June 24, 2014
Mark Simos is a renowned songwriter, composer and tunesmith, teacher and writer. Over four-plus decades, Mark’s songs and “tunes from imaginary countries” have stretched musical boundaries with innovative melodies and harmonies and intricately crafted lyrics, bringing a contemporary sensibility to “neo-traditionalist” forms. Over one hundred of Mark’s compositions have been recorded by artists, including Alison Krauss and Union Station, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, Laurie Lewis, and Australian rock icon Jimmy Barnes. Featured on many recordings as a fiddler and guitar accompanist, he has recorded an acclaimed song-cycle album, Crazy Faith, and four albums of original and traditional fiddle music.
Mark is associate professor in the Songwriting Department at Berklee College of Music, where he has created innovative curriculum for songwriting, collaboration, guitar techniques, and tunewriting. Also an active performer and teacher at workshops, camps, festivals, and retreats, Mark has mentored hundreds of songwriters worldwide. He has just published Songwriting Strategies: A 360º Approach (Berklee Press/Hal Leonard 2014).
Consenses Interview with Sally Taylor:
What was your mood the day you got this picture? What were you feeling about the task of creating a song from an image?
The project kicked in when I had just finished an intensely busy semester and was looking at an equally busy summer of work. I welcomed a creative project as a breath of fresh air, and liked the idea of the multi-media collaboration. But I was also, frankly, exhausted and worried.
What was your first thought or guy reaction to seeing this picture? What thought/sound/memory/lyric came first?
I was struck by the visual echoes in the photograph – the swoop of the ropes, the rhythm of the pilings retreating in the distance – the time of day. It made me think of arrival and departure at once.
Was there a specific place in the image you were drawn to?
There was no one focal point – rather a kind of counterpoint between the ship and pier which certainly wound up reflecting in the song.
How did you use the image to create this song? (aka. Did you pin it up in your studio? Only look at it briefly? etc)
I looked at it intensely for one session while free associating some written material – then in a second session relied largely on memory.
What does your song mean to you? Tell me the story about it’s meaning?Curiously, the song and photograph became metaphorical to me about some of the very responsibilities that made doing the project a bit difficult.
Did you enjoy this project?
Yes – but to do the project to my satisfaction was a surprisingly intense effort – probably just my process weirdness.