Simon Cousins is a musician that is open to people and true to his music and a real uncomplicated pleasure to listen. He has his own style and his personality transpires in his music. His performances have a playful and conversational aspect to them that give a convivial spirit to his music and the impression that he is no stranger to his audience (and once he sings, he certainly is no longer one). He turns familiar-sounding songs into a new experience which makes one wonder if, in his own words, he is looking for love in each stranger’s eyes. And as he maintains eye-contact with each and everyone and the attention of the audience, as a storyteller would in crucial moments, I wonder how one could be so relaxed and passionate at the same time, betraying both experience and care for his work.
It was all the more exciting as he agreed to do the following interview. You can see the sensitivity of a true artist when a mere interview template comes alive under their perspective and somehow there is always more to find even in a straight answer! The musician presents himself with such honesty and modesty, we must remind ourselves that this English artist was a member of Wiltshire’s Progressive Garage band Random Gender, American bluegrass/Country/Punk band The Onset and Folk/Roots/Rock group Ophiuchus before starting a solo acoustic career.
World Singer Songwriter Mag (WSS): How would you introduce yourself and your music?
Simon Cousins (SC): “A real uncomplicated pleasure to listen to” (Thanks Tiki).
I trust that something magic comes through music, whether through invoking laughter, tears, passion or dance, music has that potential. All the musician has to do is trust the music and let it come through. Easier said than done. But that’s something to learn about. It’s a craft I hope to improve on.
I was 15 when I started playing, a vain hope for popularity with the girls. That’s as good a reason as any. When the Onset broke up in 1994 I thought, “What did you want to be when you were a kid?” so I tried Archaeology, Ancient History and Philosophy, all wonderful subjects to study. But I ask you, what can you do with a Philosophy Degree…?
I would like to be a professional musician, but I’m definitely an amateur… I’m still learning.
SC: I don’t have any unique selling point; I don’t have a built-in obsolescence either.
WSS: A unique name for your music would be…
SC: Given Songs
WSS: The best thing (in music) since the singing slice bread is…
SC: YouTube – whatever you want to listen to is there
I love music; if there are lyrics too that’s a bonus in my book
WSS: How does it feel when people get excited over my music?
SC: I was really privileged to have the opportunity to play in the Green Futures Field at Glastonbury in 2011, and I got some lovely press articles in the Liverpool Echo, Wigan Evening Post and the St.Helens papers, the Reporter and Star. Regular guy does something unusual kind of angle. I ended up having four performances. The best show was the Thursday evening at the Tadpole stage. As the main stages weren’t open I had a very nice audience. I asked, “Is anyone here from Liverpool?”, and there was a little cheer; great! I asked “Is anyone here from St.Helens?”, and there was a big cheer, wow. I asked “Is anyone here from Wigan” and there was a loud boo!
I knew there and then they were from St.Helens. At the end of the gig quite a few of people came over to tell me they’d seen me in the press. One lovely couple had cut the article out of the paper, laminate it, and brought it with them to show me, “We saw you in Star, so we thought we’d come t’see you.” It was very nice, very funny and very flattering. So I had a little glimpse of what it might feel like if people got excited about my music. If your are reading this and you were there, thank you
WSS: What type of music do you listen to?
SC: What amazes me is that no matter how many artists you listen to there is always more to discover. I’m listening to Tymon Dogg’s 1976 LP at the moment, entitled Tymon Dogg. I bought it way back in the late 70s because the cover was so beautiful. You can’t always judge a book by its cover, but luckily it was a great find. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s what I am listening to at this very moment
(Now I’m reading through the interview and I’m listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Coincidence and Likely Stories LP 1992 The Big Ones Get Away – Check this out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5o8gwt26To )
WSS: Who, to you, is the most undervalued music artist?
SC: I don’t usually think of musician in that way. How about this – the next person you think has a really fantastic voice on “The Voice” and no judges turn round – well if that’s not an undervalued music artist, then tell me who is?
WSS: What ignites your song writing flow?
SC: Most of my songs come through dreams, I keep the phone by the bed to record whatever I can recall as I’m waking up.
WSS: How do you prepare for your performances?
SC: Practice, practice, practice, and then trust it’s okay to put your head above the parapet.
WSS: What/who most helped you in your career?
SC: I tend to think of music as a pleasurable hobby. What helps most – I’ve found that “please” and “thank you” helps a lot. Who helped most – what can any musician say? I’ve played with loads of wonderful musicians and been helped by lots of wonderful people. Google: “The Onset”, “Ophiuchus” and “Random Gender” if you wish to read about them. (Wikipedia has the whole story)
WSS: How does it feel having such great accolades?
SC: It’s wonderful when your song is played on the radio. Given the amount of talented musicians out there I’m very lucky that it’s happened at all.
WSS: Success to you is…
SC: That moment of magic which come when everyone in the audience is listening, that feels like success to me.
SC: I would be happy if a film maker thought one of my songs was good enough to be used in a movie.
WSS: What do you wish you have been told when you started out and that you think would help anyone who starts out?
SC: Keep going, don’t stop.
WSS: What do you do when you don’t do music and that you are passionate about?
SC: Waking up is always a good start, then making the most of the day. I am very lucky to have a job I enjoy, friends I can trust, a family to love and a roof over our heads. Count your blessings.
I like cooking, pretty good at eating and drinking too… and making music videos from old silent movies. Here’s one I did earlier…
WSS: Any upcoming projects?
SC: I’ve just started recording some more songs, with the help of my friend, Mark Byrne, who recorded and produced my first solo CD “Given Songs”. I hope to release a second CD when it’s done.
Thank you again!!!