Having produced two of 2016’s best albums, Simone Felice is ready to move out of the studio and back to the stage with a UK and Ireland tour on the horizon. Our favourite upstate New York troubadour may have been making million-selling magic with The Lumineers and Bat For Lashes, but it’s his own songs of sorcery that we’re interested in. By Alan O’Hare.

We look to our greatest artists when we’re in search of something. Some people go to poets to find solace in words, some people follow painters to think in colour and some of us go to singers for a sense of the world around us. A connection, is what we’re all looking for. The rub? Our greatest artists often need us as much as we need them.

A song is no good until someone has heard it – and there’s a massive difference between touching someone through the phone screen or radio, than there is in doing it live and in person. Simone Felice is a songwriter and performer who exists to feel. This is a singer in full possession of the holy spirit and in touch with the muse. Live, he’s up there with the very best: the rage of Neil Young, the transcendence of Van Morrison, the other-worldly qualities of Kate Bush, the electricity of James Brown and the intensity of Bruce Springsteen. That good? We promise…

Sure, we’ve never seen Felice in a truly big space where he’d have to project a lot more to reach into the heart of every person in the room and find those little bits of themselves they keep hidden away, but in the back rooms, churches, clubs and small theatres he frequents, there isn’t anybody to touch him.

Remember that story of how our very own Lee Mavers, in his search for musical perfection, would move from instrument to instrument in the rehearsal room without missing a beat (as if the music was constantly playing in his head)? We’ve seen Felice, from Palenville, New York, do that live on stage: banging an acoustic guitar, singing his heart out and then taking the drum stool to drive a song home with notes from the kit. Music pours out of him: “Feel, dedication to serving the song and danger,” are what he talks about when asked about his music. Speaking of which…

We’re promised new material on this autumn tour… how’s it sounding?
Dark. I began recording this summer, but the songs are still whispering to me. I should have the album done by Christmas and out next spring, if the gods are good.

You’ve been busy producing other artists – The Lumineers and Bat For Lashes, for example…
We retreated to the woods and channeled ghosts, cried and laughed hysterically. We did our best to keep a torch lit. I suppose a fair summary would be it’s been a long and winding tale.

Both Bat For Lashes and The Lumineers have had success with their latest records, so who’s next… U2?
They can’t afford me. Adele or Richard Hawley would be nice, though.

Your last album, ‘Strangers’, was a hit with both your fans and critics. How do you feel about it now?
Like all albums, it’s a snapshot and a moment in time. The songs I’m still most proud of are ‘Bye Bye Palenville’ and ‘The Gallows’.

They’re great songs that seem to have found new melodies out of age-old chord sequences… 
Well, melody and poetry are king with the kind of work I do. They would be nothing without one another.

‘Strangers’ has been my go-to headphones record for a while. What do you listen to late at night?
Radiohead, Nick Drake and Sandy Denny.

“And the day our baby came, we gave her a precious name, so everyone would know what a Pearl we found.” Kids, hey?
Harry Chapin’s line about his son hits me where it hurts: “Do your dancing boy, it’s so scary how you trust me, just one look from you and I come pouring out like wine. Do your dancing boy, ’cause I’m sure by now that you must see your dancing means much more to me than a dream of mine.”

You’re crossing the pond this autumn, what can we expect on this visit and what are you looking forward to on tour?
I always look forward to the uncertainty of the highway and hope to make each night upon it real.

Simone Felice
The King’s Arms, Bloom Street, Salford
Saturday October 15th 2016
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Pic courtesy Hey! Manchester