Simon Joyner plays the Mill


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Simon Joyner takes musical influence from one of Iowa City’s greatest literary figures.

“I am interested in what Flannery O’Conner called a ‘moment of grace,’ ” Joyner said. “The point where people are forced to make a decision that either enables them to transcend a circumstance or succumb to it.”

The musician will play a record-release party for his latest album, Out Into the Snow, at 9 p.m. today at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Admission is $7.

Over the years, Joyner has been dubbed the father of the Omaha music scene, a nickname he believes to be ridiculous.

“It’s as if before me, there was nothing,” he said. “When in reality, Omaha has had a rich music culture for decades, and I just happen to be someone who achieved international attention.”

Omaha has, in fact, bred well-respected singer/songwriters, including Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, Cursive, and Eric Bachmann — all part of Omaha-based label Saddle Creek Records.

“If Conor [Oberst] hadn’t told people I was an influence, I’d just be a singer/songwriter with records on a bunch of different independent labels,” he said.

Although Joyner sports a modest attitude, others are quick to praise him. Famous BBC DJ John Peel once played Joyner’s full album The Cowardly Traveler Pays His Toll on air in the early ’90s. The only other time Peel did this during his 30-year broadcasting career was with Bob Dylan’s 1976 album Desire.

“John Peel was a hero of mine, and it was a real honor to have him champion my music at all, let alone in such a dramatic way,” Joyner said.

For Friday night’s show, Joyner will bring a five-piece band of friends, including former Bright Eyes member Alex McManus.

“During practice, I’ve found myself forgetting my lines because I’ve gotten lost just listening to what my band’s doing,” he said.

His friend and Mill event cobooker Sam Locke-Ward said Joyner’s lyrics are of true storytelling quality, calling them “smart and literate.” Similarly, friend Andre Perry said playing with Joyner is like “seeing Leonard Cohen live.”

With so many others boasting, Joyner talks of his songs with a steady, humble demeanor.

“All songs are about love and death when you look closely at them, regardless of what they seem about on the surface,” he said. “Mine are no different.”

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