interview: Slow Dancer

interview: Slow Dancer

Earlier this summer Simon Okely aka Slow Dancer released In A Mood and transported listeners into another world entirely. The album is stunning and unique from start to finish and Okely is taking the magic on the road with an upcoming tour of the US that begins Sept. 18 in New York and will wind its way through the US before a jaunt over in the UK. Before hitting the road, Slow Dancer was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the album and more!

 photo: James Simpson

photo: James Simpson

The Grey Estates: What have you been up to since the release of In A Mood? How did you celebrate when the album came out? Are you already working on new material or have you been working on a new material?

Slow Dancer: I've been busy with touring the record here in Australia, working on some writing projects and gearing up to tour America, Canada and Europe. To celebrate release day, I had a party with my friends and my Australian team at a cool little record store here in Melbourne called Oh Jean records. Yes, I'm always working on new material, I don't ever really stop.

What's the music making process like for you? How long does it take you and do you have a particular spot or place you like to be in to write? Once you write then what happens?

Im not a share the process kinda guy.  Like If someone shared the 11 secret herbs and spices, you'd say: "Oh is that all?..... really?". I say, eat the chicken, enjoy the chicken, don't ask too many questions. 

You're going to be hitting the road with Petal. What's touring like for you and do you enjoy the aspect of live performances each night? Has there ever been an especially memorable moment for you during a live performance?

Touring is unreal. Its not real life. It is extremely enjoyable. It's like floating through life for a while where all you have to concerntrate on is chord changes and lyrics to your songs. I enjoy performing each night a great deal. A woman passed out on the side of the stage in Sydney last time I was there. Mid song she just keeled over. She was OK and escorted out for air, but it was memorable thats for sure!  

You mentioned that for your music you prefer to stick with your influences and inspirations as opposed to what's popular right now. What are some artists and musicians that are inspiring your currently and have inspired you for this and past releases? 

I'm certainly not into following trends. To be clear, I am influenced and inspired by a lot of what is popular right now, I just don't feel important about attempting to 'fit in' with anyone or any one thing. I am currently inspired by SZA, and 6lack, and Drake, and Kanye, and Solange, and heaps of wonderful contemporary artists. I am also inspired by artists that inspire them like Arthur Russell, Otis Redding, Etta James and Nina Simone. 

Did you grow up listening to music or knowing that you wanted to be a singer? What would a young Simon think of where you are now? What was your first real experience in music?

I always knew I would be a singer and a songwriter, its all I've ever had an interest in doing ever. My younger self would be distressed at what it costs to give yourself completely to an art form, and how underpaid it is, but satisfied that I had not compromised. My first real experience in music was strumming an egg slicer whilst standing on the back pews of church as a 5 year old.

You also explained this record as like your journal. So how does it feel to share that much of yourself with others? Do you keep a journal, too on top of this music?

If you are an artist, and you aren't baring your all, you're missing a trick as far as i'm concerned. You can perform and you can play, but if you act, you won't fool anyone. I keep several documents going at a time. I wouldn't call them journals. I keep one for thoughts and development, one for song ideas and lyrics and a catalogue of the in between on my iphone. I'm a jotter "Oh! let me jot that down before I forget". Certainly not a "Dear journal.." kinda guy. 

Is there a particular track that comes with an especially moving story or that turned out differently than you anticipated and you really love?

I wrote 'heaven knows' for my mum. Its about a conversation we had a few years ago where she asked me if I would be there for her when she's dying. I was taken a back, I honestly didn't think she would feel compelled to ask.  

I just wanna ask for fun — since your name is Slow Dancer do you remember the first person you slow danced with or like the childhood crush you wanted to slow dance with? Mine was Jason Zeh. 

Hahah, Oh Jason! (sigh). It was likely my childhood friend Jenny, at a blue light disco (underage parties run by police in my neighbourhood). I think she might have had a crush on me, but I had a crush on Jessica Broadly. Love very rarely flows both ways at the same time. That was my first lesson in love.

US Tour:

  • 18 Sep – The Mercury Lounge – New York, NY &
  • 21 Sep – The Sinclair – Boston, MA ^
  • 22 Sep – Gateway City Arts – Holyoke, MA ^
  • 23 Sep – Patro Vys – Montreal, QC &
  • 27 Sep – The Drake – Toronto, ON &
  • 29 Sep – The Hideout – Chicago, IL &
  • 30 Sep – Icehouse – Minneapolis, MN &
  • 3 Oct – Barboza – Seattle, WA &
  • 4 Oct – Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR &
  • 7 Oct – Café du Nord – San Francisco, CA &
  • 9 Oct – Resident – Los Angeles, CA &
  • 10 Oct – Hotel Café – Los Angeles, CA &

& with Petal
^ with Margaret Glaspy

UK + European Tour:

  • 17 Oct – Koko – London*
  • 18 Oct – Arts Club – Liverpool*
  • 19 Oct – Whelans – Dublin*
  • 21 Oct – Saint Luke’s – Glasgow*
  • 22 Oct – Rescue Rooms – Nottingham*
  • 23 Oct – Trinity Centre – Bristol*
  • 25 Oct – Wedgewood Rooms – Portsmouth*
  • 26 Oct – Point Ephemere – Paris*
  • 10/28 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - London Calling Festival

* with Hurray For The Riff Raff