Yet, Garfunkel, teamed up with Los Angeles-based singer/saxophonist Maia Sharp and Nashville-based singer/songwriter Buddy Mondlock, for a new project from Manhattan Records/EMI titled "Everything Waits To Be Noticed," which has deep ties to Music City, including serving as the recording base for the 13-song CD.
Garfunkel, Sharp and Mondlock were in Nashville this week to promote the album and to participate in Tin Pan South, a five-day songwriters' festival held annually by the Nashville Songwriters Association International.
The trio performed Wednesday at the famed Bluebird Cafe for a segment for Turner South's "Live At The Bluebird" show.
Before one thinks Garfunkel, half of the legendary duo of Simon & Garfunkel and who made songs such as "Scarborough Fair" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," anthems for an age, has gone country, stop and hear the music.
"Everything Waits To Be Noticed" is a collection of songs one might expect to hear Garfunkel sing. Rich in harmonies, to which Mondlock and Sharp have no problem contributing, the songs are more of an echo of another time in music than the newest, hippest sound around. Neither does the music sound dated, however. The songs are fresh, with Mondlock and Sharp punctuating the tunes with their own sounds.
The new project is the brainchild of Billy Mann, an energetic singer/songwriter/producer.
The story goes that Mann had the idea for a trio album featuring said cast and tracked down Garfunkel, whom he didn't know. While speaking by phone with Garfunkel at home in New York City and Mann in London, the later explained his idea to the famous singer. Mann played a song he had just written, "Bounce," over the phone and said Garfunkel must record it. Mann also said he knew of two other singers who must join him on the recording. Mondlock and Sharp were the singers he had in mind.
Mondlock, who has several solo CDs out and has written hits for the likes of Garth Brooks, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary, had been writing with Mann for a few years. Sharp, who first befriended Mann at a songwriters' retreat in France in 1998, also had a solo career, as well as having her tunes recorded by the likes of Cher, Kim Richey and Amanda Marshall. She and her father wrote the title track from the Dixie Chicks' current CD, "Home."
Sharp said being tapped for the project surprised her when Mann first called and suggested the idea at the beginning of 2000.
"I didn't really believe it, because it took a lot of factors to line up, to move from 'I have this idea' to actually doing it," Sharp said at the Music Row office of her publisher, Major Bob Music. "But it was very soon after that phone call that it was put into action, that we were here (in Nashville)."
Indeed, Mann's enthusiasm intrigued Garfunkel enough that he said yes, with the deal-maker for Garfunkel being the opportunity to put some of his poetry to music.
"I mentioned to Billy that I'd written a lot of prose poems, and suggested that if he could make them into songs, he would have locked up my account. 'You got me, if you could do that,'" said Garfunkel, who had never written songs. "That would be such a big thing in my life, if those poems could be turned into songs."
By February 2000, Garfunkel, Sharp and Mondlock were in Nashville together singing and teaching Garfunkel the fine art of songwriting.
"We sang together the very first day and wrote a song the second," Mondlock said. "It felt effortless."
Mondlock and Sharp, veteran songwriters, insist Garfunkel was a fast student, quickly picking up the ins and outs of crafting a song.
"Art is basically a very creative person," Mondlock said "He's great at putting disparate elements together."
Garfunkel agreed writing songs differed little from writing poetry.
"It has certain similarities to those prose poems I'd been writing," he said, "which are a lot about pacing and twirling your hair -- nervous habits -- while you hunt for the right syllabification and the right rhyme. It's one thing to know what you want to say and to have some touching phrases that will say it, but in the tissue, the line-by-line of it, there's so much mechanical work. There's perspiration. You talk to your friends, and you get out the dictionary.
"Things come out of the truth and into good songwriter language if you have a feel for it ... and I developed a feel for that language through working with Buddy, Maia and Billy," Garfunkel said.
In the end, a CD that has already produced a song, "Bounce," that charted on the adult contemporary radio charts and a new hit in the making, "How Did You Know?" was the result, as well as a successful U.S. and European tour.
For Garfunkel, he said the project has been more than a new line on his extensive resume.
"It really has changed my life," he said, "in the deepest part of my sense of self."
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