Simone Felice is a celebrated songwriter, author, and poet. He was the former drummer, writer and vocalist of The Felice Brothers and after he left the band in 2009 he formed his own band The Duke & The King. He also performs solo.
For Simone Felice, his self-titled Team Love solo debut has literally been a lifetime in the making. He explains, “This album is the one I’ve had buried away, somewhere in my weird heart.”
Felice doesn’t use the word “heart” casually. When you sit with him in a room you can hear a subtle metallic ticking noise. If you hunt for the source of the sound you’ll find a vertical scar bisecting the entire length of his chest, a visceral reminder of the open-heart surgery he was forced to undergo in the summer of 2010 after a childhood congenital defect brought him to the brink of death. He traces the line of that scar as if it’s where his new songs actually emanate from, and in a way they do. Simone Felice is strikingly simple in its arrangements but extravagant in its emotional impact. There is a luminous aura surrounding these compositions, something magical and otherworldly, even when the lyrics are startlingly topical or reference historical events, on tracks like “Courtney Love,” “New York Times” and “Ballad of Sharon Tate.” Felice conveys his often mournful tales of star-crossed lovers and beautiful losers with remarkable empathy. Given his own life-and-death experiences – the recent surgery and the birth of his first child were just the latest chapters — his approach can genuinely be called openhearted. Over the course of a year, this Catskill Mountains-based artist found the most deeply resonant places in which to record his work, settings that were as haunted in their rafters as he felt in his bones: a barn near his home in the woods, an old church in London, an abandoned high school building by the Hudson River. What he created in these hushed, hallowed places is music that could be called folk but that has running through it a ghostly gospel-like feel. Occasionally helping him realize his vision were friends from Mumford & Sons, The Felice Brothers, and even the members of a local girl’s choir, the Catskill High School Treblaires.
Felice has long been a storyteller, writing prose and poetry as well as songs, and he has a truly remarkable story of his own to tell. In fact, Britain’s esteemed Guardian newspaper commissioned Felice to write a memoir about his young life and the health travails that culminated in his 2010 surgery. Born in 1976, Felice was raised in the Catskill Mountains, in the shadow of Woodstock, the same area where Bob Dylan famously retreated to workshop with the Band after his mysterious motorcycle accident. As Simone, whose gaunt looks balance the sensitive and the rough-hewn, declares: “I was born in the woods, with a drop of Indian blood. As a boy, I swore I saw a Mohican ghost among the birch trees. Or maybe it was just the acid.”