Putting his heart into it
MANY musicians will say they put their heart into their recordings but for Simone Felice it's literally the case.
Listen closely to Splendour In The Grass, the final track from his self-titled debut album and you can hear a quiet, metallic rhythm of Simone's actual heart.
"Yes, it's true, you can hear it ticking on the last song," says Simone, who underwent open-heart surgery two years ago.
He's now left with a long scar and a faint rhythm emanating from his chest, though is otherwise fit.
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"I've had a year and a half with my new valve and I've never felt better ... better than I've felt for the last 15 years. I'm working hard and the doctors tell me I'm a model of success for the procedure."
But while obviously traumatic, this life-or-death surgery wasn't the only dramatic and emotional incident that fed into his searing debut solo record.
"That was a frightening and life affirming moment," he says of the operation.
"And then, three months later, my first child was born, which was the most transcendent moment of my life.
"Out of that came the inspiration to do my own album.
"The songs and poetry came out of this open heart surgery and watching my daughter come into this world, that caused me to take off all my armour, beat the dust from my wings, and tell my story..."
Recalling how intense painkillers produced clear visions and vivid nightmares – shaping tracks Hey Bobby Ray and The Ballad Of Sharon Tate – his 10-track collection was inspired by birth and rebirth.
He says: "This record was born in pain, joy and blood in equal parts."
Often compared to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave, published poet Simone first came to prominence in 2006 as drummer, writer and vocalist with Catskill Mountain troubadours The Felice Brothers.
Since leaving the Brothers, he's published his first novel, Black Jesus, and formed folk/ soul combo, The Duke And The King – who ceased after just one album.
"The Duke And The King was a moment in time, a bit of theatre, a travelling show, which is how I always envisioned it.
"Every band has its life arc, a life span. It was a tremendous time, we had some amazing moments, but this new album is not a bicycle built for two.
"The band left all completely friends, and some members helped me out with the new album, but Duke is done.
"From now on all my records will be by Simone Felice.
"I may appear on The Felice Brothers' and other records, but my solo career has begun and I've already started to write for the next record – you can't dictate when inspiration will come.
"It's something I'll work in for the next two years."
One of the key tracks on his debut record features Mumford And Sons' Ben Lovett, who is also behind live club night and record label Communion – home to such hot acts as chart-topper Gotye and Michael Kiwanuka.
"Communion is a really cool organisation. Ben reached out to me for a Communion satellite event in New York City and we became friends."
The Simone Felice Group play The Glee Club on Wednesday May 2 supported by Simi Stone. Tickets are £12.50 from the venue, call 0871 472 0400 or go to www.glee.co.uk.