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Interview: SIMON MELI

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Whole Lotta Love’ is a true celebration of Led Zeppelin and one that fans of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll band will definitely have a ‘lotta lovin’ for, according to one of the stars of the show, singer Simon Meli. This is the eleventh annual ‘Whole Lotta Love’ show and Simon has been doing the shows for about six years. He says that he gets to work with some great musicians and artists in some pretty impressive venues. “In its infancy,” he tells me, “I think it only started in small venues like in Kings Cross at the Iguana Bar and now it’s become this mammoth thing and we’re playing the State Theatre in Sydney now so it’s pretty amazing to achieve that. I think, having worked on small stages in smaller venues with my own band and in other shows and then to take Led Zeppelin to this stage, it really puts a lot more fuel in your rocket. We’re able to bust out with some of the best songs ever written. We’ve got Jack Jones this year and we’ve also got Zkye back so it’s going to be really exciting to see all the faces that will perform.”

Simon has put up his hand for different songs this year; songs that he says he has always wanted to perform but he is keeping mum on what those songs will be. He does have a few favourites, of course. “There’s one song that I’ll always put my hand up for and I have performed it before and that would be ‘The Rain Song’. I think that’s a beautiful piece of music. But then again, you know, I’ve fallen into a total romance with songs like ‘Ramble On‘. You could ask me all day about Led Zeppelin and I wouldn’t waste a breath in telling you that I love every song. There are songs we might have played two years ago but performed differently. You’ve got Jack Jones who is a fantastic singer and he’ll be doing some of the songs that perhaps Steve Balbi did. So I think each year (is different) whether it be just in performance or in set list and performance. Everyone does represent the songs differently. Like Zkye. She channels Janis Joplin and when you put it together with a Led Zeppelin song, it really is unique unto itself.”

The singer often gets asked about the relevance of performing Led Zeppelin songs and doing these sorts of shows. “I am an older brother to seven brothers and sisters,” he explains. “And the youngest one is only sixteen years old and loves the music of Led Zeppelin and that shows there is a need for the music to live on and for these young kids to learn what a pedigree means and to learn showmanship. And clever orchestrated writing whether it just be guitar and bass, and drums so it’s quite good that the young kids are wanting to embrace it. Music is out there for anyone of any age to enjoy and my sixteen year old brother can only really look at some of those tunes or that style of music on You Tube these days. It gives him an opportunity to go to a gig and see these songs thumped out and played with a lot of passion, a lot of love and respect and that in itself, to see it live, is something you can’t do every day now.”

I asked Simon about his recent appearance on The Voice and whether it was a positive experience for him and he is quick to defend his decision to do the show. “You know, people may frown and people may get on social media, and they laugh at what The Voice is and what it does but,” he points out, “those people who may frown on it should remember that I’m blue collar and I’ve got to take whatever measures I need to increase the longevity of me playing on the stage or singing or even wishing and dreaming to make any dollar from it so it was a marketing strategy for me and it was something that I don’t necessarily think everyone is fit for but for me at that time I needed to put myself out in the marketplace and the positives for me would have been definitely the opportunity to tour a lot more, to exercise my original band name out there and sell some more of our product that we produce ourselves. And it gave me the opportunity to work with some other fabulous names in the industry, especially with a lot of charity work as well which is a positive thing. And I got to sing rock n roll on TV to two and a half million people every night and that’s pretty awesome!”

The exposure from his appearance on The Voice did, as he says, open the door for his band, The Widowbirds, to tour more and the band has just recently released their second independent record. “We’re a proud hand-made and home-rolled independent rock ‘n’ roll band so we do everything ourselves. We just released our record here in Australia but, funnily enough, our biggest market is in Europe and we’ve just come back from a European tour as well. We went to Spain, Germany and anywhere from Scandinavia right down to Spain. It’s a lot of work. We drive around in a big bus and we load in every night ourselves and load out but we see how the other half lives.” Their fan base in Europe saw the band perform thirty shows in thirty days. “And we were driving every day to the next gig so it was relentless and we were playing rooms with about 200 person capacity or a bit more on some nights. It’s something that we’ve done twice already and we do annually now. We have the goal to tee it up with the release of another record.”  The Widowbirds will start recording again over Christmas and will tour Europe again in 2015.

by Sharyn Hamey

Tour dates for ‘Whole Lotta Love’, the 11th Annual Led Zeppelin Celebration

Friday 15 and Saturday 16 August – Laycock St Theatre, Gosford

Tickets: www.laycockstreettheatre.com or 02 4323 3233

Saturday 23 August – The State Theatre, Sydney

www.ticketmaster.com.au or 136 100

For more information on ‘Whole Lotta Love’, the 11th Annual Led Zeppelin Celebration, click here

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