Simone Felice is a celebrated songwriter, author, and poet. He was born on 4 October 1976 in Palenville, New York, a small working-class hamlet in the Catskill Mountains.
At the age of 12 Simone suffered a brain aneurysm and was pronounced clinically dead for several minutes. Recovering from emergency brain surgery in a local hospital, he spent several months in intensive care, relearning basic motor skills, including reading and writing.
When he was 15 he formed a punk band with friends, making weird noise-rock in his grandpa’s barn. Their emphasis was on head-banging and freaky storytelling. By 18, he had quit school and was fronting the band (by this time calling themselves Eight Body Trunk, in homage to the 1950’s Lincoln Continental an aging mafioso drove up and down the streets of their shabby town) as they played barns, bars, and low down clubs, including New York City’s fabled CBGB’s.
Eventually the young rockers went their separate ways and Felice began writing poetry and vignettes, leading to the publication of his first collection, The Picture Show, when he was 22 years old. He began performing these bizarre monologues regularly at the historic Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York’s lower east side, garnering the young poet invitations to read in London, Los Angeles, Harvard University, San Francisco and Berlin.
In 2004 and then 2005, Simone published his first short works of fiction, Goodbye Amelia, a coming of age story about a small-town girl with secrets to keep and a hunger to see the world, and Hail Mary Full of Holes, a fable noir about a prostitute struggling to survive at the dawn of the Reagan era.
In the Fall of 2001, just after the attacks on New York City, Simone began writing songs with his brother Ian. Together they retreated to the woods they grew up in, where jobless with a cheap guitar they wrote and made recordings (two archived collections known as The Big Empty and Mexico) with their friend Doc Brown. In this manner the two brothers clocked four years in complete obscurity, sewing the seeds of what would become (with the edition of younger brother James in the Winter of 2006) The Felice Brothers, whose subsequent albums Tonight at the Arizona, The Felice Brothers, and Yonder is the Clock have garnered international renown, earning these Upstate New York natives an inarguable place in the Great American Songbook. Over the group’s history, from starting out playing New York’s subways and streets, to Radio City Music Hall and beyond, brother Simone has been one of it’s key lyricists, writing and co-writing some of the boys’ most beloved songs, including ‘Don’t Wake The Scarecrow’, ‘Frankie’s Gun’, ‘Run Chicken Run’, ‘Ruby Mae’, ‘Whiskey in My Whiskey’, ‘Love Me Tenderly’, ‘Hey Hey Revolver’, ‘Mercy’, ‘Wonderful Life’, ‘Your Belly In My Arms’, ‘The Devil Is Real’, and ‘Radio Song’ to name a few.
At the request of iconic record producer Rick Rubin, Simone flew to California in the late summer of 2008 to play drums on the Columbia release I and Love and You by The Avett Brothers. Lending his signature Catskill Mountain funk to the Avett’s riveting songwriting and Rubin’s thoughtful production, Felice appears on some of the albums stand-out numbers, including the title-track and hit single ‘I and Love and You’.
In the winter of 2009 personal tragedy reared its head when Simone and his long-time love lost their first child in a still-birth. It was then that he retreated to a cabin in the Catskill’s with his old friend Bird and began writing and recording the songs that would (unknown to them at the time) become The Duke & The King’s album debut. Taking their name from the itinerant Shakespeare theatre grifters in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the duo released the gripping Nothing Gold Can Stay in the Summer of 2009 to critical acclaim, being hailed as one of the most haunting and honest albums of the year. 2010’s followup Long Live The Duke & The King has been similarly praised.
On 2 June 2010, after a series of fainting spells, Simone underwent emergency open-heart surgery at Albany Medical Center when doctors discovered that a childhood congenital disorder had left the 33 year old with an irreversible calcification of the aortic valve, leaving only 8% blood-flow to the body and brain. Just two weeks after the surgery he joined his brothers on stage at Pete Seeger’s annual Clearwater Festival to help rid their beloved Hudson River of industrial waste. The following month Pearl Simone Felice was born, a healthy blue-eyed girl who came in a summer thunderstorm.
Felice’s first novel, Black Jesus, has recently been published by award-winning publisher Allen & Unwin (Atlantic Books/London-Sydney) and Random House will release a German translation in spring 2012. It tells the story of a young Marine shipped home to his nowhere town after being blinded in action by a homemade bomb, and the unexpected friendship he finds with a mysterious dancer who arrives there fleeing darkness and violence of a different kind. Part love story, part protest of the broken promises lying at the heart of the American dream, Black Jesus is a passionate, twisted hymn to the marginalized and forgotten.
In Autumn 2011 Simone signed to Reveal Records. The label will release his debut single “You & I Belong” on March 19th followed by the album “Simone Felice” on April 2nd 2012. CD / LP + CD Limited Edition / DL
Simone lives less than a mile from the creek-house he was born in, and travels his own country and abroad sharing his songs and stories.
Simone Felice Group start a month long tour of the UK and Ireland on April 6th 2012 including a sold out show at Bush Hall London on April 27. They will return to play London Union Chapel on Friday 21st September 2012.
Felice says ‘Can’t wait to unveil my merry band of chosen rovers and weirdos. We’re up on the mountain now rehearsing at my barn, all counting the days ‘til the wagons roll out.’
“Each song somehow sounds like a classic, each live performance suggesting we are in the presence of a rare, fiery brilliance”
“A back story to make Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon seem like a graduate of Fame, and the poetic gifts to make it as real to you as the air you breathe”