Simone Felice is a songwriter's songwriter. He's the guy Rick Rubin called to play drums the Avett Brothers' "I And Love And You," a guy who's toured and performed with Levon Helm, Bright Eyes, the Lumineers, Mumford & Songs and Gillian Welch. In 2010, the Catskills, N.Y.-based musician and former member of the Felice Brothers needed emergency open-heart surgery. But he quickly recovered and has gone on to record two excellent solo records; his latest, "The Stranger," showcases his exceptional voice and hand-crafted songs.
Felice performs at StageOne in Fairfield on Thursday, May 29, and again at Cafe Nine in New Haven on Saturday, June 14. We asked him a few questions about "Strangers" and his current musical obsessions.
CTNow: After all this time, writing dozens of songs for different groups and for yourself, are there one or two songs you think will probably outlive the rest, for whatever reason? Are there one or two that you consider to be perfect, regardless of how they've been received by audiences or friends? Is "perfection" even possible?
Simone Felice: I feel it's a song's imperfections that make it special, unique, not unlike individual people. One I've written I'm still proud of is "Splendor in the Grass," and "The Gallows" from "Strangers" and "Don't Wake The Scarecrow" from the Felice Brothers.
CTNow: Are there songs written by others that, from an artistic perspective (not financial), you wished you had written?
SF: "Fake Plastic Trees" by Radiohead, "People's Parties" by Joni Mitchell and "Abraham, Martin and John" by Dion.
CTNow: Have you written songs you weren't necessarily proud of at the time but have since grown on you?
SF: "Your Belly in My Arms."
CTNow: "Strangers" is a great record. I immediately fell in love with "Running Through My Head," which has a really interesting rhyme scheme. Do you gravitate toward songs and songwriters who use certain rhyme schemes, perhaps as a way of threading together different formal sections (verse, chorus, etc.) of a song?
SF: I guess each song just asks for a certain flow, and once you discover it it's like it's always been there, something eternal. I've tried to learn from writers like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. They're not afraid to break the rules, which is a good approach to most things in life.
CTNow: When you're on the road, what do you like to do when you hit a new town, assuming you have time?
SF: I try to take long walks, find a river, a bit of grass.
CTNow: What's your current musical obsession, if any? What's the most recent record you've purchased? Do you remember the first album you ever bought?
SF: It's funny: the Pixies' "Doolittle" is the first and most recent. I wore my original one out in '94 and just picked up a new one. Amen.
SIMONE FELICE performs June 14 at Cafe Nine in New Haven. Information: cafenine.com