ART The Family Man
CF Trust (UK)
By Kate Sidwell
Kate: You're about to embark on a UK Tour for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Do you enjoy touring?
Art: Very very much so. Surprisingly so. For somebody who has been around the track more than a little, I feel quite young when I'm out there. I did a lot of touring with my famous former partner in the '60s and we split up by the '70s. I did one in the '70s in the States, but that one tour was all I did in the way of concert work through the '70s and the '80s. So it is only the last few years of the '90s that I have, shall we say, taken to the stage and it feels new and fresh and I'm still learning things about it and really enjoying it as if it's the new chapter in my musical life.
Kate: Tell me a bit about your fans. Many have followed you through an amazing career spanning forty years.
Art: Thanks to the wonder of classic rock you know, those radio stations that play the oldies keep my stuff alive, so the old records keep selling and younger fans keep checking out what we did. Very often I hear from people, they play the radio and they don't like modern stuff, they are having a hard time with what's going on with rock and roll so they go back to the '60s and '70s because its simply better rock and roll.
Kate: And what about new artists and vocalists. Are there any in particular that have your respect?
Art: One of the last new artists that really did great rock and roll, as I call great rock and roll, is not new any more. It's a good 10 years since Bruce Hornsby came on the scene with "That's just the way it is". But there have been so few and far between records that made me feel they understand what's really doing. They know what the Beatles were doing. That's what I would call a great rock and roll record. To me there's very little of the so-called good stuff, the things that Phil Collins did and the things that Sting does. I have a hard time with what's going on.
Kate: What about your musical influences?
Art: I've made a list of my musical influences. Would you like to hear them? Enrico Carruso, Billie Holliday, Johnnie Ray, Bing Crosby, Sam Cooke, Johnny Mathis, The Everly Brothers, of course. A jazz four man and very adventurous harmony group the High Lows, Rick Nelson, Phil Spector, Joan Baez, The Beatles, Jimmy Webb and James Taylor.
Kate: That must have taken some thinking to narrow them down.
Art: There's another name that I should put on this list. The Doobie Brother's Michael McDonald. He sings fantastically. He is an influence on me. He is the most heated of all these singers.
Kate: Your last album, "Songs from a Parent to a Child", was obviously inspired by your family and "Across America" was recorded at the end of an amazing 12 year walk. How will the new album be different and what will be the inspiration behind it?
Art: I want to keep it tucked up my sleeve! When you talk too much and describe work in progress, here I am about to plant the seeds that will lead to this album. I have not so much a definite notion, but a kind of a bunch about what I'm going to do. It's best to keep it to oneself.
Kate: Would you say that music is your greatest love and, if not, what is?
Art: What about freedom? Being free is my greatest love. Music. My wife. You know it's tough to put music as your greatest love when you think of live human beings that you love. Music is central to my work life and all my hobbies and activities more than anything and I have had a track record doing some acting and I like that and I might get back into it this year. Music is my primary form of self-expression, it's a very very deep love. You know I'm going to walk Europe and I sometimes think after the survival instinct, the instinct for freedom is as essential to human beings as anything we know. Just try and enslave somebody and watch them rebel.
Kate: You're an accomplished actor. Are there any projects in the pipeline?
Art: I'm having meetings, Kate. I've signed with an agent and we are talking about different directors. I say to them I want to meet with the right 'arty' directors. Arty in the good sense.
Kate: Has the recent success of the film "As Good As It Gets", for which you recorded a song, given you the thirst to act again?
Art: I don't know what it is. What makes us in one season say it's time to do something. I'm not sure, it's just branching out. The truth is ever since I have been married and so loved at home I'm starting to feel the interest in expressing myself, or showing off, as it will, of stretching out, reaching people more, not being as reticent as I was in the '80s. So it's a form of my wife's reassurance to me that makes me want to get up and stretch out.
Kate: Do you feel more confidence than before?
Art: Yes I do. I feel this sapling is becoming an oak tree!
Kate: You sound a very happy person. You sound very content.
Art: I am. It's a good time.
Kate: What about other plans for the future? Your 12 year walk in installments across America was spectacular and unusual. Have you got any more planned?
Art: I've walked across the United States and plan, right after this interview, to walk across Europe, or rather the first leg of it! People wonder how does Garfunkel do it, does he drop out of his life for years? I will walk for eight days. The eight days will be 100 miles or so, maybe a little more, than I will fly home. Then I will come back and get ready for our Tour. I'll get two different walks in this year, maybe three. I'll be walking across Europe, heading for Istanbul, that is my destination.
Kate: How do you keep fit for this? Do you go for walks with your family?
Art: Sometimes I walk alone, and that's usually what I do. I bring the Sony Walkman, I bring my own memories, I bring a notebook and write. I published a book of poems some years ago called "Still Water". Sometimes I walk with my wife, Kim.
Kate: So, back to the Tour then. Are there any particular places which you are looking forward to visiting or revisiting in the UK?
Art: I'm a traveler. My dad was a traveling salesman and I love to get around. I am looking forward to revisiting Belfast. I was there a year and a half ago at the Waterfront Hall and that was very nice. It was a terrific night the last time. The Irish were really supportive and warm and I had a great time. They are expressive, those Irish!
Kate: How would you say the audiences in the UK differ to perhaps your fans in the US? Is there a noticeable difference?
Art: Just slightly warmer. They like me just a little more in England than in most other places. I've had a love affair with the English right from 'Sound to Sound' onwards. The English people love melody so if you do "Scarborough Fair", that's particularly ideal for them and they love "Bridge" and of all the places that loved our "Bridge Over Troubled Water" album or our greatest hits, 'cos I see the royalties, England is the number one place, so it's kinda special.
Kate: You're known for some of the best loved songs of all time. What are your personal favorites?
Art: "Bridge" would be up at the top. I keep mentioning "Scarborough", to me that's the most natural effortless song we ever recorded. Really, it's as if it happened through us. We just got out of the way while the music god recorded that song. I have a fondness for "April Come She Will". Things that bring me back to my early days in England, just before we got famous, if you want to know the truth, are real sweet favorites of mine. I love Paul's song "Kathy's Song". I like "Bright Eyes" a lot.
Kate: Why did you decide to help the Cystic Fibrosis Trust? Obviously you have a child of your own, so you can empathize with every parent's nightmare of a child not being well.
Art: I have a heart and I want to show it. You know, we rock and rollers copped a certain posture when we were in our 20s and 30s and maybe all people do. Cool is everything. To be cool, to be James Dean. You can go so far with the fun of doing that and there is the point where you say, no, actually warm is better than cool. I have a heart, I have feelings, I have compassion. I want to use the fact that I am, in spite of myself, a role model to bring that attention towards a more aware point of view. Aware of suffering and the need to fund certain worthy endeavors such as this.
Kate: Apart from raising vital funds and awareness, the Tour will also give the 7,000 children and young people affected by Cystic Fibrosis a real boost.
Art: I hope so, I have been wanting to do something like this for a long time. I want to see whatever monies are raised teaching the poor person in the hospital bed and fund the specific relief of suffering. The heart of the matter is that right now there is somebody breathing with great difficulty and is suffering looking out of their hospital window. Does anybody really care, those who are healthy? Can they empathize with those who are drowning with insufficient lung power? This is the heart of the matter that we are dealing with.
Kate: The families affected by Cystic Fibrosis, cope in different ways. You can imagine the strain on a family, on a marriage, on other siblings of having a child in the family with a life-threatening disease. What gets you through the difficult times in your life?
Art: I lean on whatever perspective I have. I grew up with a good sense of values and I try and remember philosophically all the good times seem to be followed by slumps but blessedly all the down times are followed by a return to equilibrium. There are no valleys that don't seem to have a climbing up the other side of the valley at the far end, if one should just stick it through. Downs are followed by ups, it's just a seasonal law. That helps me a lot. You know "This too shall pass".