On June 22, Sylvie was on the Irwin Chusid show on WFMU radio, New Jersey. She had her ukulele with her and sang some of her songs – including a brand-new song called “Nothing. This is the first time she has played the song on-air. You can listen or download here:
(There’s no photo of Sylvie at the radio station but here’s a recent shot from a show at the House of Fun in Los Angeles)
Interviews – all kinds of them!
Here’s Sylvie being interviewed last week for a Canadian podcast. She talks about Leonard Cohen, writing books, and her life as a musician. http://www.travelsinmusic.com/leonard-cohen/
The BBC has just reposted “The Rock Chick”, the documentary it made on Sylvie while she was still working on her Leonard Cohen book and not long after she started playing ukulele! http://ow.ly/ynB8302vJZR
And here she is interviewing heavy metal singer-guitarist Lita Ford about her new autobiography, on stage at the Chapel in San Francisco.
Finally, the latest interviews Sylvie has been writing for MOJO are: a rare interview with Bob Dylan’s and Leonard Cohen’s legendary producer, Bob Johnston (issue #272) and an epic article and interview on another legend, Terry Reid (#273). She also did a very long, heart-to-heart interview with Lars Ulrich of Metallica, which will appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine.
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. https://gmotupper.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/sylvie-simmons-la-chica-que-escribe-de-rock/
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!
I am, as some of you may know, a flag-flying, gold-medal technophobe. My friends at MOJO will confirm that when I walked into the office they would hug their computers close to their chests to protect them from my destructive analog energy. And my nine-year-old mobile goes to a special school for un-smart phones. So I suppose it was a bit ambitious to buy a mini i-Pad. So far I’ve managed not to break it (though I did break something digital – my big toe!).
Since I seem to be getting along better with taking photos on its camera than typing words on its little keyboard, may I present, as a tribute to my new device, a mini Phlog.
Starting with a mini video, a few seconds from the gig ‘The Night Before Leonard’ at the Marsh in Berkeley, the day before Leonard Cohen’s show at the Paramount Theatre. That’s Matthew Szemela on violin, Colleen Browne on bass and colour-coordination, and me being pale and mysterious on the uke.
— oops, just as I was feeling confident, my first failure. It won’t upload.
So let’s move straight onto: Sylvie (plus Julie, Perla and Ronee) Goes To Austin!
En route to the airport: We really must address the disturbing issue of suicidal instruments before it’s too late. At the subway station I spotted this tragic recorder just after it threw itself at the live rail.
Here we are in sunny Austin, brilliant sunlight, a perfect day. Greg Ashley and I have arranged to meet up to run through a few Leonard songs together the day before my gig at South Congress Books. Since everywhere in Austin’s mobbed with people during SXSW, we drove down a back street, parked and set off on foot to find an empty sidewalk where we could sit and play, and we spotted this place on the way, which was selling a PA system. One of the songs we did was True Love Leaves No Traces – from ‘Death of A Ladies Man’, the album Leonard Cohen made with Phil Spector. Greg’s band has recorded a cover of the whole album, released in cassette-form, perfect for technophobes.
And here’s Greg in the bookshop’s parking lot the following day. In the doorway, John Barton, my old friend from Austin who arranged the gig. Thurston Moore was there too, but I forgot to get my i-Pad out for that.
Same parking lot but me this time, with my uke and a free pair of sunglasses promoting something or other, which I’ve fallen unreasonably in love with.
This is the poster for the gig Julie Christensen, Ronee Blakley and I did at Austin Java, a cool cafe on Barton Springs Rd. The acoustics were so sweet and warm – which I credit to them having a huge tree indoors, too big to hug, growing up through the floorboards and out through the roof.
And finally… I Want You, one of the newish US TV pop idol contest shows, has seen sense and become I Want Uke!
Well, thanks for watching. Next stop: New York City!
Tuesday at 5pm, at Waterloo Records in Austin, history will be made. Yes!!! I’ve found me a Theremin player!! So come see the first (and quite possibly last) ever stage performance of Sisters of Mercy featuring a uke-playing biographer, a guitar-playing Texan singer-songwriter and (mmm, just let me relish this a moment longer… Blame it on old horror movies and the Beach Boys’ beloved Good Vibrations but the very thought makes me tingly) a Theremin solo!
Hoping there’ll be people with smartphones. Once Leonard sees the YouTubes you know he’s going to want to make at least one addition to his band.
Well I heard that Leonard and the band are already in Austin. The Webb Sisters gave the game away when they tweeted from Whole Foods (Austin has the Magic Kingdom of Whole Foods; the place is so big and flash it ought to have theme rides – Pirates of the Polenta and the like – and staff dressed in themed animal costumes (organic, grass-fed). The Webbs – and Roscoe Beck, Sharon Robinson, and a bunch of other band members – are going to be on a panel with me at 7.30pm on Tuesday, all about Leonard and his life in art. This is definitely going to be recorded and videoed, by KUT, the university radio station.
I was on another panel Saturday night, as part of the Texas Book Festival. My fellow panelists were David Menconi, the author of a book on Ryan Adams’ Whiskeytown years, and Ken Caillat, who wrote a book on Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours”, an album he engineered. I’d met David in Nashville a few weeks back so it was good to share a stage. Except it wasn’t a stage, it was metal chairs out in the back yard of a bar under a full moon.
It was 40degrees F, not far off freezing point. Still, there was a pretty big crowd, around 75 people – I figured they’d come for the earlier panel on sex and drugs and didn’t so much stick around for the rock n roll part but were frozen to their seats and unable to escape. Still, when a man came up and offered the loan of his jacket, I knew there must be some Leonard Cohen fans in the crowd. That and a couple of shots of whisky set me to rights.
In Mumbai in the 90s, where he’d gone to study with a Vedanta guru, Leonard Cohen happened upon a record shop and decided to go in and ask if they had any Leonard Cohen albums. They did. He could find them, they told him, in the ‘Easy Listening’ section (filed in the same bin as the Carpenters). Some things you learn in the making of a book are not only mind-boggling but delightful.
So far I’ve had no calls from Indian newspapers asking for interviews or would-be publishers offering deals, but I’ve had no end of emails from China. Leonard, they’ve all told me, is huge in China. On Friday night, 15 hours behind Shanghai time, I did an interview with a charming journalist named Ting. Today, at only five hours difference, I had a lovely long phone call with a writer named Andre Barcinski from the biggest newspaper in Brazil – and all of them with this connection with, and their own conception of, Leonard Cohen.
Some people have written to ask if there are any more foreign language editions besides Germany, Netherlands and Spain. Well yes, there are, or there will be, some I can name, others I can only hint at, contracts being what they are, but I’m hoping to see it in Hebrew, Danish, Norse and Polish, possibly French too – details to come.
Wherever they are, I hope they’ll bring me over for a book tour. For now though, I’m going to be wandering around the US, and the left-hand side of Canada, with my uke and my book. If you’re going to be anywhere near Austin, New York, Toronto, Montreal or the beautiful Bay Area, come by and say hello.
Right, here’s what to do. Clench your right fist into a ball. Stick your right arm straight up, by the side of your ear. Then, when the clock strikes ten Pacific Time, channel your inner Rocky and punch the air with me. My book’s made the NY Times best seller list!
Yes, that was the sound of corks popping. It’s been that kind of day. Still feeling the afterglow a great evening at Gatsby’s bookshop in Long Beach last night (really nice place, really nice crowd). And tomorrow morning I’ll be driving over to Bob Johnston’s for a visit. Bob is a legend in rock music, d the producer of a large pile of the greatest albums of all time ( Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Simon & Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen). At age 80 he’s still making record s – and still hates the suits he reckons ruined the music business. The last time I saw him, around Spring of last year, I read him some chapters from my book manuscript – the ones starring him – and then we sat on the porch and sang ‘Avalanche’ together – from ‘Songs of Love and Hate’, one of the three Cohen albums Bob produced – my uke drowned out by the sound of planes coming into land on the nearby LAX flight path. This time, he says, he wants to discuss a “scheme”. Uh-oh, this will be interesting…..