Interview With Simone Felice, first published in Downtown/The Evening Echo 2014-3-6

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While musician and writer Simone Felice was never a slouch, events in 2010 led to him increasing his own artistic output, after undergoing emergency open heart surgery to deal with a congenital heart defect his debut novel ‘Black Jesus’ and solo album ‘Simone Felice’, which featured members of Mumford & Sons, were both released in 2012.

Ahead of the release of his latest album ‘Strangers’, Simone Felice will be playing 5 concerts in 5 days in Ireland as part of a breakneck tour of Europe which involves playing 34 gigs in 53 days across 8 countries, he spoke from his snowbound home in the Catskill Mountains to Ronan Leonard, “I love coming over to Ireland, James Joyce is one of my favourite writers, for me to be breathing the same air and walking the same paths as all your great poets, musicians and songwriters, it’s a dream come true for me. Like every mutt who grew up in America my grandmother was from Ireland, I’ve traced my roots back to County Clare so we grew up singing a lot of Irish music and really revering that tradition and old way”.

While Simone loves touring he is very much a home bird, he currently lives 1 mile away from the house he grew up in and his first child was a homebirth (he cut the cord); like many musicians he has played with his neighbours but in his case some of them were members of The Band, who many argue are the defining Americana band, “I played at several midnight rambles with Levon Helm, which was one of the biggest honours of my life and I also got to play a few times with Garth Hudson, I met Rick Danko a few times growing up as a kid as we lived in the same town – I was so lucky to be able to play with those guys”

Since first coming to prominence with his brothers in a roots Americana band imaginatively titled ‘Felice Brothers’ in which he played drums and harmonised with his siblings James and Ian, he left the band after two well received albums to focus on his own song writing and formed The Duke & The King, named after two characters in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, a more soul folk influenced outfit with his old friend Robert Chicken Burke (who has played drums with George Clinton).

The duo’s best-known single ‘Shine On You’ is currently used in Electric Ireland’s advertising campaign. After releasing two albums under that name, Simone has changed gears again, “on this tour I’m going to be joined by Gabriel Dresdale on cello and Matthew Green on mandolin and dobro, I switch between guitar and drums and we all sing together. It’s a little more rootsy, a little more rocking and more intimate it a lot of ways. This is the tightest group I’ve ever had, we’ll be playing equal parts Felice Brothers, Duke and The King and my own solo stuff!”

Over the years Simone has shared stages with some of the best known modern Americana and root musicians such as The Lumineers, who appear on ‘Strangers’, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Rick Rubin, The Avett Brothers, and Old Crow Medicine Show, and some of his peers have already reported back to him about the venue he will be playing in, “I’ve heard really good things about Coughlans from the other musicians I know that have played there and I can’t wait to play there. It’s gonna be a special night.”

Simone Felice plays Coughlan’s Live on Douglas Street on Monday 31 March; tickets are on sale now via http://www.coughlans.ie

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