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The best kept secret in music


"Simon...The Naked Human Flame Thrower"

"Make stuff up. Tell Hour readers there will be nude fire eating... whatever it takes to get the people out. Let them know that Simon Wilcox will be naked, juggling fire, swallowing swords and riding a unicycle... with spiked wheels."

Wilcox loves Montreal. So much so that she's coming to Montreal as her only show before heading to Europe for more songwriting. Her latest disc, Smart Function , on her own label SHErecords, is a mélange of rhythms and genres that cross between the ethereal and the alternative, even touching on hip-hop.

Her performing skills are sometimes overshadowed by her songwriting contributions for artists like Three Days Grace, Project Orange, Jorane and many more, though she hasn't forgotten the value of connecting with listeners live in a world where major label representation is no guarantee of success.

"You have to always keep working like you're an indie artist if you're with a major label or not," said Wilcox from her Toronto home. "When a band signs to a major label it doesn't get easier. You have to always keep working at it, pushing and trying to make it happen."

So what type of songwriting is "happening" for Simon Wilcox?

"I got really excited recently by actually telling a story within a song. Having a classic story arc - I describe the character, something happens to them and there is some kind of resolution."

Like Meat Loaf?

She cracks up, "Yes, like a Meat Loaf thing... exactly! I'm trying to write a quintessential story song right now. One

of them is about how my roommate and I were going to start a band together - I was going to play bass. This guy that my roommate was secretly in love with was going to play drums but one night he came over to our house with a female friend that he wound up making out with on our couch. The song is all about why we can't be in a band together," she bursts out laughing. "Does that make any sense? It's all about how the band never happened."

Sounds a little Bon Jovi-ish.

"You're right, it sounds like Bon Jovi," she says. "I'm actually a big Bon Jovi fan... Okay, yeah, screw that whole idea - you just killed it for me."

Nothing like a writer to kill a good song.

"Now that's a good song title," she laughs. "Maybe I'll work with that one instead."

-Mitch Joel
- The Hour, Montreal

"Meet The Storyteller"

It’s rare to hear a rock’n’roll musician speak of Dadaism, rarer to hear such a term used correctly and without pretense and rarest yet to hear that the early 20th Century antiphilosophy has helped inspire the creation of a musical work. It’s also rare to hear a singer-songwriter reference musical influences as disparate as Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, David Bowie and Bjork. But then again, this is Simon Wilcox, the girl with a boy’s name, and rare is as good a word as any to describe her life and talent – a talent that is abundantly evident on her latest recording, Smart Function.

Wilcox, born in Hamilton, Ont., is the daughter of legendary Canadian rocker David Wilcox and British-based record producer Sadia Sadia. At age 3, Simon was sent by her parents to live with a family friend in Ottawa to escape their turbulent marriage and hectic touring schedule. She grew up in the nation’s capital, seeing her parents only sporadically, until moving to Toronto on her own at age 17. For those tempted to write her off as just another child of musical royalty, she is armed with a rejoinder: “I hope that I am a significant enough artist that people can stop calling me David Wilcox’s daughter because I am so much more than that.”

Smart Function, Wilcox’s sophomore effort, should silence the skeptics. Seamlessly mixing blues and alternative pop, Wilcox sounds like a more wistful Fiona Apple or Poe. The album delivers on the promise of her first offering, Mongrel of Love, again showcasing her melancholic, sensual voice. And this time around we see the emergence of a confident, original lyricist. The writing, she says marks a progression from the first album’s “narcissism.” On the cut Brand New Game, she samples a Dadaist exercise of cutting up an article and then piecing the words back together randomly. On Get You Home, the album’s most bluesy track, she uses haiku (a style that forces the writer, she says, to emote thoughts with an extreme economy of language). The narrative – “Storm out of the club/Like an angry breeze/Hold my hand too tight” – pulls you into her world. Almost every song on Function intertwines themes of heartbreak, yearning and weariness, leaving the listener longing for love, companionship, rest.

There are a few weak moments in the new release, like when Wilcox’s whispery voice sometimes gets lost amid the instrumentation. On Brand New Game, the twangy guitar and off-time percussion detract from the lyrical composition. Indeed, Wilcox is best on tracks like Come Over and Get You Home – songs in which the strings are ambient, the syncopation understated, and in which her timbre and poetry are allowed to take center stage.

Wilcox is the latest in a string of remarkable Canadian female artists – like Kathleen Edwards and Sarah Slean – with strong voices and fresh lyrical perspectives. But Wilcox is uncomfortable being lumped with them. “I’m happy that the world love Canadian female musicians so much,” she says. “But I don’t identify with the Canadian-female thing.” Here’s Wilcox’s take on herself: “I think of myself in the tradition that goes far beyond the stereotype of the Canadian female singer-songwriter. I am a storyteller who tells the stories of her own life and those around her.”

In the years between records, Simon Wilcox has shown impressive growth as a writer. That she is able to create art that is intensely personal but leaves room for the audience to engage and interpret – a basic tenet of the Dadaist art movement, by the way – is evidence of her evolution. In a record industry mired in formulaic pop, Smart Function is an original, lyrically intriguing work. It allows Wilcox to tell her stories, in her eclectic manner, to whoever will lend an ear. The music industry should listen up.

-Kris Menon - Time Magazine

"Simon Wilcox turns potent"

For Simon Wilcox, writing songs has always been a way to deal with feeling like a freak. It’s how she copes with her life.

Her introspective candor has resulted in powerful songs, as some listeners discovered five years ago with the autobiographical material of her folkie release, Mongrel of Love. That’s when it came out that she’s the daughter of blues-rocker David Wilcox and U.K.-based producer Sadia Sadia, but was raised in Ottawa by a friend of her parents from the age of three to 16. Suddenly it began to make sense why anyone so beautiful and talented would feel like a freak.

Her father felt the Ottawa home would be more stable for his daughter than life on the road – he was a heavy drinker at the time – but Wilcox knew she didn’t really belong there. At a recent gig at Zaphod Beeblebrox, she was curious to know if anyone knew her back then. Some did. “Oh,” she laughed, “everyone knows my secrets then.”

Some remembered her hunting for vinyl at a local record store. Others can still picture her father swooping into town in a green Cadillac loaded with gifts.

But even if they didn’t know her then, they might have suspected something in the dark, intimate songs from her new disc emerged. At Zaphod, in her short skirt and spike heels, Wilcox showed herself to be a sensual performer who let her intuition guide the show. Her voice ranged from a sensual murmur to an anguished howl.

“I don’t want to keep you from doing the things you’ve got to,” is one of the fragments of lyrics – from the song White Suit – that could have been inspired by her strange upbringing.

“Give me another public rejection,” from the addictive first single Mommies and Daddies, already a radio hit, is another, although the liner notes indicate it’s not aimed at her parents. A line connects the song to the memory of Lori Pinkus, the Ottawa prostitute whose 1991 murder in Toronto remains unsolved. Wilcox felt a kinship to Pinkus, a beautiful dark-haired girl who was a frequent visitor to the house she grew up in, because both had been abandoned by their parents. When Pinkus died, Wilcox wrote an album of songs inspired by the young prostitute. It was never released but several of those songs made it to Smart Function.

Whether inspired by Pinkus’s short life or Wilcox’s own childhood, misfit songs are her strength. The theme winds underneath the sultry confidence of White Suit and it’s gorgeous pop chorus, as well as Too Far, the slow and sad reflection of an “everything-gone-wrong” life, the creepy title track with its seedy imagery and low-fi hiss, and even the dance-floor dynamics of the Right Ride, which also has a chorus that buries itself in your brain.

But not everything Wilcox writes comes from feeling abandoned. She also captures the tingle of almost falling in love in the reassuring Get You Home, the optimism of a fresh start in the hooky Brand New Game, and the irresistible lure of a secret rendezvous in Come Over.

Another striking characteristic of the disc is the stylistic shift. Instead of the folkie spin of her earlier material, Toronto producer Ron Lopata dresses up Wilcox’s potent lyrics with groovy beats and atmospheric pop arrangements, an approach that may remind listeners of Dido.

For misfits and freaks with secrets of their own, Smart Function is cathartic, like finding someone who’s figured out how to deal with it. And if you manage to tear yourself away from the lyrics, you could dance to it, too.
- The Citizen, Lynn Saxberg


Simon albums: Mongrel of Love (1999)(SHErecords)/ Smart Function (2004)(SonyBMG)/ The Charm and The Strange (2006)(as yet unreleased!!!)
Simon co-writes/ production credits OR appearances as a guest vocalist: Three Days Grace (Jive/Zomba)/ Idle Sons (EMI Canada)/ Project Orange (SonyBMG)/ Jorane (Tacca/Universal)/ The Miniatures (MapleMusic) and about 20 others.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Currently at a loss for words...