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Paul Simon May Take a Break From Songwriting

Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

On June 3, Paul Simon is releasing Stranger to Stranger, his first album since 2011’s So Beautiful or So What. But in a new interview, he suggests that he may not be at it much longer.

As he tells NPR‘s Bob Boilen, it’s rooted in the desire to change things up after a lifetime of writing songs. “I really wonder what would happen to my creative impulses, which seem to come on a regular basis; every three, four years they manifest themselves,” he says. “And by habit, they manifest themselves as songs. But this is really the decision of a 13-year old. Me, who said, at 13, ‘No, I want to write songs.’ So I’m doing it 60 years later. This 13-year old is still telling me what to do. But I wonder what happens if I simply prohibit myself from expressing whatever the creative urge is, if I do not allow that to happen in song or music form. I’m sort of willing to give it a year or so. I feel like in the beginning it’ll be frustrating and annoying and I’ll want to go back to the other way. But if I stay with the rules maybe I’ll discover some other outlet.”

However, he’s already ruled out two other forms of writing that one would think would be a natural for such a gifted storyteller. “I’m trying not to have any inklings, because the first inklings are that it would go to some other art form, you know?” he continues. “‘Oh, well maybe he’ll write a memoir,’ which I definitely will not do. … Or, you know, write a novel, as if that was something that anybody could just decide that they were going to write a novel. The only thing that I do think is that I couldn’t go a year without playing guitar. Wherever I go and travel, I have to have my guitar with me. So maybe I’d write guitar music, but that’s not the point of the restriction. The point is to find out where the mind goes, and what I’m secretly hoping is that it goes to some sort of spiritual place that gives you some explanation for a question or a mystery that I haven’t answered by creating music. And maybe it will be a piece of information that will inform my choices for the remainder I have.”

This revelation came towards the end of the podcast, where he spends the previous 30 minutes breaking down Stranger to Stranger‘s opening track, “The Werewolf.” It’s a fascinating listen to hear a famously meticulous craftsman explain the decisions he made in his music and lyrics, from describing how the exotic instrument heard at the beginning inspired the title to the recording process to the lyrics. We’ve embedded it below.

Simon is in the midst of a North American tour that will run through June 30, when he performs at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, which is located in the Queens, N.Y., neighborhood where he was raised. You can get all the dates here.

Listen to Paul Simon Discuss “The Werewolf”

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