When Simon Okely took the stage at The Sinclair as the opener for Margaret Glaspy on Sept. 21, he remarked that it was his first time in Boston. The Australian singer-songwriter’s roots are grounded thousands of miles away from the Massachusetts Bay, in Perth and Melbourne. His musical career grew in popularity as the lead guitarist for Oh Mercy, but the art of making his own music was instilled in him long before he officially became the solo act Slow Dancer.
“I’ve kind of always been making my own music,” Okely told the Daily. “I suppose even in [Oh Mercy] I was always ticking away at my own material. So when I had the opportunity to pursue it full-time and really dedicate myself to it, well, it brought me here.”
His style as a solo artist was cultivated in his adolescence in Australia, listening to classic bands and artists that made liberal use of elements of jazz and R&B; he cites Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Van Morrison and Nina Simone among his biggest influences.
Taking these elements and implementing them into his own projects takes careful and precise composition — Okely performs and records every single instrument on his records. This aspect of Slow Dancer can’t be taken lightly by anyone who listens to his “Surrender” (2014) or “In a Mood” (2017) projects. Every note within his smooth, groovy tunes feels masterfully placed; every decision Okely makes for a particular song feels like a positive addition.
“I love tracking all of the instruments by myself because of the control,” Okely said. “I think there’s something about knowing where every instrument sits in a composition and having control over that that creates a very unique sound … you can hear when somebody knows what they’re doing with every instrument, and there’s often space in the composition because of that.”
And now, here in Boston, Okely took all of that to the stage in front of the packed crowd at The Sinclair. Despite being continents away, he loves the opportunity to play music in new places and was thrilled to have the chance at doing that on his current tour with Glaspy.
“Just being here fills me with awe,” Okely said. “It’s a very privileged position, so I feel really humbled by the opportunity [to tour overseas]. I’ve only been on the road for a week and there’s another three to go, so I reckon by the end of it I’ll be looking forward to my own pillow, but at the moment I just feel really blessed.”
As for his future? After he finishes up the tour this fall, Okely will return to Australia to play a few more scheduled shows at home. Upon wrapping up all of those performances, he plans on beginning the groundwork for a new record. His most recent project “In a Mood” dropped only a few months ago, but Okely says that his love for writing and composing music will bring him back to the studio sooner rather than later.
Okely rocked The Sinclair and commanded the attention of a crowd that couldn’t help but move along to his set. He’s since embarked on a few more dates this tour, but he made sure to let the audience know that in the few short hours he was in Boston, he was quickly “falling in love.” With the path he’s been carving out for himself, it’s likely that he’ll love it even more with another show in the not-so-far future.