Carly Simon recorded her new album, Never Been Gone, at her Martha's Vineyard compound, and she delivers intriguing twists on her hits (You're So Vain, Anticipation) and other songs from past albums, as well as two new tunes.
A portion of the album's proceeds will go to the Carly Simon Music Therapy Initiative, a collaboration between the singer-songwriter and the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Never -- which Iris Records releases Tuesday (October 27) -- also helped Simon work through despair and anger over her 2008 Hear Music release, This Kind of Love. She's seeking unspecified damages in a lawsuit she recently filed against Starbucks, claiming that the company's now-defunct music venture didn't fully promote the album.
Along for Simon's restorative trip down memory lane was a host of family and friends, including son Benjamin Taylor and his Iris Records partner Larry Ciancia, daughter Sally Taylor, godson John Forte (the former Fugees producer pardoned for a drug trafficking conviction in 2008), singer-songwriter David Saw and engineer Frank Filipetti. It was like people were rallying around me, Simon says. They knew my disappointment.
Moving beyond disappointment, Simon is gearing up for a series of promotional appearances and her first overseas tour early next year, with DJ Logic in tow.
Billboard: Why did you record this album?
Carly Simon: After what happened with This Kind of Love, I was devastated. It felt like carrying a child to term and then having it die in childbirth. But (Iris Records partners) Ben (Taylor, her son) and Larry (Ciancia) said, Let's not sit around and waste time. You've got these incredible songs you've written. Let's rethink some of them and have fun. And fun was the operative word. We all got together in the same room and started rethinking my songs. When I say rethinking, I don't mean in an intellectual way. I mean, we all had a couple of glasses of wine or beer and just started having a good time.
Billboard: Were the two new songs written specifically for the album?
Simon: No Freedom is a lyric I wrote a few years ago. Ben and singer-songwriter David Saw wrote a melody to it. It had originally been a folk song, but I woke up one morning and said, It's got to be in 2/4 time like (Elton John's) 'Bennie and the Jets.' Ben did an absolutely amazing job on the production; it's a great song to dance to.
The album ends with Songbird, which I wrote in 1970 but never finished. I have hundreds of songs on cassettes around the house. I was listening to one when I heard this song and said, Wow. The first verse actually came from a different song; I had obviously written the songs around the same time. I also remembered there was a songbird that used to come to my landing when I lived in a little New York apartment on 35th Street, and I'd try to get melodies from its singing. You couldn't do better than a bird.
Billboard: What was it like to work again with your godson, John Forte?
Simon: I'm so happy John is free and able to do his music. He's a great poet who raps and sings beautifully. He doesn't sound like anyone else, which is key. He's his own man. I asked John to work with me on You Belong to Me, and he's going to perform it with me on TV. It's a hip-hop version with a little George Benson feel in the guitar solo.
Billboard: Did you find that your songs stand the test of time?
Simon: There were some songs that didn't and others for which we couldn't figure out a new feeling or arrangement -- for instance, Jesse and Haven't Got Time for the Pain. And the songs we did do weren't necessarily hits, like It Happens Every Day and Never Been Gone. I've always loved Never, and the decision to make it a barroom version is one that happened so naturally.
Billboard: Looking back at your career, is there anything you'd change?
Simon: Maybe I would have been a bit more careful about who and what I was getting involved with because my enthusiasms can sometimes be my downfall. Some things are both your greatest assets and your biggest detriments. I think my great enthusiasm for doing things has caused me to perhaps not dot the I's and cross the T's as well as I should have.
Billboard: Will you reissue This Kind of Love?
Simon: Anything is possible at this stage of the game. I'm not closing the door to anything. It was the first time in 10 years that I'd done an album of original songs. It took almost two years to prepare. That's why it hurt so much. My previous album of original material, Bedroom Tapes, got lost in the mix-up when Clive Davis left Arista. So I bought that album back. I've got no idea when, where or how, but the songs I wrote for those two albums are going to get a second life -- whether another artist records them or the albums are re-released.