Posted On 04 Oct 2017
Meet the young artist from Nashville, JD Simo! He and his band released a new album on September 15th called “Rise & Shine” via Mascot Label Group. Simo is very well known and highly respected among guitar aficionados and in the Nashville scene, where he played as a session guitarist on 500+ albums before starting his own band.
Rolling Stone called him one of the “the most notable guitarists from the next generation of six-string legends,” Entertainment Weekly called him “One of Nashville’s premiere guitarists,” and Consequence of Sound said “a new deity has taken up the torch, and his name is J.D. Simo.” Guitar Word asked, is Simo “the best guitarist in Nashville?”
Simo’s classic rock influence was on full display on the 2015 release, which was recorded at the Allman Brothers’ “Big House” using Duane Allman’s signature 1957 gold-top Les Paul. ‘Rise & Shine’ explores a markedly different sound — everything from soul ballads and psychedelic instrumentals to “bluesy barn burners and funk rockers” — glued together by the chemistry of a band who played 215 shows together last year. The album also reaps the benefit of a renewed interest and focus on songwriting from JD, who stepped out from behind the guitar and exposed himself in a new way. “It’s ugly or uncomfortable at times, but it’s honest,” he explains. It’s a big moment for JD, marking his transition from a guitarist to a bonafide songwriter.
Learn more about JD Simo in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood?
My pleasure! I’m home at the moment. We leave for the European tour in a few days and I’m enjoying my last little bit home. I’m currently listening to Father John Misty’s last record. If I’m in a bad mood anything can do the trick. Staples Singers maybe… Gospel music.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
I did. I started at around 4 years old. My earliest musical memory is seeing Elvis on TV. I was absolutely mesmerized. I wanted to do that!
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city or town has influenced them as an artist now. So how do you think your hometown has affected who you are as a musician and the art that you create?
I grew up in Chicago and it shaped me in every way. Obviously the music was just pouring out of it. Blues, Soul, Gospel, Rap, Rock… I was exposed to everything! Also just growing up in a big city shaped me a lot to. My neighborhood was a little rough. I used to get in fights all the time. I was the different kid who liked music and dressed funny and that made me a target. I had to protect myself a lot. Music was my refuge. It made me into a bit of a loner.
Musically, did you approach this year any differently then you did last year? How has 2017 been treating you and your career?
It’s been a great year. We spent so much time on the new album! 4 months plus which I’ve never done before. I’ve never worked so hard on something in my life!
After 300 days gone last year, this year has been very focused on making the new album and steering the ship for the future. Last year we figured out who we where and what we wanted to be. Now we’re putting that into reality.
Let’s talk about your recently released new album called “Rise & Shine.” What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the overall process?
It was a tireless process. Unbelievably intense! Months on end of total immersion. I was home but I was completely consumed in every aspect of it. I really wanted to push and make the best thing I could. I’m a bit surprised I made it through it honestly! I mean day after day of 12 hour days for months. It was heavy. In the end I couldn’t be more proud though. I had no idea what we’d end up with in the end. I only hoped it would turn out to be exactly what it is. Honest.
How do you think that you have grown as an artist on this album? Was making a collection with a completely different sound a goal for you?
I’ve found myself. I didn’t necessarily want to change for the sake of change. I just wanted to make something that was pure and not copping someone else’s thing. Anytime I felt there was a reference point I’d either scrap it or tear it apart until I couldn’t recognize it anymore. Throughout the process I became more and more comfortable in my own skin and this is what came out.
What was it like writing more songs on this album? What was inspiring you to write them?
It was very emotional. I’ve been through a lot of personal problems this last year. I’ve had to deal with some long standing issues that have plagued me for some time. All of that was channeled through my writing. I felt very uncomfortable with it initially. Like I was exposing too much. However in the end I think that’s what my favorite writers do.
I am curious to know how you think your incredible vast experience playing as a session guitarist has translated over to your own music these days?
Well it definitely trained me to make records efficiently. I’m quick and very at ease in the studio because I’ve done it so many times. I’m also very aware of the technical side of it. I understand the process and what to be mindful of. I also learned what I don’t like. The process’ that I don’t find inspiring. There are so many ways to make a record and I can now make them how I want instead of what someone else wants.
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? Do you think that new music being created today is going to reflect these hard times?
I certainly think that music should always reflect back to the listener what is happening at the moment. That’s what art is supposed to do.
I find joy in lots of things. Mostly very simple things. Being a musician has very complicated angles. There’s a lot of things jumbled up that make it hard sometimes to remember that the simple joy of making music is the root of it. If that ain’t there, it ain’t happening. It seems funny to say, but you have to be focused on that root. Play and create. The rest, just let it flow.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I’d love to work with D’Angelo! He’s a genius! The Alabama Shakes are huge for me! I love Jeff Tweedy a lot! Neil Young. Norah Jones. I’d love to work with all of them! There’s too many to name really. Elvis, Curtis Mayfield, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Brian Wilson, Dr Dre… If it’s good I’m into it!
What do you hope fans take away from your music?
That they see something in it that resonates. That they get some joy or some sort of enjoyment out it.
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about becoming a musician one day?
Don’t think just do. Follow the flow and don’t overthink things. In the end it ain’t you it’s what allowed to come through you.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your forthcoming music?
Just that I feel very comfortable in my own skin and that I’d really appreciate it if you checked out the new record Rise and Shine. I put a lot of work into it and it’s me. Thank you very much!