Music

Paul Simon unveils surprise collaboration with artist Charlie Mackesy: 'It's nice to make a friend this way'

Recent Big Issue cover stars Paul Simon and Charlie Mackesy have come together for a surprise collaboration of music and painting

Image: Myrna Suarez

Recent Big Issue cover stars Paul Simon and Charlie Mackesy have come together for a surprise collaboration of music and painting.

Legendary singer-songwriter Simon’s 15th album Seven Psalms is a beautiful suite of songs dealing with big issues around love, loss, mortality, home and God. It was released to great acclaim in May – accompanied by a world exclusive interview with The Big Issue, by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon.

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Ahead of the album’s release, the singer and writer of some of the best-loved songs of all time also contacted Mackesy, whose beloved book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse has touched millions of hearts. 

He asked whether Mackesy would consider creating works in response to the songs. Mackesy, a lifelong fan, unsurprisingly took on Simon’s challenge.

And when the pair appeared together at the launch of their surprise collaboration in London, The Big Issue was there.

“I had no idea what this would lead to,” Simon said, after the pair took to the stage at Frieze in London.

“I’m the audience now. So I could just sit back and say, ‘Actually Charlie, I saw the drawings and they’re not that great.’ But thankfully that wasn’t the case!

Paul Simon and Charlie Mackesy in conversation. Credit: Adrian Lobb

“It’s inherently interesting to see the visual response. I didn’t feel judgemental at all. I just felt very grateful.”

As the pair traded ideas and emails and phone calls, Mackesy produced a set of beautiful illustrations that augment and expand on the themes of the LP – incorporating some of Simon’s lyrics. “’Nothing dies from too much love’ is such a lovely lyric and it keeps coming back to me,” said Mackesy.

Of the unlikely collaboration, Simon said: “It’s nice to make a friend this way.”. 

Mackesy created beautiful illustrations in response from lyrics from Simon’s fifteenth album Seven Psalms.

Mackesy, still seemingly overawed that one of his musical heroes was now a friend and collaborator, said simply: “It’s been a really kind experience. I hope the drawings have done this beautiful piece of work justice.”

There may be more works ahead.

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“I’ve written one song since Seven Psalms,” Simon revealed. And the pair may collaborate further – with the potential for Simon songs inspired by Mackesy paintings on the horizon.

“He would probably be as surprised by my musical reaction to his paintings as I was by his visual one to my songs.”

Seven Psalms – illustrated by Charlie Mackesy, inspired by the words and music of Paul Simon, is at Frieze, No9 Cork Street, London until 27 September.

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