"It's always very disconcerting to have been signed by someone, and then when your record comes out, that person's not there," Concord's senior vice president of marketing Gene Rumsey said in a separate interview. "You feel like 'I no longer have a sponsor, a champion.' But at Hear Music, all signings have been jointly made decisions, and she certainly does have a sponsor and champions, in our company as well as at Starbucks."
Day-to-day operation of Hear Music has been handed over to the jazz-oriented Concord label. Simon said the transition has renewed her confidence, but only after some trauma.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, June 03, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Carly Simon: A profile of Carly Simon in Sunday Calendar's Arts & Music section misidentified Gene Rumsey as the Concord Music Group's senior vice president of marketing. He is the company's general manager.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, June 08, 2008 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Carly Simon: An article about Carly Simon last Sunday misidentified Gene Rumsey as the Concord Music Group's senior vice president of marketing. He is the company's general manager.
"I was very angry at first," she said, perfectly postured on a sofa, a teacup and saucer positioned politely on her left knee, deftly crossed over the right. Such poise was honed over a lifetime of social gatherings, stretching back to her childhood at home in Manhattan on through years of retreats to the family compound "on the Vineyard" -- standard nomenclature among denizens of Martha's Vineyard, Mass. (She socialized regularly with Lillian Hellman, William Styron, Katharine Graham and columnist Art Buchwald, whose personalized musical eulogy from Simon, "Too Soon to Say Goodbye," closes her new album.)
"I went through all the stages: anger, denial, acceptance," she said. "But we had a big meeting at Concord where I got to meet all the new people, and I got the confidence that people had either done their homework or were initially fans." She liked former Starbucks-Hear Music talent development exec Alan Mintz so much that she recently hired him to stay on as her manager.
The new album reconnected her with songwriter Jimmy Webb, with whom she produced it. "It's Brazilian-inflected, but it's certainly not strictly a Brazilian record," she said. "I don't think that would have succeeded. We realized that we're Americans and that we've been infected by those wonderful pulsing beats that I originally heard in 'Black Orpheus' in 1959."
There's a family thread among the baker's dozen songs, most written by Simon but one each by Sally and Ben Taylor, (34 and 31, respectively) from her decade-long marriage: Sally's "When We're Together," and Ben's "Island." They also included "Hola Soleil," one Carly wrote with Ben (and four other co-writers), only the second time she's recorded a song she worked on with her son.
Ben, who lives with his mother in New York, is a reassuring presence for the woman who still hasn't fully warmed to playing on stage. She's done a handful of shows to promote the new album, and there is some talk at the label of a summer tour.
It was a tough day. Ben had been rushed to the emergency room the previous morning by two bandmates for what turned out to be a staph infection in his throat, one that prevented him from accompanying his mom for a performance on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show. But he's a trouper, putting in as much time as his pain and medication will allow.
He said he finds that collaborating with his mother and father doesn't dramatically alter the parent-child dynamic because it's all "communication. And if you have good communication with someone, it doesn't really matter what form that takes."
The give and take that never goes away among family members comes out when Simon starts to wax rhapsodic over Ben's forthcoming album. As she starts to make an over-the-top comparison, Ben leaps in: "Please don't quote her on that. That would be embarrassing."
There's no real tension, though. When she first got word about how much pain Ben was in, her hands flew to her heart and she moaned, "Oh, my poor baby!" Later during the conversation, she coins the phrase "Ben-dependent" to describe the vital role he plays in her life, and in her band.
With Ben, Sally and some of their peers, such as Ben's duo partner, David Saw, Simon strives at home to sustain the sense of musical community she reveled in long ago. She's made a series of playful, extremely casual instructional videos in which she teaches viewers, from her home music room, how to play some of her best-known songs on guitar or piano.
Although anyone can make music in their bedrooms today thanks to digital recording and computer-editing software, Simon thinks that the give and take among living, breathing musicians has taken a hit.
"The peregrination from dressing room to dressing room was just remarkable," she said, lighting up at the recollection. "We'd all teach each other new chords. . . . I don't see much of that now."
That may be why she got such a kick out of joining Ben and David Saw for their Mother's Day show at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood.
"We got our whole band up there and started to play," Simon said. "It was like the phone booth joke. There were about eight of us onstage. Some people were kneeling with mikes. I sang with them on two songs. . . . It was more fun than I think I've ever had in music. I'm really serious. It was such a high. . . . The audience could have been the people on stage and we could have been the people in the audience. It was such a transference."