Born on October 10, 1960 in the London suburb of Chiswick, England, Simon Townshend grew up in a family that seemingly lived and breathed music 24/7. The youngest son of three, born to professional jazz saxophonist Cliff Townshend and his wife Betty (who'd had an earlier career as a singer) by the time that Simon was born his father's career in music was starting to come to an end, just as his oldest brother Pete's - as the primary songwriter of the rock band The Who - was taking off.
At the mere age of nine, Simon Townshend was recording the backing vocals to The Who's iconic rock opera Tommy, followed later in 1975 by Simon's appearance as the Newsboy in the film Tommy. In 1983 he released his first solo album, titled Sweet Sound. In 1989 Simon Townshend once again appeared on one of brother Pete's albums: his solo album The Iron Man: A Musical, where Simon sang on the song 'Man Machines' as well as an alternative version of 'Dig'. In 1994 he toured with Roger Daltrey on the Daltrey Sings Townshend tour.
He first joined The Who as a second guitarist for their Quadrophenia Tour in 1996 and 1997, later rejoining the band as a full touring member in 2002. He has played with them on each of their tours since. Starting in 2004, Simon has also served as the Casbah Club's lead guitarist, lead vocalist and songwriter. That band also includes Bruce Foxton (The Jam) and Mark Brzezicki and Bruce Watson, both formerly of Big Country.
Starting his own record label and production company in 1996 (Stir Music) Townshend has since released several other albums, including studio and live performances. His latest album is Looking Out/Looking in, released last year by Eagle Rock Entertainment.
In the midst of completing leg #1 of The Who's Quadrophenia and More North American Tour, Simon Townshend took a break from the band's hectic schedule to talk with Examiner:
How is your latest album unique/different from your previous 6 albums?
I think it's in the writing. I found that these songs all came to me very naturally and quite quickly, which for me is very refreshing. Without finding fault in myself, perhaps my one shortfall in the past is trying for over perfection. Rather than 'production', more 'reduction'. I purposely didn't labor too much over detail which meant I worked more freely - more aggressively and progressively. The same can be said of my next album which is already in the can for the fall of 2013. I am a new person in the studio and I love it. Truthfully, I don't care anymore what people think. I do what I do because I love it - it's my passion. I don't care about success or wealth, just music. And good song writing first and foremost.
What is it about your latest album that you are the most proud of?
Again, the songs. This last few years I've been clean - tea total. I sometimes wake in the middle of the night with a melody or lyric and drag myself out of bed, creep to the toilet with my i-phone and record my idea. When one is drinking frequently or whatever the energy to get up in the middle of the night isn't there. When you wake in the morning you can vaguely remember having a great inspired moment in the night but can't possibly remember it in any detail. The other thing I'm most pleased with on this CD are the lyrics. People strongly relate to what I'm saying on these songs. The work went in and I'm being rewarded.
Do you have a favorite song on your latest album? Why is it your favorite?
My favourite is 'She Asked Me'. I was recording another song very late, around 4am. I was about to pack up and go to bed when I wondered how it would be if a girl asked me to write her a song. Being a happily married man I wasn't sure how my wife would take it so I would have to come up with a song that no-one could hear, only the person it was written for. She asked me then blossomed into a finished piece within half an hour. That's probably why it's my favourite, because it was effortless. The best ones come quickly.
Your son Ben does an excellent job drumming on your latest album. Can you tell our readers more about Ben?
He is 34, great looking and unbelievably talented. He is not only a fabulous drummer with a wonderful 'feel', he is beautiful artist too. He can sing as well. When he was about 14 he used to wander around the house singing along with Mariah Carey songs and that isn't easy. Ben would match his voice to hers perfectly - it was almost as if she had double tracked herself on the recording. When he was 21 he was drummer for the Ultimate Rock Symphony tour in Australia, leading a full orchestra and working with many famous lead vocalists; Roger Daltrey, Alice Cooper, Paul Rogers, Gary Brooker.... and of course, myself.
Can you tell the readers about how/when you first began performing/recording?
My first recording job was an unexpected one. My older brother Pete was working on Tommy in a London studio. I was 8 years old, playing in the lifts with my other older brother Paul. Pete came and grabbed us, took us in the studio, put some headphones on us and requested we sing the high vocal parts that he and the rest of the band couldn't reach.... rise, rise, rise, rise on Smash The Mirror. It was so much fun. After we were taken into the control room where Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp were mixing our voices in with those of the band. It sounded incredible. I knew then that was what I wanted to do with my life. I never looked back.
How many instruments do you play and which was your first?
I play many instruments, not all of them as well as I play guitar and keyboards but nevertheless I can play drums, bass and mandolin quite well. I started out on guitar when I was 8 and progressed to piano at age 10. I went back to the trustee guitar at age 16. I played a lot of 12 string guitar which is where I built up the strength in my rhythm playing and developed strong fingers. It's a tough instrument to play and I did most of my writing on it for many years
What accomplishments are you the most proud of?
Having 3 wonderful children and holding my marriage together since age 17. It's hard under any circumstances but especially being a touring musician, away from home for long periods. That and finally learning to trust my own judgement. I produced Looking Out Looking In myself and it stands up against any album I listen to these days.
When will you be touring solo in New York and California?
I am doing solo shows in both New York and California in March 2013. I play shows whenever and wherever my schedule allows. I hope to do a full band tour of the states later next year when demand has built up. Information for all my shows are on my website: www.simontownshend.com
How would you like future generations to remember you
As an artist?
As a man?
I don't think of myself as a musician, I am an artist. Musicians can be a good song's worst enemy. I strive to be a good father to my children and an honest husband to my wife (sometimes I lie about how much I spend on guitars and studio gear). I try not to always put my music first but I spend a lot of time doing what I do because it is my main interest. I don't watch much television. I rarely sit on the couch to watch a movie, though I do from time to time. I am primarily a song writer. I would like to be remembered as an artistic man.