Simon Fagan claims that he is “not your typical Irish singer/songwriter” and I couldn’t agree more.   Fagan is an artist who likes to mix in some acoustic rock and folk to make up a style of sound that works so well.   You even get a smooth Americana feel with some elements of country that makes Simon’s tunes even more appealing.   To top it all off, this musician’s voice blends in perfectly with the music at hand; the three C’s: crisp, cool & catchy.   Simon Fagan gives you a 1, 2 punch with everything working melodically in his corner.   Watch as Simon “the Irishman” Fagan delivers a knockout!  

Jimmy Rae:   I see that your hometown is Navan, Ireland and so I wanted to ask if that is where you are currently living?   Have you lived here your whole life and do you see yourself moving at any point in the near future?   And speaking in terms of your homeland, please feel free to describe in vivid details what it’s like to live in Ireland (scenery, culture, etc…)?  

Simon Fagan: Yes I am currently seeking shelter in my hometown of Navan. It is located just 20 miles north of Dublin in the County of Meath, otherwise referred to as the Royal County. Known as that for its rich fertile soil and land of the old High Kings of Ireland.

These days it’s just a roof over my head though!!

I grew up here being the 3rd eldest of 6 boys. I then moved away to Scotland for a few years after spending some years in Dublin ‘living it up’! I love to travel, and I consider myself lucky that I get the chance to combine my love of music with that. God knows where I’ll live next; someplace sunny and warm I hope!!

As I’m sure you’ll agree, Ireland has a ‘public persona’ of being someplace green, rich in culture and history, scenically beautiful, for as far as the eye can see. And yes, it is all that!! But I think there’s a lot more to it than this. Economically, Ireland is in the worst recession in the history of the state. Without getting into it all, we find ourselves in this position due to over spending and massive borrowings both individually, and on the world stock markets.

In the last 10-15 yrs, I believe the warmth and friendliness that was so long associated with the people of Ireland had been lost in an economy on overdrive. I think it’s only now, that people are taking a step back and saying, ‘Jesus we’ve really lost the run of ourselves here’. Which in a lot of ways, I think is a good thing.

Free Simon Fagan EP – http://bit.ly/SF-FreeEP
Jimmy Rae: Sticking to geographic locations, I noticed that you’ve toured all throughout Ireland & the UK as well as playing to crowds in Egypt, NY and Toronto. This is quite a diverse list and so I have to ask what was it like playing to completely different cultures–major comparisons & differences?   What was the personal experience like and also what did you get out of it from a fan/people perspective?

Simon Fagan: Yes you’re right; it has a diverse look to it on paper all right! But when you find yourself immersed in a culture you automatically embrace it, well at least I do. I’m just happy to be experiencing something new, and feel quite privileged that I’m being given the chance to play my music in front of all sorts of different people. Whether they are different in color, race or creed, the great thing about music is that it’s a universal language.

Geographically, Egypt could be described as the gates between East and West. For this reason they are probably one of the more liberal Muslim countries, while maintaining their religious beliefs and Muslim values. As you can imagine the young people there are intrigued by Western music and can’t get enough of it as I found out. In Europe, UK, Ireland and the States, there is so much on offer you really have to have a different sound to stand out from the rest.

One of the best experiences I’ve had relating to a fan was on the Canadian.   This young couple was at one of the solo shows where I was performing some old songs I had written for the ‘Hired and Fired’ EP. After the gig, they came up to me for a chat to ask me if it was ok to use “Falling Into You” for the first dance of their wedding. I was really taken back that they would even consider that. I believe they are still married, which is a good thing, right…!

Jimmy Rae:   I’m aware that you have been singing and playing guitar in various bands since the age of 13, so obviously music is in your DNA.   But I found it very interesting that you have also been heavily involved with the brass band scene for many years as well. I know you play trumpet, but wondering if there are other brass instruments you play or have played?   Going off of this, I saw that on your 2009 debut EP titled ‘Hired and Fired’, the focus was on brass and woodwind.   So now I ask, what was the complete line-up of instruments being used here and were you the sole performer?

Simon Fagan: The nature of most brass instruments is that if you can play one well, you can play most with a little alteration. Having studied classical music I tend to try my hand at any instrument I see, ‘Jack-of-all-trades and master of none’!

Looking back on the 2009 EP ‘Hired and Fired’, I was still developing as a writer. I was also trying to allow the sound to evolve and in order for this to happen, I had to explore many avenues. So with these recordings I developed the sound around brass riffs and woodwind phrases supported by the band. I played guitar, piano, trumpet, trombone, some bass, and percussion and did all the vocals on those recordings. I had others in to help on sax and other bits and pieces. The sound to date is somewhat different, as it has further evolved since then.

Jimmy Rae: So…we know you sing, play guitar, piano, trumpet, trombone, some bass and percussion, so my question to you then is any other members of the musical instrument family you plan on tackling?  

Simon Fagan: Well as I already mentioned I’m one of these people who try their hand at any instrument they see. I love learning and writing on new instruments; it keeps everything fresh. Currently I’m in negotiations with a banjo, but it doesn’t like being told what to do…!

Jimmy Rae:   Going off of your 4 track EP, I read that your sound evolved by going away from heavy brass arrangements on ‘Hired and Fired’ toward more of an acoustic rock sound.   On your new record ‘Outside Looking In’, you pick up on this sense of a singer/songwriter emerging out of nowhere.   It really does seem like this literally happened overnight because one album focuses on brass instrumentation and the next centers around acoustic elements and crisp vocals.   Not to mention, it was also during this time that you formed a permanent band.   All of these abrupt changes happened within one year’s team, which is incredible to say the least!   What I and the Skope viewers would love to know is just how exactly did this happen?   Did you wake up one day and just figure this all out or maybe had a dream that sparked this or maybe you’ve been thinking about this transition for awhile now–       what’s the dealio?  

Simon Fagan: Here’s the dealio folks! I grew up listening to great songwriters and great bands like Roy Orbison, Beck, Dylan, John Lennon, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and the Beatles, the list goes on and on. All of these amazing artists have one thing in common. They all had, for the most part, a permanent band, I realized this when I was touring the EP in 2009 that it was impossible to develop a sound when your chopping and changing things from gig to gig; it was madness when I think about it. So I got a band together and wrote an album with them in mind, brought them on tour in Egypt for a ‘bonding session’ and from there the sound took off. Maybe it was a ‘long way Home’ as the Tom Waits song says, but I got there, I think?

Jimmy Rae: I’ve heard several tracks off of ‘Outside Looking In’ and I have to say that it definitely doesn’t sound like an accident. So far, I’m hearing nothing but good vibes coming from this album with styles jumping out all over the place at me.   I’m particularly impressed with the harmonies that stuck out to me right away.   For example on the song “Water’s Edge”, I am hearing some very nice harmonizing and I have to ask then if harmonies & melodies were the key ingredient toward the making of this record?

Simon Fagan: I think the harmonies were certainly an essential ingredient for this record, but like any good cake, the taste depends on how all the ingredients compliment each other when combined as one. There are different elements to the record, folk, rock, acoustic, and even a classical orchestral texture to the final track, “Time To Go”, which was performed by the Prague Phil.   I suppose I tried to encompass all I learnt to date, while maintaining a coherent flow to the overall feel of it.

Jimmy Rae:   Musically, vocally and lyrically, ‘Outside Looking In’ appears to have it all covered wonderfully and so I’m wondering how does it feel to be considered not just as a musician now but also as a solid singer/songwriter & performer?

Simon Fagan: Thank you for your kind words, but I don’t consider myself as any of the above just yet, hopefully someday I will, until that day though, I will strive to develop, explore and evolve as an artist/songwriter and performer.

Jimmy Rae:   I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve had the opportunity to open up for Lionel Richie and Smokey Robinson.   Big fan of both of these artists, so I’m anxious to know what that was like opening up for two legendary acts?   And did you guys get a chance to talk and if so what did you talk about?  

Simon Fagan: Well I got the gig at a few hours notice, which was a good thing as I hadn’t had any time to freak out!! Those gigs were the biggest crowds I had ever played to and stick out in my mind as one of the most impressive to date. Unfortunately I never got a chance to speak to Lionel, but I am glad to say I shared a few passing words with the legend, Smokey Robinson. When I came off, he shook my hand and said, “keep doing what your doing boy, and you’ll be playing venues like this every night of your career”. I was blown’ away, I think I stuttered something like, “Yes, yes Mr. Robinson…..thank, thank you”.   He was everything I imagined he’d be.  

Jimmy Rae:   How would you describe your personality and to all of the Skope readers who possibly know little to nothing about you what is one word you would use to describe Simon Fagan?

Simon Fagan: Ah come on Jimmy, gimme three at least man!!! I’m giving myself three ok…..? Cheeky, fun loving and energetic, is that four?

Jimmy Rae: Are there any crazy or hysterically funny stories you’d care to share with everyone?   This can be about anything in your life from then to now.

Simon Fagan: God, don’t know if this is a good idea! In Egypt, I got abducted for want of another word, by a man who made me buy liquid Viagra, resulting in me nearly missing a flight up to Cairo while still tipsy from the night before (was some party). To get the full story check out this link: HYPERLINK “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JelT0MG5OMhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JelT0MG5OM that’s all I’m saying ok!

Jimmy Rae:   So seriously Simon I have to ask just how sick are you of all the Irish stereotypes that have been around for years?   I won’t even bother to name any because I’m sure you’ve heard them all.   Going off of that, how tired are you of ALL stereotypes in general; quite ridiculous don’t ya think?

Simon Fagan: Yea there is certain nostalgia attached to the Irish singer/songwriter I suppose. I don’t know if this has developed from the old Irish story telling, in the Traditional sense, maybe all the Irish who have left the emerald Isle, and sing a longing tune for her shores has something to do with it, probably does, or, if it has come from our recent exporting batch of singer/songwriters, not quite sure?   Some are great in fairness, but the idea of having to be a tortured soul in order to be considered a songwriter is a bit ridiculous I think. Ok, we are all human and we all have emotions, granted! I like to try to capture them all, not just the old weary, down trodden ones, ok I’m rambling now, I’ll shut up, next.      

Jimmy Rae:   Would you be inclined to tell us something about you that you’ve never told anyone else before?   If so, please feel free to enlighten us.   I know, this is a totally random question for completely random people; what can I say!

Simon Fagan: Ok, when I was a kid I was playing in the fields, and suddenly felt something behind my ear. I naturally reached for my ear and pulled an earwig (you guys know what those horrible creatures look like, right?) Anyway, he was about to crawl into my ear, I freaked out and pounded on him with my foot about 20 times. Ever since then if I see one, I’ll run the other way, hate them!

Jimmy Rae:   I saw that you have an Irish Tour starting up on February 17, which sounds really exciting.   Can you tell us more about this upcoming tour and also what are you anticipating going into this?

Simon Fagan: Well the Irish tour as you said is starting on the 17th, so I suppose like any other tour you hope the people will come out and show good support at the shows. Ireland is that small where you can nearly drive the length and breathe in less than 24 hours, so the traveling isn’t tough at all. Really looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd as they tend to be the best.

Jimmy Rae:   Anything on the horizon we should know about?  

Simon Fagan: Well, I’m currently writing the second record and there may be a surprise before that in form of a 10 track semi-acoustic album, watch this space.   Another single taken from, ‘Outside Looking In’, no doubt to come as well.

You’ve learned a lot about this man now, so I’d say it’s time to go check out his website at www.simonfagan.net.   Here’s another good reason to check out Simon’s page right now—he’s giving away a free EP that you can download directly from the site!   The freebie is titled ‘Live At Cameron House’ and here is the link: http://bit.ly/SF-FreeEP.   You can also purchase his latest album ‘Outside Looking In’ along with his last EP ‘Hired and Fired’ on the website.   If you haven’t heard Simon Fagan then you’re missing out because this singer/songwriter has a lot to offer the music world.   Music enthusiasts everywhere should rejoice when they hear Fagan’s songs because he’s bringing a lot of excitement to the table.   Get ready!!!

By Jimmy Rae (jrae@skopemag.com)

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