“Floating Down the River” is a new album by three-time New Zealand Music Award winner Simon Stanley that will be released by 8 Pound Gorilla Records on October 8, 2021. Simon’s songs tell vivid stories, many of which are inspired by nature. This latest album was inspired by a river trip he took with his family.
Simon currently lives and works in Tennessee. He recently discussed his music, career, and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in music and songwriting and did you always gravitate towards the children’s genre?
Simon Stanley (SS): I started playing guitar when I was around 9, and around 13 I started really practicing and playing in earnest. I’ve been profession since I was 18 and only started in children’s music when my niece was born a few years ago. Her name is Marley and my first single ‘Marley Sitting on a Pumpkin Seed’ was written for her. I’ve kept with that theme, and she is the one constant in my songs thus far.
MM: How did you break into the industry and how would you describe your style?
SS: It was around the time I moved to Nashville (8 years ago) that I became serious about songwriting, before that I played a lot but didn’t have such a strong lyrical leaning. My style is quite narrative/story heavy, while trying to incorporate some of the fun and bounce of country/Americana artists Roger Miller and John Hartford.
MM: You grew up in New Zealand and now live in America, so what were some of the biggest cultural differences you experienced?
SS: Driving! As I work a lot on the road, I’ve never been in a car so much! It’s just so much bigger here which means more time traveling, but also more people and more different scenes to be involved with which I love. I’ve always spent a lot of time outside, and I trail run a lot – I love it when I get to go to Colorado or Utah and run on those massive mountains.
MM: Why did you decide to focus on comedy and nature as a central theme in so much of your work?
SS: I’ve always had a slightly tongue-in-cheek touch to my songwriting, I think I got that from John Prine. Nature is a huge part of my life and a very grounding and enchanting force. I think also that which such a shift to digital/phones and now COVID, there is real pull to be inside, but we mustn’t forget that we are creatures of the wild!
MM: How long did it take you to complete this recent album?
SS: It’s just one single, but it took about 3 months to pull together. Around April 2020, I finished the song, recorded my parts, then sent them out to a handful of different players to record their parts at home. They sent them back and I compiled and edited it all myself. The artwork was completely by New Zealand artists that I worked with via zoom and email.
MM: What are you thinking music-video-wise for this song?
SS: I have a book that’s following the release by a few weeks, so I decided to get the illustrations from the book animated by a good friend of mine in New Zealand. The video just follows the story of the song, about a family taking a river trip.
MM: What’s the best fan feedback you’ve gotten about your music?
SS: I’ve had people say the lyrics of Floating Down the River really make them feel like they’re on the water. Which is exactly the effect I’m trying to conjure!
MM: How would you describe your live performances?
SS: In addition to my own songs, I like to play a bunch of old goofy country songs and have people sing call and response lines. I would say the performance is energetic but with a couple of a nice tender dips in there too.
MM: How do you hope your career evolves over the next five years?
SS: I hope to keep writing more songs and release a full-length album in 2022. I also really love the book approach, so I also want to keep doing that.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
SS: I want to keep encouraging kids to get outside, enjoy nature and be respectful and in awe of the environment.