Meet the Parents: Slow Dancer’s Simon and His Mom, Rosalie

Meet the Parents: Slow Dancer’s Simon and His Mom, Rosalie

This past summer, TIDAL Rising artist Simon Okely (a.k.a. Slow Dancer) released his lovely record, In a Mood, via ATO. The singer-songwriter-social-worker is kind of an Aussie Sam Smith, blending soul, R&B and indie rock, and his mother, Rosalie Tanner, is extremely proud.

We spoke with Rosalie about her own background, as well as what it’s like to have a musician son. She also put together a playlist of tracks she’s shared with Simon over the years.

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We hear you worked in graphic design and had some interesting run-ins. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I worked in a couple of large advertising agencies in Perth as a young graphic designer. Some of my bosses fancied themselves as the Madmen of Perth and liked to party hard, drive expensive cars, have affairs with the receptionists — and they expected everyone else to work to midnight to meet ridiculous press deadlines.

One of my bosses saw my slapped-together paste-up job one morning. I had worked late the previous night to collect the photos and typography etc., but had not had a chance to straighten it with the T-square. (We’re talking the ‘70s!) When I arrived back at work the next morning, I overheard him call me a stupid bitch because my work was shoddy.

Being overworked and tired, I simply walked into his office, grabbed my artwork from him and said, ‘You think that looks shoddy? This is shoddy!’ as I threw my artwork out the window. We were five stories up, in an old office block on windy St. Georges Terrace. ‘And by the way, I quit!’ I said.

I walked out never to return. He did ask me back a day later, but I said no and booked a flight to New Zealand.

What’s it like having a musician as a son?

It was always nice to have music playing somewhere in our house, so I was delighted to have a musical son. Although I know no other kind of child to compare him to. He took to music at a very young age and would dance and sing along to our old LPs or cassettes.

At about three years old, he used to take an old egg slicer (made of wire) to church and play it like a guitar during the hymns. His grandparents felt so sorry for him they bought him his first real musical instrument: a ukulele. He just loved to play music and seemed to have a good ear for it and a desire to say express his own thoughts through it. It was a part of who he was without any encouragement from us.

Do you have a musical background at all?

Yes, my mother was a beautiful pianist. In the second World War years, she and a girlfriend would play in music halls in and around Perth for dances and sing-alongs for Aussie soldiers and U.S. troops who were stationed here. They had a ball. With her influence, and that of his other two paternal grandparents, Simon was introduced to ‘group’ music early. All three grandparents encouraged music for the soul, to be shared. Music that would bring joy to groups of people as opposed to a more academic form of music. Although there was plenty of classical music in his background, too.

What song best describes you?

Not sure it describes me, but I feel comfortable with this song. Much of it rings true with me and I just love it. Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Nick of Time.’

Any perks inherent in having a musician son?

I do like receiving free records, and naturally I love his music! But mostly, I get to meet some incredibly talented and beautiful people through him.

Any advice for parents of aspiring musicians?

Let your child set the pace. In time, they will develop their own practice routine because they love music.

What are you listening to now?

The album Woodstock by Portugal. The Man plays every day at the moment. Puccini’s Madame Butterfly also gets a hearing toward the end of most working days.

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