Funny story on how this interview came about.. I was reading about this Simon Finn above in an article on musicians who don’t tour much anymore and then I researched (not very well obviously) and asked another person, named Simon Finn, these questions & it was the wrong person. Shame on me! Thankfully, I found the correct email and here’s how the interview went..
Q: You’ve been performing for over 50 years in the music industry..That’s quite a career. At what age did you know that this was what you wanted to do.
A: Toe knottingly anxious, I played the first song I’d written, “Good Morning To You”, to people when I was 12, a couple laughed, but many were encouraging. Oddly enough, many years later, that song almost became a single. The lyrics are delightfully literal, there really was a blackbird upon my windowsill. I’ve been waiting for a call from Kelloggs. I tank by the time I was 13 or 14 I was pretty wrapped up in writing and playing. Like many activities, if you’re lucky enough to find one that clicks it helps indulge, or at any rate distract from life’s joyous aspects.
Q: You were just a teenager when you opened up for Al Stewart at The Marquee Club. What was that experience like?
A: Yeah it was in 1967, I was 16, I’d moved to London 3 months earlier and was living on the streets at the time, so I was enormously amazed and excited, and very, very terrified. Wednesday night at the Marquee Club used to be “folk night”. I’d played for a man named Roy Guest bunch of songs I had at that time, they were more in the vein of Patrice and little in common with most of Pass The Distance. I used to play a lot of love songs because I was fortunate enough to to be in love at the time. The show went well, the crowd seemed to like it and Roy booked me for the rest of June, always opening for Al Stewart. I still have my ‘67 diary and it says I got paid £1. Not quite as bad as it sounds as it bought me four restaurant meals back then, so I guess it would be around £30 in today’s money. Al was far kinder than he needed to be, my problem was, that living on the street, all I had was an old and very cheap, soft stringed guitar. He let me use his electric guitar and I somehow always got it out of tune before he went on which drove him a bit wiggy. Tuning guitars back then was not the exact science it is now, without a piano around, E became a very flexible note. There were tuning forks, but I never saw anyone use one on stage, you did it by ear, and a very nervous 16 yr old, who never played an electric guitar before, was not the best ear to rely on. Al cursed and begged me not to touch the knobs, but he continued to let me use it, which was very generous.
Q: What was the best song you’ve ever written? And do you have any songs you regret making it maybe are not happy with?
A: Songs & writing are a kind of therapy, or have been for me, so even if I no longer relate to a song in the same way, it is still a kind of window into what one was feeling at the time. Best song really means favorite song, and that changes constantly! Some I don’t think of for years and then suddenly, they pop back into my head. And often one relooks at a song again if others seem to like it. An editor at Vanity Fair, Alex Shoumatoff, really liked Friendship from Accidental Life, if he hadn’t mentioned it as his favorite, it might not have ended up on the album. I still play songs from Pass The Distance because I know that that is what many in the audience world would like to hear. Which I understand completely, if I go to a Neil a Young concert I would like to hear Cinnamon Girl.
Q: You’ve pretty much have toured all over the world.. what is your favorite place to perform?
A: In truth, I’ve loved them all, I’ve been lucky and had few bad experiences. I was nervous about some countries, but I needn’t have been. Some shows are better organized than others, but like life, the ones you worry about often work out fine, and the ones you pictured going smoothly the sound system explodes or something.
Q: Pass The Distance album was released in 1969 (the year I was born) and had become a rare gem but since the it has been remastered & re-released. Is it the pinnacle album of your career?
A: You were released a year before! Pass The Distance was released in ‘70 but recorded in ‘69. Depends which pinnacle one’s thinking I guess; for sure it’s the biggest seller in most countries, Accidental Life is the most popular in Denmark and I think France. I suppose Accidental Life was the pinnacle from a musician’s perspective. It was made in a very luxurious London studio with a great team of people, including my old producer and lead guitarist from 1969, Vic Keary & David Toop. It had Joolie Wood, who has played on most albums since and many other lovely people. Put another way, it was a fun experience, which is unusual for me because, although I like writing, and I find performing cathartic, I don’t actually like recording. I’m bad at it! I can only do one or two takes, repetition kills the emotion for me. If they have flaws, they have flaws. My favorite albums are usually ones with flaws; early Neil Young, Velvet Underground etc. But it’s not every producer’s dream to work with! But it came out just at the moment that the CD was disappearing & Pass The Distance had a 40 year head start on it, PTD also had had the advantage of being in mainstream stores, HMV, Virgin etc before they downsized or collapsed.
Q: What artists do you think are really talented? Is there anyone in the UK that you think, Hey, this guy/gal is going to be the next Ed Sheeran?
A: Haha…I’m no promoter and have no idea who will “make it” or not. The people I a. Most fond of tend not to. My record label, 10 to 1 Records, is releasing a new album by a group called, Doomed Bird of Providence, if a group with a name can’t make it, I don’t know what will!
Q: COVID-19 has stopped everything in its tracks.. the world is at a stand still…when everything finally gets back to some normalcy, how do you think this will affect the way music is performed in terms of concerts, festivals, live performances? Any changes or things will go back to thousands of fans bottlenecked next to each other? Scary times.
A: I like to think they will go back to some vague semblance or normal, though travel will, I think, be less fluid and more expensive for some time to come. Airlines will go bankrupt, the banks will take back the planes, then they will sell them at a bargain price to whatever the new budget plane company is called. But it will all take a while and the while in question will be marching into an unknown period of economic mess. We’ll know when it’s over because you’ll invite me to play in Newport!
Q: What does Simon Finn like to do in his spare time?
A: Fortunately, in these present times, I have a lot of old hobbies. I collect and repair old Victorian sewing machines for one, also old watches and fountain pens, in fact, I like to repair almost anything! Old A1181 Macs, bicycles, mandolins.. I find myself repairing things soothing somehow. Other than that, I’m lucky enough to have a small garden to play in. I’ve always enjoyed growing things, used to have an organic farm in the 70’s, naturally at a time one couldn’t make any money from it.
Thanks to Simon for answering all of these questions and yes I hope we do meet up one day.. Stay tuned for more interviews from Will Evans and hopefully others that I will bug to send me back their questions.. until then, I’m Your Music Stylist – Linda Dias.