Garfunkel and Friends Getting Noticed in Olympia

The Olympian
Olympia, WA
By Ross Raihala

It might have taken more than four decades as a performer, but Art Garfunkel has finally made his debut as a songwriter.

"I've always been able to write inventive melodic lines," said Garfunkel during a recent phone interview from his Manhattan home.

"Notes come to me easily, but I could never chain myself to the piano to noodle around and flesh out phrases."

It took the help of two collaborators, Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock, but Garfunkel couldn't be more pleased with the results, the just-released "Everything Waits to Be Noticed."

The 60-year-old New York native has hit the road to promote the album and will stop in Olympia Sunday night.

Garfunkel first collaborated with schoolmate Paul Simon when the two were just 16 years old. They even scored a minor hit in 1958 with the song "Hey Schoolgirl," released under the moniker Tom & Jerry.

Six years later, the pair debuted as Simon & Garfunkel and quickly rose to prominence as the most successful folk duo of the '60s.

Simon & Garfunkel split in 1970 due to creative differences. While the former went on to find acclaim as one of the rock era's most popular performers, Garfunkel has struggled to maintain a consistent career on his own.

His first three solo albums each topped a half-million in sales, but by the end of the '70s, Garfunkel's audience had dwindled. He occasionally reunited with Simon -- including a hit single in 1975 and a 1981 Central Park concert -- but old tensions quickly bubbled back to the surface each time.

The Rolling Stone Album Guide praised Garfunkel for "an angelic tenor, a fine sense of subtlety and a genius for harmony vocals ... (but) without a strong creative voice to play off, Garfunkel's albums end up seeming as empty as they are pretty."

Garfunkel, who's been known to walk out of interviews when Simon's name is brought up, offered up his former partner as one reason he never pursued writing his own songs.

"Could I have been blocked by Paul? Paul is such a first-rate writer and in my original days, he carved out that role. That would explain 10 years or so. I guess after that I was just reticent to face my own potential. I just needed a good kick in the ass."

"Everything Waits to Be Noticed" is the result of that prodding. It marks his first new studio album in 14 years. (Garfunkel's output in the '90s consisted of a compilation of stray tracks, a live record and a collection of children's music.)

Encouraged by producer Billy Mann, Garfunkel employed the help of Sharp (whose songs have been covered by Cher and Kim Richey, among others) and Garth Brooks collaborator Mondlock.

"Billy knew we'd have chemistry and he was right, it was a joyous experience," said Garfunkel. "The whole thing just cooked from the inside out. There's a real sense of mutual respect here."

The collaboration was so successful, Garfunkel put the pair's names on the cover of the album and invited them along for his current tour, which includes songs from his solo career as well as the Simon & Garfunkel days.

And while it probably won't set any sales records, "Everything Waits to Be Noticed" has already found modest success on the radio and earned Garfunkel some of his warmest reviews in years.

The All Music Guide, for instance, singled out two of the songs Garfunkel co-wrote on the album as highlights, claiming "The Thread" and "Perfect Moment" each "create near-magical spells ... high point(s) not only here, but in all of Garfunkel's catalog."

"I play this more than any record I've made," said Garfunkel. "It was effortless and wonderful when we did it and I think it pulled something out of me that's really nice."