Our show Simon & Garfunkel Through The Years began in 2010 with just Dan and myself doing one-off irregular performances in village halls and small theatres. This was for two reasons, firstly, because that’s how Simon & Garfunkel toured for much of the 60’s, but also because we couldn’t afford any other musicians. As we progressed and began to tour more regularly, we were tempted by the possibility of being able to experiment with different musician lineups.
This was a scary thing for us, we were very precious over how true we wanted to stay to the music of Simon & Garfunkel. From the start we’ve always tried to sound as close as possible to them, something which we believe is vital for a tribute to Simon & Garfunkel. We were also worried that bringing in a band would detract from what we were doing vocally and would overshadow Dan’s delicate and precise guitar work. We knew the search was on to not only find the right lineup, but also find the right musicians.
The first thing we did was to really study the music of Simon & Garfunkel, both album tracks and live. All the the performances they did after Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel always used a band. During their famous Concert in Central Park, New York, in 1981, which featured them singing many of Paul’s solo songs together, the full band sound for songs like Kodachrome and Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard was necessary. For us however, only performing mainly Simon Garfunkel songs during our show, and aware that we were becoming known for the pin drop silence and electric atmosphere of our gigs, a band felt too full-on for us at that point. So we went back to the album tracks and picked out some of the beautiful string sections in songs like America, Old Friends, The Dangling Conversation and Song For The Asking and realised this was something we could introduce to the live show without detracting from what we did.
A few internet searches led us to a group called Leos Strings, run by Rachel Shakespeare. After a few phone conversations with Rachel and realising she too shared a passion for the music of Simon & Garfunkel, wheels were set in motion for a first rehearsal, during which, Dan and myself almost cried with laughter at the sound they were creating in that room, it completely blew us away! After a few shows with Leos strings we quickly realised that not only were they incredible musicians, but also great people. Tours of the UK and Germany with them have given us many fond memories, and what great shows they were too. A recording from the sell-out show at the Konzertkirche in Neubrandenburg on March 29th 2018 with Leos strings, captures that version of the show at it’s best (available from our store as a CD or to stream/Download)
Never wanting to become complacent and feeling the need to bring something new to our returning audiences in 2018, we decided to change the lineup of the show slIghtly to include more of a traditional band feel. We also felt that adding drums, bass and a second guitar would open up the opportunity to learn some of Paul’s solo songs. For this we needed musicians who most importantly would be able to play subtly and understand the desire to stay true to the stripped back, pure sound of Simon & Garfunkel. We also knew we needed musicians who we could get along with. Months of touring with the same people, travelling together, eating together, working together and sharing almost every moment of every day together means you really do need to get along.
Auditions for a guitarist/keys player began in the summer of 2018. We picked Jonny Knight, a multi instrumentalist who had just graduated from Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts (LIPA) who later admitted he didn’t think he’d get the job because he didn’t have time to change into a shirt for the interview and because we didn’t ask to see his C.V. The reality was it made no matter to us what he was wearing or what was in his CV, as long as he could play the parts we’d asked him to. He certainly could, he’s also turned out to be one of the nicest guys we’ve ever worked with. After that came the drummer auditions, applicants would come into the studio and show off with unnecessary fills or add more than they needed, feeling the need to show off their skills. One guy however didn’t do this, Calvin Hansen quietly walked into the audition room, sat at the drums and proceeded to play along with us in a way that just slipped effortlessly into to place, nothing extravagant, just right, this was our guy. It was as if we’d been playing with him for years. Turns out he also happened to be an amazing person too.
So in October of 2018, together Leos Strings, Jonny (who ended up on bass) and Calvin on drums, we embarked on a tour of Germany. During that month long tour we performed to over 7,000 people and enjoyed some of our greatest performances. It really does help to have such great people around when you’re all squeezed in a van for hours on end, it definitely helped keep us sane! Halfway through the tour though Jonny had to leave us for the UK for a few days due to other musical commitments. So he flew in a deputy musician, a friend of his called Adam Handford (also a graduate from LIPA) who, Jonny assured us would not only play the parts perfectly with little rehearsal needed, but also fit right in, and he wasn’t wrong. It always amazes me how a musician can turn up to a show like that, having never played with the band before and perform the show in front of hundreds of people. Going forward we decided to have Adam on bass and move Jonny over to guitar. This proved to be a great set up, with Calvin too of course on drums.
Our varied lineups have not only kept things interesting for us, but also for our audiences, it gives us the flexibly and versatility to suit the needs of any venue or tour. Our most recent tour before we went into lockdown in Australia back in February and March 2020, consisted of Dan and myself on vocals, Dan on first guitar, Jonny on second guitar and keys, Adam on double bass and Calvin on drums. Traveling around that great country with those guys has given us memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives, how lucky we were to experience that with those amazing people. Let’s hope we can do it again in the near future.