But Is It Art Yet?

October 26, 2002
Daily News, Los Angeles
Sandra Barrera Staff Writer

SINCE HIS DAYS of singing with Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel always had the words in him.

Now he has the songs, too.

"It's big,'' said Garfunkel, 60, about his debut as a songwriter on the album "Everything Waits to Be Noticed.'' The title is appropriate given that Garfunkel's four decades as a performer always were defined by his distinctive tenor in other peoples' songs.

But in this album, Garfunkel is for the first time both singer and songwriter.

It's changed his life.

"We have an image of ourselves, and we carry ourselves all through life with some rough sense of ourselves,'' Garfunkel said. "Being literary and starting to write as I did in the '80s was a shift. I could see that after years of respecting literary inspiration and stopping my life until the writing came out, and giving the whole day to that grabbing hold of inspiration as if it's a terribly important priority, is an artist's way. "

"And that became my way from the '80s into the '90s, and then it led to this album, which has songs of mine,'' added Garfunkel. "And to me, a writer is someone who's a little more thoughtful. I've shifted my way to respecting words, respecting what comes out of my mouth, having a little more sobriety in my expression of things.''

It's a wonder Garfunkel didn't try his hand at writing after the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel in 1970, but continued recording other peoples' songs for his next 11 solo albums.

Until now, his only outpouring came in the form of his densely written poetry.

Then, shortly after the turn of the millennium, Garfunkel got a call from producer Billy Mann (who has worked with artists such as Carole King and Celine Dion), who had penned a song for him called "Bounce.''

"He played it over the phone, which you only do when you're excited about what you have because it's not going to have great fidelity,'' Garfunkel said. "But he was saying, 'You're going to recognize that this is a commercial song for you.' And I did.''

But he was only half on board.

What really won him over was the interest Mann showed in helping to transform some of Garfunkel's prose into songs.

Mann did this by enlisting the help of songwriter Buddy Mondlock, a regular on the Chicago club scene, and Maia Sharp, a Los Angeles-based performer who admits she was at first intimidated to be working with one of her early folk heroes.

"But I'm sure he was intimidated, too,'' Sharp, 31, said, explaining "not because he was writing with me but because of the situation. He'd written prose for many years but he'd never written a song until he sat down with us.''

The first song on which they collaborated was "Perfect Moment,'' which Mondlock crafted from one of Garfunkel's many writings.

Garfunkel was smitten upon first hearing the song.

"I had one of the great thrills of my life just hearing my own words come back to me in song,'' Garfunkel said. "I think what I loved is that the intention from my heart in the poem was there in the song. He got it right in terms of what I was trying to say.''

The experience of collaborating on songs from his poetry with Mondlock and Sharp was such a positive one that Garfunkel said he can easily imagine doing more of it in the future.

They certainly have the chemistry.

"Maia Sharp is just such a doll, and Buddy Mondlock is so sane and rational and low-key and calm, that I really love their company and I think the world of their talent,'' he said. "We have a real case of the three of us having mutual respect for our music quotient.

"I see no reason to bet against this,'' added Garfunkel. "The album came out real good. I could not have a better attitude toward this so we'll see where it goes. We'll see if it takes us into a next album.''