Garfunkel looks to go with the flow

March 3, 2006
By Ian Spelling

Art Garfunkel is feeling groovy.

The singer has just returned to his Manhattan apartment following concerts in Canada, Ohio and Kentucky, and he's got time to relax with his wife and two children, including infant son Beau, before hitting the road again for a few dates in March, including tonight's show at BergenPAC.

Speaking by telephone, Garfunkel chats amiably about the definition of a good concert, the joys of fatherhood and how, possibly-maybe-perhaps the common bond of fatherhood might prompt him and old friend Paul Simon to finally record new material.

Q. After you've performed so many songs so many times, how do you define a great concert? The crowd reaction? Hitting a tough note? Remembering the lyrics?

A great concert flows just right. When a song is over, the sense that the next song is the right next song [is what you're after]. Right now, I'm sitting with the Englewood list. I've got all my tunes numbered, but I haven't made up the set list.

So I'm imagining in my mind's ear, "When 'American Tune' finishes, what's the right next thing we want to go to?" In my mind, I'm onstage that night and I'm in Row 9, looking up at Mr. Garfunkel. "What's next? Have we done too many slows in a row? Have we leaned too much on the past?" So it's the proper, beautiful flow of the sequences of the songs that matters and, of course, the other issue is kind of a selfish one.

All my singing life has been about my ears and trying to please them. You let the audience in to share the experience, but all musicians are working for their own ears or their own heart and mind.

Q. You're working on a new album and reuniting with producer Richard Perry, who did "Breakaway" with you. How's that coming along?

I flew out to L.A. and demo'd 12 different songs, and about nine of them took, where there was really something happening. So my demos have given me a real visualization of what I'm about to record. I've never made an album where I knew pretty much the whole repertoire in advance. We're going to try to move rather quickly so that it's not a labored, crafted thing, but more of a flowing thing.

Q. OK, our one and only Simon & Garfunkel question ...

Good for you!

Q. 2007 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first time you and Paul Simon performed together professionally. What are the chances you guys will perform again to celebrate that and, more to the point, that you might make some new music? It's been 36 years since "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was released.

There's a chance. Why wouldn't there be a chance? I had a ball with Paul doing the "Old Friends" tour (2003-04). It worked onstage and it was a lot of laughs backstage, truly. We were back in junior high school.

There's something about being a papa that cools things out for both him and me. We both have nice families. I think we left each other with the sense of "I'll call you later. I could do more of that."

That remains an appealing option. The most exciting of appealing options is to go into the studio and cut something, but you've got to talk with him about that. I like that notion. When Paul and Artie get together, a third person emerges called Simon & Garfunkel, and it has a feel of its own.

Q. Your son James is now 15, but you welcomed Beau Daniel Garfunkel into the world in October. How's it being a father again at 64?

It's pretty easy when you have help. I'm lucky enough to not have to run around. We have a wonderful helper who's with us, and for my wife all the biological, natural, hormonal juices take care of everything. I don't love the idea that I'll be tuning into Barney again. I thought I'd had it with Legos.

But here we go again. I'm teasing about the experience. What's dominant about it is just the miracle that there's this new, live human being that is the combination of your wife and yourself. That poetry is unbeatable.