Garfunkel in tune with his songwriting 'habit'
February 13, 2003
By Tamara Conniff
After a five-decade career as a recording artist, Art Garfunkel has finally tried his hand at songwriting. The result is "Everything Waits To Be Noticed," a collaborative album with singer-songwriters Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock that evokes the folk tradition of the Mamas and the Papas.
The timing for Garfunkel's new skin seems perfect given that he and former partner Paul Simon will be receiving Grammy lifetime achievement awards February 22 in New York. While the duo performed as Simon and Garfunkel during the 1960s, Garfunkel said he never had a desire to write songs. "Paul Simon is a great writer, and maybe I was intimidated," Garfunkel says. "I'm a facile-with-words kind of fellow, but I think that Paul's towering gift probably made be feel like 'this group has a songwriter, we don't need me to go for equal time.'"
Garfunkel found his road to melody through poetry. In fact his book of prose poetry, "Still Water," published in 1987, served as a key inspiration for the album. "Since (Paul and I) split up so many years ago. I began to write bits, just philosophical unrhymed poetry that sort of has a dance to the syllables and a flow. I love that and I kept getting inspiration. But every time I tried to turn it into a song, it dried out. Songs are very different things, to marry words to melody is its own art form and that doesn't come easy to me."
Garfunkel found his muse with producer Billy Mann, who introduced him to Sharp and Mondlock. "Mutual respect is a fierce turn on," Garfunkel says. "When you find partners that are as good as you feel you can be, you're off and running. This album has a freshness because it's not so heavily crafted, it's natural. It's a bunch of singers who love these tunes and love to sing. It's as good as anything I've done with anybody since Paul Simon."
Garfunkel describes his songwriting as his "new habit." He finds much of his inspiration during his lengthy walks. Over the course of 40 different weeklong excursions during the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, Garfunkel walked from New York City to the Pacific Ocean. Now he's making his way across Europe. "We all try to keep our sense of balance. This is my air, my lungs, my spine, tending to my physical self," he explains. "You want to get out of New York, get some sky, get some perspective. It puts a hold on all the hype and speed and media stimuli. We've got to hear our inner voice. It's too damn noise in this modern life, so you have to do some remembering. It helps me write. It's subtraction, rather than addition of new stimuli - that's what I walk for."
Following Simon and Garfunkel's breakup in 1970, Garfunkel in addition to recording solo, pursued an acting career and appeared in such films as "Catch-22,""Carnal Knowledge" and "Bad Timing." On Sunday, he will make his small-screen debut as a record store owner on NBC's "American Dreams."
"These days I say 'yes' a little more freely than I used to," Garfunkel says. "I think acting is a great, noble profession. It's a way to put the mind in a similar place that psychoanalysis does."