I’ve been a huge fan of Simon and Garfunkel since my early teens. I grew up with the music of Paul Simon, my Dad would play “Graceland” in the car on sunny family holidays to Cornwall. But it wasn’t until I was about 13 or 14 that I dug out my Dad’s old record collection and “discovered” Simon & Garfunkel. It was like finding treasure, playing those albums (my Dad had every single one from Wednesday Morning 3am to Bridge Over Troubled Water) was an incredible feeling, each song would just blow me away and spark a passion that would eventually lead me to take up a career based solely around their music; a tribute band touring the world playing homage to those incredible songs and the men who created them.
Many people ask us after our shows how it all came about, we briefly mention in our shows how we met in school and became friends but are reluctant to talk too much about ourselves in a show which is meant to be about Simon and Garfunkel, our audiences are often left wanting to delve deeper into our history. So I thought would be a good idea for our first blog to wind everything back and tell our own story from the beginning.
We first met in the first year of secondary school, by chance we sat next to each other in the same tutor group. We weren’t in any of the same classes so would only meet twice a day for registration, once in the morning and once after lunch, our real friendship grew outside of school. Again by chance, our evening paper round routes crossed paths and we would stop to talk, sometimes for up to an hour resulting in residents newspapers being delivered late, which got us inevitable complaints. We would talk mainly about music, Dan was just starting to learn to play the guitar and I had begun to discover music both old and new, The Beatles, Ocean Colour Scene, Coldplay and of course Simon and Garfunkel.
Over the next five years our friendship grew but it wasn’t until we left school and attended the same college that we started to hang out more regularly. By this time Dan had honed his guitar skills by learning the fingerpicking style of Paul Simon and I, encouraged by my older brothers who were both keen musicians, had learnt to harmonise with them. Dan and myself would often skip classes to learn songs of our favourite artists. We would go to the empty refectory where the bare walls would create a natural reverb for our voices. I can still remember Dan’s old songbook with handwritten lyrics and chords which at the time was his musical bible. All of the songs we played at that time were by current artists, but one evening after college in my bedroom, Dan began playing a new song he’d been learning; “Bleecker Street”. I can remember thinking how Dan had so meticulously learnt to play it and how it sounded identical to the album track. I immediately began singing the harmony and as we sang those first lines “Fogs rolling in of the east river bank, Like a shroud it covers Bleecker Street” we fell about laughing because of how much we sounded Simon and Garfunkel.
I have no real answer as to why we sounded so much like Simon & Garfunkel, perhaps our voices blended as well as theirs did or maybe we mimicked the perfect diction that Simon and Garfunkel so skilfully achieved, or maybe it was both. Either way we impressed ourselves so much that we rushed downstairs to sing our newly learnt song to my Mum and Dad. Other Simon and Garfunkel songs quickly followed like “The Boxer” and “The Sound Of Silence” but for us it was the lesser known early folk songs that we enjoyed learning most. “A Poem On The Underground Wall” was another song that had us falling about in fits of laughter, we often struggled to even complete a song because of this.
Those fun early days of learning those songs at sixteen years of age would remain as just that, for fun. We managed a handful of gigs in local pubs, mostly open mic nights. But we were both unconfident performers, me even more so (I even left Dan alone on stage one night and literally ran home with stage fright!). After we left college in 2003 we began seeing less of each other and our lives slowly drifted apart. It wasn’t until 2011 when Paul Simon announced a UK tour that our paths would cross again. Included on the tour was the NIA in Birmingham on the 30th June and we immediately got in touch with each other and arranged to book tickets. The concert was of course incredible and with our passion for his music re-ignited, started talking about the idea of getting some shows as a Simon & Garfunkel tribute.
Not really knowing where to start, we got in touch with some local village halls and to our surprise they booked us. Those first shows were terrifying, neither of us were particularly natural performers and I can remember us rushing with adrenaline before each show, pacing around and wondering “why on earth have we done this?”. Our lack of confidence in ourselves was obviously apparent to our early audiences in those village halls and we would often have people saying to us after the shows “you have no idea how good you are”. One evening in a hall in Worcester (we had just sung “Old Friends”), a gentleman from the audience approached the stage, handed us a £20 note and said “Play that again”. We laughed it off as a joke but he insisted saying “No I mean it, play that again”. We did play that song again but managed to find him after the show to give him his £20 back!
With our confidence growing slightly we decided it was time to try and get some shows in small theatres, the first was The Bonington Theatre in Nottingham, a 178 seat venue which at the time felt huge to us. “How on earth will we be able to get people to come to this?” we thought, but we were determined. In the weeks leading up to the Bonington Theatre date we made three separate trips to Nottingham, running door to door with flyers and appearing on BBC Radio Nottingham for a very nervous interview. The work paid off and on the 28th April 2012 we
performed our first theatre show to 130 people, our largest audience so far! Little did we know that within 5 years we would be performing at The Nottingham Concert Hall to over 1000 people.
Since then our show has grown and now in January 2020 “Simon and Garfunkel Through The Years” is about to make its third appearance at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, this time in front of over 1500 people. In February we will embark on our first tour of Australia before a tour of Spain and our fifth tour of Germany. In August we will perform our 7th year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which will hopefully be our 7th sell-out run. We’ve now been touring the show for 8 years and even now we often pinch ourselves; we get to travel around the world performing the songs of Simon & Garfunkel as a career! I sometimes think back to those days learning their songs in my bedroom, having no idea that what we were doing would lead to what we do now. Or even further back to those first days of school, randomly placed next to someone who would become my best friend and someone with whom I’d share this incredible journey and career with.