She's chronicled her romantic angst in song since the '70s, but Carly Simon has always left a piece of her heart in the '30s and '40s. As proof, the 60-year-old singer and songwriter is releasing her fourth CD of standards, Moonlight Serenade, on July 19. We visited the Oscar and Grammy winner at her Greenwich Village duplex in a historic town house.
TV Guide: Moonlight Serenade has a very intimate, mellow feel.
Carly Simon: Our intention was an album that you could make out to. [Laughs]
TV Guide: You actually knew some legendary composers.
Simon: Yes. Arthur Schwartz ("Dancing in the Dark") was my parents' [Simon & Schuster publisher Richard Simon and his wife Andrea] best friend. Oscar Hammerstein was a close friend of theirs, too. I have a personal feeling about these songs.
TV Guide: Can you feel as passionate about these songs as you do about your own?
Simon: There's more of a separation when I'm singing standards, though I do get emotionally involved with them. When I'm singing my own songs, it can get so intertwined, I have to stop sometimes because I cry.
TV Guide: To promote Moonlight Serenade, you'll be performing on a number of TV shows. What about your fabled stage fright?
Simon: I think I've changed. I'm not going to empower that negativity anymore.
TV Guide: Would you consider a small tour?
Simon: Yes, but I would never be on tour for a long time, because I love my home too much. This is a great pied-à-terre, but my home is in Martha's Vineyard. I'm so grounded there, it's like Tara to me. The kids [Ben and Sally, her children with her ex-husband James Taylor] each have their homes on the property.
TV Guide: Your son Ben had a recurring role on American Dreams. [Both he and Sally are singers and songwriters.] Does he want to act?
Simon: Ben was so cute in it! [She beams] He's a singer, but I'm sure if the right acting part came forward, he wouldn't ignore it.
TV Guide: You once told me that your ex-husband James Taylor was a terrific father.
Simon: He is a wonderful father. But I don't get to see him as a father. He's totally cut off from me, he doesn't want to be at all involved with me. There's a terrible chasm between us.
TV Guide: Why?
Simon: You'd have to ask him. The last time I saw him was at our daughter Sally's wedding [in 2003].
TV Guide: Are you and your current husband Jim Hart [she's been married to the poet since 1987] together these days? You were separated in the past.
Simon: Jim and I haven't really broken up. [She flashes a lovely gold wedding band.] We have an interesting and not at all conventional marriage. We are still deeply involved. I feel that it's a continuum. The hot sex and the lust [at the beginning of a relationship] is so great but then, if you're lucky, [there] is a recognition of devotion. You know, there isn't a relationship I've had that I regret.
TV Guide: You seem to be in a better place now than five years ago, when you made your last CD of new songs, The Bedroom Tapes.
Simon: I had a very bad experience [because her label didn't promote it]. I recorded it at my house in Martha's Vineyard at a very tender time in my life, and those songs were extremely personal. So I bought back the album and it will probably resurface.
TV Guide: What made it a tender period of your life?
Simon: I was undergoing chemotherapy [for breast cancer] and I had a very bad depression around that time, too.
TV Guide: Are you OK now?
TV Guide: Does writing music help you through the bad times?
Simon: It's the only thing that I can do to help myself. If you're a creator, that's how you express yourself and without it you become crazy. And sometimes I can't express myself. And I do become crazy.
TV Guide: Are you currently writing songs?
Simon: I'm in a phase where I have books and books of lyrics. Some of it is very raw, personal and edgy. I still want to be Leonard Cohen. I can't think of a song that is as good as his "Hallelujah."
TV Guide: You won an Oscar for "Let the River Run," which you wrote for 1988's Working Girl, and have written other film scores and songs through the years. Anything lately?
Simon: I [wrote songs for] all the recent Winnie the Pooh movies. I spent four years doing that. It was so great; there's no violence and such nice characters.
TV Guide: Your good friend Jackie Kennedy Onassis wanted you to write your autobiography.
Simon: I wrote 80 pages and I realized I didn't want to write about people who didn't want me to talk about them. I couldn't write about James — and I could write a whole book about James.
TV Guide: Which of your songs most says who you are?
Simon: "Like a River." I wrote it right after my mother died. It sums up my spiritual point of view — how I feel about death and how I feel about my mother, and daughters and mothers. "Boys in the Trees" is also an important song for me in an earlier period of my life.
TV Guide: NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol gave $50,000 to charity to have you tell him who the guy is in "You're So Vain." Why reveal that now?
Simon: Because it no longer seemed that important to me to keep it completely to myself. And I told him if he ever tells anybody I'd say that I lied to him.
TV Guide: We all know it's Warren Beatty — you even gave us the letters A, E and R.
Simon: It's so funny that people are still guessing. [Laughs]
Carly Simon performs on Good Morning America July 20 at 7 am/ET on ABC and on The View July 22 at 11 am/ET on ABC.