Love Letter To A Record: Felix Riebl Of The Cat Empire On Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Felix Riebl, The Cat Empire – Paul Simon: ‘Graceland’

I can’t even remember how I came across Graceland by Paul Simon, it’s almost like the first time that I heard it, it had always already been with me. I felt the same way about the birth of my daughter in so far as there wasn’t a before or an after, it was like she had always been there.

I’ve always been influenced by African music, and there is a collision of two cultures that came together on this album. The song writing of Paul Simon and the South African sounds on Graceland felt like an accident, an amazing accident where two things collided and they found this amazing sound.

More than that, it’s the way that Paul Simon writes lyrics. He’s got this amazing rhythm and this layered texture of sound, the African element and this kind of 80’s song writer pop over the top of that, but then the lyrics he writes are just so unassuming. I don’t even know what they are about, but they just float over the top of it and it’s so nice to be in the presence of a songwriter who isn’t drumming home a message or telling you how they feel, there’s kind of a whim to it that I find to be so beautiful to listen to, so easy to hear and it just goes through you.

The memory I most attribute to listening to Graceland was when I was on tour and we were in the midlands of Canada, somewhere near Winnipeg. I remember being outside the bus and just feeling very, very lost. There was snow everywhere, and we had one of those in between shows on tour, a show in some union refectory or something like that, so it wasn’t like I had a big show that night. I was feeling in between places I guess. I just put the headphones on and listened to Graceland from start to finish and it just sort of goes through you, it’s got such a joyful element to it, people use that word a lot and it can sound cheesy, but I don’t mean joyful in a cheesy way.

I just found myself wandering around and having the best time ever. Before I listened to it I had this sense of homelessness then when I listened to it I had this deep sense of home, even though I was in the middle of somewhere I didn’t recognise. That’s what music can be for you, it can be a great companion, it can link you to a place and that place doesn’t have to be somewhere you’re familiar with, it can attached yourself internally to your strange outer world, wherever that is.

The Cat Empire’s new album Stolen Diamonds is out today.

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