From The Desk Of Delicate Steve: Recording With Paul Simon

Steve Marion would like you to know, first and foremost, that he’s a human being. That’s why the New Jersey-bred guitar maestro’s given name is right there in the moniker of his primary musical project—Delicate Steve is both the four-piece live band Marion fronts and the superhero alias he assumes for his one-man recording output—and in the title of his long-in-the-works third LP. Marion will be guest editing magnet all week. Read our feature.

Marion: I played slide guitar on the most recent Paul Simon album on the opening track. The day I spent working with him was one of my favorite musical experiences to date. He was egoless, and it never dawned on me that he was one of the best songwriters in the history of popular music. We were two people working on a song together. His capacity for working on a song is limitless, and the intensity at which we worked that day was an experience I will never forget.

Basically, he played me his new record, then we opened up the song he wanted me on. I knew he wanted slide guitar, but that was it. He told me the song was in the key of D. He had his engineer mute the vocal track. We were all in the same room with the speakers, and my amp was in another room. The song started playing and I remember he started singing into my ear. I had no idea what to play, but I was intensely focused on listening to the track. After the take, he said, “OK. That was pretty good. Do you want to try another?” And, of course, I said yes because I didn’t think I had done anything special.

After the second take, he said, “That one wasn’t as good,” and he was right. So we listened back to the first take. That’s the one he used on the record. With only slight alterations to the volume and some bits and pieces of it muted.

He has a whimsical nature that’s stronger than anybody else I’ve worked with, and yet at the same time the same thing can be said about his laser-sharp precision and intent. That’s what I’d say about him; nobody I’ve worked with possesses both of those qualities in such high levels. He has 100 percent of both, which seems impossible.