18-year-old singer/songwriter Cody Simpson took a quick break from soundcheck to talk with MC about starting his own record label, his upcoming album and his changed music style!
His debut album, Free, is slated for a summer 2015 release.
Music Connection: Is this your first South by Southwest?
Cody Simpson: I came down here last year to check out some music, and I had a good time. We were only down here for a day though, so this is my first real experience, my first time really playing shows and introducing some of the new music to people down here in Texas.
MC: Did last year prepare you for this SXSW?
Simpson: It actually set me up for this year—being able to have a sensibility of the vibe, and it’s so cool. There is such a diverse mixture of crowds, artists, people, bands and cultures and everything. It’s cool to see everyone come together to celebrate music, art and film.
MC: What advice do you have for younger bands to come out to SXSW?
Simpson: Age isn’t something that should necessarily dictate your music or the kind of stuff you make. I mean, nowadays I’m definitely making a big musical jump at the moment.
To be able to come out here and play these kind of 21-and-over showcases as an 18-year-old is a cool feeling. It’s exciting for me because I just wanna crack the code here and now. Jump out of my comfort zone a little bit and challenge myself to play in front of people that may not necessarily know who I am or never heard any of my music, and to be able to have a refreshing and fresh introduction to new a lot of people is exciting for me.
Kinda take it as it comes, see what times I have outside of my commitments and jump around and see bands play. It’s a good thing to experience, see other bands, see what everyone is doing, see what people are liking, see where music’s at. SX is such a great outlet to be able to experience all that stuff.
MC: Tell us about your upcoming album release in June.
Simpson: June I’d say, yeah, so we’re rolling out some tunes right now. We had two come out pretty recently—“New Problems” and “Flower”—and some new ones I’ll be playing later on. It’s looking to build up to the LP release around June/July—sometime in the summer—just gonna be finishing it up next week actually, so I’m pretty stoked about where it’s coming and what we’ve crafted. Everything is coming directly from myself and to be sort of writing and producing is a really cool feeling. Me and Cisco Adler—it’s good stuff.
MC: Can you discuss what it’s like to be an independent artist?
Simpson: I signed myself to my own label. It was my own choice of wanting to break free from the system of the major label game. I’m obviously very, very grateful for everything that I’ve experienced as a youngster signed to a major label. It took me awhile to convince them to get out of my deal. It was my own choice to branch off and do it myself. With the music that I’m making now, for me, I want to be in total control of my business, my music and my creative aspects of my career and everything. I didn’t want it anything to be like, “No you can’t do this, you can’t do that…” This is exactly who I am and giving it to everyone, exactly as it is without that clouding [from] before. Now it’s just me and a couple of people, and I’m just doing it so freely now.
We’re sort of educated in a sense where we’re taught to be like everyone else, and everyone is taught to be exactly the same. We all learn exactly the same things, we’re all taught to form the same opinions, we’re all taught to learn to inherit—like our parents’ religion or a perspective on life—and I think you shouldn’t be afraid to open your mind up and do it exactly the way that you want it without anyone trying to tell you, “This is the way you should do it.” … “No, this is the way that I would like to do it because no one else has done it this way, and I’m my own person.”
It’s a very rare thing to say as an 18-year-old and having already had four years on a major label and now starting again as an independent artist—even now I’m young to be in the music industry.
MC: What’s your favorite song on the album?
Simpson: Honestly I don’t have a favorite tune on the album, thus far. We put out two tunes so far—“New Problems” and “Flower”—and we have three or four coming in the next month or two. The title track, “Free,” is one that I really like. It’s a riff I’m pretty proud of. It’s a really mellow feel, but it has a little Hendrix inspiration, a little Jack Johnson in it; it’s an accumulation of all these musical people that I admire personally. You take from things you like and you end up becoming a product of everything that you’ve been listening to your whole life, and that’s what this album is.
I don’t have one single favorite, but, for me, it’s a project in itself. 12 songs—these are all meant to be cohesive and all meant to be one to 12 as opposed to, “Oh I’m gonna get #7.” It’s the project.
For more information, visit codysimpson.com.