"I embrace loneliness, welcome it like an old friend."
What happens when you write a song about your favourite band, play it around an Autumn equinox campfire, and the lead singer's best friend just happens to be there? What happens when he tells the singer about you, and you wake up with an email from your hero? What happens when your hero continues to email you, and all of a sudden you're singing on stage together?
This is the crazy story of how Anima Rising met Simone Felice. It's a beautifully bizarre one that began six years back, in the age of homemade mix CDs. In 2008, every compilation I received housed a track from The Felice Brothers' self-titled album. Wonderful Life and Frankie's Gun sneaked onto mixes from everyone from Harper, to my friend's dad, to my brother's christmas romance.
Years later, I still rarely let a month slip by without belting out their sad tales of heroin addicts, bare-thighed prostitutes, and small town murderers. They have continued to give a heartbreaking voice to the American underdogs that Bob Dylan left behind, weaving pretty, frank stories of cold winter bedrooms, lonesome bus depots, and mixing whisky with whisky to cure a broken heart. All of this, over raucous banjo, accordion, and playful melodies.
Simone Felice has since splintered off from his brothers to write his own music, and the day we finally meet him, we're late for his sold-out solo show. We're dragging suitcases up the steps of an ancient church in St Pancras, London, under winter city skies, fretting about running out of practice time. We've only just - this night - touched down from America. How will our voices sound together? The stars are shining as we're ushered backstage. Before we hug, he holds me away to take a proper look at my face. He calls me his sister, sits me down, and asks how I'm doing.
He calls me his sister, sits me down, and asks how I'm doing.
Several other musicians are milling around too, and it seems he's gathered most of them from Ireland and the UK, throughout the tour. Pillar candles are lit, cider hastily downed, and after a quick run-through, we're bowing to the bundled-up church-pew audience, wearing severe jet lag and the smiles of super-fans living out a daydream. We harmonise You've been running through my head around a microphone with an Irish lady and an Oxford gent. 'Just think about that someone you love as you sing,' Simone winks. 'It's easy.'
'Just think about that someone you love as you sing,' Simone winks.
He grabs us afterwards, to join the after-party at the famous Hawley Arms, in Camden, and we drink away our exhaustion with literary publishers and curly haired Scotsmen. It's dimly candlelit and smoky, like a good old decent British pub. Every time someone mentions America I feel my heart sear with pain and fresh nostalgia, but I let it go again and watch new waves of life sweeping in.
Simone weaves through the crowd, gesticulating like a mad poet, full of intensely sincere eye contact, like a ball of magnetic friction. Below are some super succinct thoughts from the man himself.
Do you know how deeply my friends and I adored you guys while growing up? What's your magical formula for writing songs that move strangers so deeply?
It means the world to me that you feel that way. We just tried to tell the truth, to cut to the core of things, the origin of what moves us all, the secrets in the wind and the way it shakes the barley.
What was your upbringing like? How come y'all got so damn lyrical and musical?
We had a lot of love surrounding us, but also a lot of hard times. There was a library in our little town with actual books in it, made of paper and ink.
What's the key substance of your poetry - what moves it, where do your fascinations lie?
The unknown, love, despair, sex, fear, want, charity.
You took time to light candles and meditate before your show. Would you explain a little about your pre-preforming ritual, and what it all means?
When you perform you are entering an alternate realm, I feel it should be a place where magic can exist, a weaving of spells.
From the word go, you've been super inclusive of us ladies. It seems you really believe in opening to strangers and sharing feelings of love. Would you speak a little about the power of kindness?
I know how it feels to be treated like an outsider - its a bummer. I try my best not to perpetuate that feeling in others, though I'm sure we've all been guilty of it.
How does spirituality lace its way into your daily life? How important is it to you?
We are essentially spirits in human form, therefore spirituality would and should be omnipotent in every step we take, every move me make.
How do you deal with loneliness?
I embrace loneliness, welcome it like an old friend. Our modern reality over-saturates our daily experience with 10 million distractions from every angle. Loneliness can be a gift, a break from the riot of technology and the weird need to feel wanted and special.
How do you feel about the vulnerable line we walk everyday by being human?
I try not to think about it much. I'm just a little candle flame in a man's body doing my best to shine for a while.
Are humans doomed?
Yes and no.
Bonus Question: Can we play on your next tour?
I'd be sad if you didn't.
A truly marvellous gentleman.