

The night before, I’d been to another after-hours party, this one thrown by the British Embassy. They held it in the Spanish Inquisition building – a beautiful edifice but with a chilling history. There were torture instruments on display in a room downstairs and a guillotine in the garden where waiters glided round with trays of bottomless Pimms.  One of the fellow-Brits I ran into was the Guardian and Observer journalist Ed Vulliamy. I had just seem him onstage on a panel chaired by Rosie Boycott, in which five journalists – including two Latin Americans and two from the US – discussed Charlie Hebdo, the murder of journalists, the right of satire to provoke, and the fear and capitulation of some editors and governments.

Vulliamy, an extremeley brave writer who has spent a great deal of his life on the frontline, reporting on the atrocities of war and terrorism, said something that stayed with me. Laughter, he said – the punishment of laughter, the mockery of power – is the greatest weapon we have against terror of any kind, be it extremist fanatics or governments or anything. “That is the one thing they can’t stand, mockery”, he said. “If there’s no-one there to pull down their pants and moon, what is there left?” Important stuff.

And now I’m back in San Francisco and about to go to another party, of sorts. Last time I agreed to do one of these, I broke my toe. My big toe, which meant having to wear Ugg boots with my little black evening dress, being the only footwear I could get into. It’s an Authors Dinner – a charity event, a bit like a cheaper version of those Democratic Party dinners where you stump up a whole lot of money to sit at the same table as your favourite famous politician and watch them eat. Or talk to them so much they can’t eat and can only drink, which means you might get your money’s worth from watching them fall over drunk. Especially if they only have one working foot. But tonight I am bipedal, and the good cause the money is going to is Berkeley Public Libraries. Libraries are also important stuff. Also, come to think of it, a good idea: Foodstarter! Kickstarter without the kick but with a starter, and maybe a main course too cooked for you by the writer or musician of your choice! .


Confessions from Colombia

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

confession box

Here I am, in Cartagena, Colombia, being interviewed for a local TV news show. I’m sitting with Manuela, the  host of the show, in a confession box in the old Santa Clara nunnery.  Tell the truth or get thrown to the fiery flames!

I came here to talk and play at the Hay Festival of the Americas – an incredible lineup of Nobel Prize-winning novelists, award-winning journalists and a handful of musicians in the gorgeous plazas of the old walled city. I came a couple of days early and stayed in a cheap hotel on a busy road where men with microphones stood in shop doorways trying to lure in passers-by, while salsa music blared in the background.  I moved into the expensive boutique hotel the festival had booked for its guests, but I have to confess that I missed the old place!

My first morning I was up early to do a seminar in a state school 45 minutes outside Cartagena for extremely underprivileged kids aged 16 plus. The neighbourhood was run down and very poor, and some of the classrooms were prefabricated pods, while others were being built. But the kids and the staff were amazing. At the end, the music teacher asked if I would sing a song on my ukulele, so I sang Suzanne. None of them had heard of Leonard Cohen but they all seemed to like his “canciones tristes”.

The festival gave me one of the headline slots for my event – an interview onstage, conducted by a Colombian journalist, Jacobo Celnik – so that I could tag on an extra half hour to sing some songs. Brian Eno was on an hour before me in an ornate, colonial theatre. If I weren’t in a confession box I would brag about headlining over Eno!  I rushed from there to my gig at the University, which was sold-out. Walking past the long line to get in, I did my best to look as superstarry as you can if your hair’s been turned into a tumbleweed by the wind and humidity, and half your body’s polka-dotted with huge bites. The evening I arrived in the city I was bitten by two mosquitos and killed them both, and since that moment the mosquitos have been taking revenge!

My gig went great, I’m happy to say. A lovely response. Afterwards, a man came onstage and knelt and kissed my hand (not something that happens on a regular basis!) and another man was crying as he talked about my songs.Yes, that’s me,  misery wherever I go!

Afterwards, a festival aide insisted I see a doctor that she’d called about my bites.  It felt pretty embarrassing, sitting there surrounded by white coats and stethoscopes for bloody mosquito bites, but the anti-histamines and cream they gave me are doing a far better job than the gallon of repellant I’ve been spraying myself with.

More later – I have a party to go to!