HOW BRUSH WITH DEATH INSPIRED MY FINEST WORK
When: Sunday, April 29, 7.30pm
Where: Pocklington Arts centre, Market Square, Pocklington
Tickets: £13.50 adv/£14.50 otd To book: 01759 301547
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Roots: Simone Felice was born on October 4, 1976, in Palenville, New York, a small working-class hamlet in the Catskill Mountains. His father was a carpenter.
Trauma: At the age of 12 he suffered a brain aneurysm and was pronounced clinically dead for several minutes.
Booked: As well as being an acclaimed songwriter, Felice is also a published novelist and poet. He has written two books, Black Jesus, Goodbye Amelia and Hail Mary Full Of Holes.
It's been a traumatic few years for singer Simone Felice. But, as Ian Midgley discovers, staring death in the face and triumphing over adversity can often lead to great art
K issing goodbye to his heavily pregnant wife and his unborn baby was the hardest thing Simone Felice ever had to do.
When the American singer-songwriter was rushed in for open-heart surgery, on the brink of death in summer 2010, there was a good chance he was never going to wake up again.
And, if grappling with your own mortality isn't hard enough, the thought of never meeting your daughter – just weeks away from being born – was almost too much to bear, he admits.
"Yeah, that was a real tough one," says the singer, lump still wedged firmly in throat.
"It was life-and-death stuff. "There was a good chance that I wasn't going to wake up.
"I had to say goodbye to my wife, who was heavily pregnant with our daughter.
"I even had to say goodbye to the bump and explain that, although I might never meet her, I loved her very much.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life."
Luckily, surgery to correct Felice's congenital heart defect proved a success and, two years on, the only outward sign of this traumatic time is the scar that bisects the entire length of his chest.
And then there's the album of (literally) heart-felt songs, inspired by the New Yorker's brush with death.
When we speak, the singer is back to the more mundane daily trials and tribulations of dealing with his daughter, Pearl.
She's been up since the crack of dawn and the musician, who honed his trade busking with his brothers on the mean streets of New York, is a little tired.
"Hey, but it's better than the alternative, right?" he laughs.
"To be honest, I'm just glad to be here, experiencing this, getting up early doesn't seem so bad knowing that I could've missed it all.
"Going through what I've gone through definitely puts things in perspective. It makes you realise what's important and forces you to focus on what will really make you happy."
Brought up in upstate New York, near the Catskill Mountains, by his carpenter father, Felice performed with his family band, The Felice Brothers, before striking out with the folk-soul duo The Duke & The King and, more latterly, as a solo performer.
He will be taking his eponymous solo opus on the road in the coming weeks with a tour that brings the performer to the intimate Pocklington Arts Centre, on Sunday, April 29.
The record has been winning rave reviews for its "stripped-back raw emotion" and "insights into the fragility of life" and Felice promises the live show will bring out the best in his acoustic songs.
"I'm thrilled with how it's turned out," says the 35-year-old.
"I've got a collaboration on there with Ben Lovett, from Mumford & Sons, and I've got my brothers on the album so it's a real labour of love for me and my friends.
"Although the songs are really personal to me, I think there's something in them that everybody can take away."
The singer says he always looks forward to coming to Yorkshire, which reminds him of home.
"I'm delighted to be coming back, it's very much like where I grew up in Catskills," he says.
"It's very similar country, with the hills and valleys.
"I've been getting such a warm reaction here in the UK.
"I think UK audiences have really taken me to their heart."