Simon Joyner is one of those guys whose name always comes up in conversation about others. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Be it Beck, Conor Oberst, or even John Peel, if one is affected by the music of Simon Joyner they will certainly reveal it. However, even when Joyner is discussed by himself... reviews and write-ups can often be covered with references to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and other big figures of the "singer/songwriter" domain.
Maybe that's not a bad thing either... because once the listener finally gets to listen to his music, they will find Joyner surely stands on his own. Joyner's music is intelligent, lyrical, and constantly changing, not unlike the man who writes it. Perhaps the most admirable trait of this man is the eloquence of which he can speak about his craft... and Simon Joyner is certainly a craftsman.
Being someone who is frequently labeled in the singer/songwriter bracket, do ever you feel some sort of audience lust for kinds of confessionary elements they could scope out in your songs? It seems like a singer/songwriter would be the most "personal" listening experience for many people... but often I feel like that's just because there is only one person's name on the record.
Like, "Open Window Blues", the first song on "Skeleton Blues", it's a really great number, and a good portion of that song is an awesome instrumental part... but I feel for some listeners really "hearing" elements like that could be lost in the shuffle of the "singer/songwriter" label. How do you feel about this? Are you comfortable being referred to as a singer/songwriter?
People definitely have a need to classify things for purposes of understanding them better. As much as I would like to resist being categorized one way or another, I understand that it's a necessary thing the mind does so I try not to be too upset about it. Artists of all types generally view creativity as a mercurial, ever-changing thing so there's a tendency to be insulted by attempts to label what they do. I write my songs and I sing them too, so as far as that goes, "singer-songwriter" is an accurate definition and on the surface isn't as limiting a term as genre-specific terms such as, "folk" artist or "rock and roll" artist or "avant-garde" artist
I read an interview with Lou Reed once where he said that he feels the safest and most appropriate term for what he does is "Lou Reed music." I'm sure everyone who makes things would enjoy the freedom of embracing that kind of label but it won't stop people from labeling what you do so that's more of a wish than anything. As far as audience lust for confessional elements, that's as old as the day is long too, and it's to be expected. Again, it's just a convenient access point for people to get into a song (or film, or painting, whatever it happens to be). In my experience, it rarely matters except in a prurient way. "Sister Morphine" may sort of be based on Marianne Faithful but my guess is it's 90% something else, with that autobiographical element serving as a springboard, a stepping off point to create something else entirely.
Spiritual Rags was a project put together a few years ago. I had a three month residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts program and was recording a series of collaborations with other musicians for a big project which has never actually seen the light of day. I had a free weekend at my studio space there and all the recording gear set up when my friend Lonnie Eugene Methe returned to Omaha to visit his family. He was living in Austin at the time and just in town for a brief visit. I asked him if he wanted to record some music while he was in town and the idea to do a record as a band evolved from there.
I definitely think I'd sound different had I been born in New York. The Midwest is a special place and the
rhythms and spaces of this place certainly played a role in my development. Omaha is a medium sized town but if you live here, you're familiar with small towns because Nebraska is all open spaces, farmland, and sparsely populated towns except for Omaha and Lincoln. My family is from Alabama originally so I spent a lot of time in Prattville and Clanton visiting family in Alabama growing up too. The South and the Midwest are similar in some ways and I think the spookiness or mystery of place that I'm drawn to in my songs probably stems from my relationship to the South and the Midwest.
There's a pace to life that I appreciate and a connection to nature which is important for writing expressively, for me anyway. I don't know what I'd be like if I had grown up in New York. It's a good question but so hard to know how directly my environment has altered or determined things for me. My gut feeling is that it has a lot to do with it. If a random event can alter things dramatically, a prolonged total saturation in a distinct place has to shape us much more, right?