Interview // Silent Cities at Threshold 2014

As ‘one of the most under-appreciated artists on the circuit’ (to quote Natalie McCool), #srcz correspondent Joseph Crawford made a silent prayer that the pews would be filled to capacity when Simon Maddison a.k.a Silent Cities took to the stage at the Nordic Church during Threshold and asked him a few questions as well.

With the wisps of his sound check still in the air, more and more musical pilgrims creep into the venue’s eerie setting and take their seats. As the silence descends, Cities’ ethereal waves and technological gasps shimmer and vanish all around. Simon takes a deep, lingering breath before falling into the finger picking melody of his opening song.

The sanctity of the venue is both ideal for this resonant soul, and oddly spacious for such intimate music. Everyone sits entranced, absorbing the echoes from every thump of the guitar body. The ghost of Nick Drake sits quietly in the corner, a knowing smile on his face, and I feel all my woes slip away under the raspy breaths and mesmerizing tones. Pitch perfect falsetto floats through the air with rising bouts of string accompaniment, and Beating Heart brings my eyes to a watery close.

Let me put it this way: before Silent Cities, I had never, ever witnessed a room full of people stay perfectly still and quiet for a tune-up. The respect for this virtuoso was outstanding, and very well-deserved.

I managed to catch up with Simon after the set for a few brief questions:

Simon, that was simply beautiful! I have to ask from personal curiosity, what was your influence for Beating Heart?

‘Thank you very much, it was a pleasure. Beating Heart’s a complicated one. I saw a picture of my grandparents, (it’s the cover on my Soundcloud), and felt inspired by the chain of events/people that brought me here. It’s really just about memory, possibilities, eventualities – the beating heart that carries on to the next generation.

Your style is unprecedented. When did you decide on your vocal approach?

‘The falsetto was almost an accident. It started when I yawned and made a funny high-pitched noise *yawning*, you see? It just became second nature to sing like that, though I’m terribly envious of the lead singer from Etches, his vocals are so deep!

Are you going to go for a Barry White approach next then?

‘Ha! Yeah that’d be the dream! Actually I am working on my second album at the moment, so I’ll take that into consideration.’

What’s the reception been like in other venues?

‘It’s been great! I haven’t really gigged since November, and the crowd was heaving then – the place got so full there were people sitting on the floor! I try not to gig too much; the energy slips away after a while and it can really take it out of you.

I agree with you there. I was talking to a member of Rebel Soul last night who told me you’re recording in Austria! Tell me more!

‘Yeah it’s crazy! I’m recording in this stunning mountain studio in the first week of Easter. We’ve got some top quality recording equipment to work with this time, so the next album is going to be very special.

Cannot wait to hear it! Good luck in the future and thank you very much for your time!


Words and interview by J. Crawford. Image by Roger Dix.