JD Simo Talking about Touring Albums Vinyl and more
Bluesdoodles was delighted to have a chat with JD Simo once again, In February shortly after we reviewed the stunning album Let Love Show The Way read what we talked about then HERE. Today we talk about vinyl the up and coming Roadstars tour throughout the UK,
BD: Hi JD. Good to have the opportunity to chat with you as you are about to hit Europe, we chatted about the album, influences and dream band.
JD Simo: Thank you, remember talking to you earlier in the year not sure where I was now having couple days back home before heading on over to Europe.
BD: Now your surname and band name are creating lots of discussions about how it should be pronounced so let’s start off the pronunciation of the name SIMO
JD Simo: Well, it has to be good being talked about. The correct on is sI MoH where the I is dominant we answer to anything, eventually as we become better known and more people see us live everyone will know but until that day all is good (laughing).
BD: Your current album Let Love Show The Way, Please the latest single is getting plenty of airplay. Tell our readers about deciding the tracks, writing the songs and opening with an Elmore James classic Stranger’s Blues.
JD Simo: While we were sequencing the record that track we all liked how it slowly builds up, it is not an abrupt beginning. Lots of bands start with an initial brash aggressive number but this for us was a nice way to start the record. More to do with the sound rather than the fact it was a cover or that particular song we didn’t want something abrupt as it were. As a group we put some thought into the order and which tracks to include we do this process as a collective talking about what assembly of tracks works, at the end we believed this sequence worked. Reality, nothing too exciting just a process we went through we do all the creative side and Mascot as the record label have very little involvement in what we produce. They leave us to do on creative end yes there is some correspondence but what you hear is the product of the band, it is SIMO.
BD: Like many you have released your latest album on vinyl, is this a niche or rising in appeal and will be expected by people as they continue to buy vinyl or is it a trend that will fade away?
JD Simo: I know that here in America vinyl is not a niche thing it is a pretty big thing with people especially my age group. Not sure what is happening in Europe & U.K. , sure we will find out when we are back touring over there very soon. Vinyl has become a big part of my generation who are true music fans not those who follow mainstream. It is how they buy their music whether new or old recordings. I grew up with vinyl it then went away in the nineties and then came back again. Let Love Show The Way, vinyl sales have been huge I have lost count the number of re-pressing of the album since its release. I do know we have sold more vinyl than other acts on Mascot record label and there have been occasions when we have sold out and the label has had to have them rushed to us on the road, Vinyl is the number one merch in terms of volume at our shows. The reality is it depends on your preference. I collect vinyl and have a portable record player set up where ever I go definitely in the dressing room. Every town I visit I find local record stores it is integral part of my life releases in that format very important to me. Luckily the tide has turned I think vinyl is here to stay a while.
BD: Are there plans to record a follow-up album and how do you find time with your busy touring schedule to even think about let alone write new songs?
JD Simo: We have started work on next record actually started several months ago. We are doing the album in little phases. This is a different approach from previously and will be a different type of album putting it together over long period of time. We are about a quarter way through the process. When get back home before Christmas we will finish all the pre-production stuff. We have a space in the calendar January through February to finish the album. It is not difficult to find time to write as it happens, I write when the thought, idea hits me. That can be on a plane, in the van, dressing room or walking down the street. This year SIMO have played well over 200 shows so finding the time for three of us to actually work out the material is problematic. As a group we need time to work out how each song is to be played, arranged, this takes time it can even take up a whole day. We have tried using the time in sound checks to try our new material and ideas, when we do this we are all open with each other. Contributing what we like don’t like, free to have heated discussions the trouble is at sound checks there are people around strangers, it just didn’t work as the presence of people not involved in the process made us self-conscious, inhibiting the process. So finding the time for the three of us to set time aside has been difficult but we have found spaces sometimes a couple of days or longer break say ten days. Sometimes though you have a real break not have the pressure to work so we take couple days off then it is back the three of us working on the new material. We discuss together how to flesh out songs so that they are ready to be sent as a demo for our producers to review. At the end of the day I just love making music.
BD: SIMO have been around for five years? Let’s hear about the band how Adam Abrashoff and Elad Shapiro work around your attention grabbing guitar playing and vocals?
JD Simo: Laughing, It may be one to ask Adam & Elad. For me it works because it is very much that I have one vote of three, it makes perfect sense to use. The outcome of how it works if your readers come and see us play live it makes more sense then… (Bluesdoodles – you are in luck they are touring UK & Europe October – December – check out dates here) Plus we all have role on and off stage, my responsibility may be a little bit more prominent interviews like this one, singing but the three of us are all very equal in all the decision making like what playing that night… Very democratic, that can be difficult I can get frustrated as much as they can perhaps it is easier if the leader dictates and rest band follows but that is not my way. We all have strong personalities, we fight and argue, we are like brothers we make up quickly and do not take it personally. We are like a dysfunctional family – all three guns a blazing all the time and most of the time there is a healthy balance. In end better way to be invested in common goal inevitably better that both the guys have a democratic input.
BD: As you mentioned when we talked earlier in the year, Simo is back touring Europe including extensive UK Tour with extended Planet Rock Tour – Roadstars tour with Federal Charm and Aaron Keylock. By the end of the tour and festival set at the sold-out Planet Rockstock SIMO will no longer be a stranger to blues lovers across the UK. With the promises of three exciting acts what plans have you got to get attention with your style of the blues.
JD Simo: Not met guys in Federal Charm yet, though we did meet Aaron very briefly at Ramblin’ Man Fair. Looking forward to our tour of U.K. So far we have only done random one-off gigs in UK; a couple shows in the North and press show and support in London then in the Summer some festivals. Now we have the opportunity to play at 16 venues and a spot at Planet Rockstock. We will actually get time to see your country and visit all corners of the U.K. The plan is to share the ninety-minute slot so some nights that will be Federal Charm and other night Aaron Keylock, on these occasions we will play a shorter set. Every night we always play different songs so for people who come to multiple nights will see different shows from us. This is going to be a real opportunity to get to know the U.K. and meet a lot of fans, many will be seeing us for the first time.
BD: Normally I ask for your band but did that last time so this time I am interested in albums that have influenced/ delighted you as a musician. And the favourite at the moment?
Time was running short JD Simo is in demand we all want to talk about a band that brings excitement to the blues so his answer was an unequivocal – Alabama Shakes Sound and Colour their latest album is my favourite hands down I just can’t get enough of the album.
So lets give them a huge British welcome and go see the band on tour with Federal Charm & Aaron Keylock.
Tickets will then go on sale to the general public on Friday 17th June via www.thegigcartel.com or from the 24 hour box office: 0844 478 0898.
BD: I was delighted when Mascot Label asked us to review your latest album Let Love Show You The Way. It is an album full of twists and turns and luscious tones. In other words enjoyed the album very much.
BD: What were your first musical influences growing up in Chicago?
JD Simo: Early influence was Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Heard Elvis and fell in love with his music and the Family Tree of music leads up to him and then all the music after him. Went on exploring music after the initial influences.
American music Hillbilly Country and Country are a melding of working class black and white, a co-mingling of styles. Gospel and Rn’B are inter-related. Back in the 50’s lines between genres were blurred, listen to music including Hank Williams, Fats Domino, Howlin’ Wolf listen and the similarities are working class primeval places. BD: Genres have become fixed putting musicians into categories.
JD Simo: I understand the need in a commercial environment. There needs to be high levels of brand recognition so that the consumers know what they are letting themselves in for. All of us in the band do not mind at all being associated with the blues. Blues is a big foundation of our music, but we don’t really play the blues live. Feel embarrassed in the respect of the art form as I feel we are not representative of blues and what is being said about us. We are a Rock, Rock n’Roll band to our core.
BD: In the preamble Joe Bonamassa has quoted you JD as one of the best around. Quite a recommendation how does that add to the pressure?
JD Simo: Not added pressure, just grateful that he has been so kind. Joe has been a good friend of mine for a while, love him as a friend. It goes deeper than just a friendship. Compliments are always good from others, in fact, make me feel bashful with all the kindness and grateful. The pressure, we put that on ourselves, pressure to do better tonight and the next night.
BD: Having reviewed the Album, can you tell us about recording in the Big House and the inspiration behind Let Love Show The Way
JD Simo: Incredible experience, it was all haphazard just happened. We went with intention of just doing a couple of bonus tracks that the label, mascot wanted. The rest of the album was already recorded. I have friends involved with Allman Brothers so seemed to be a good place to record Macon Georgia. As a session musician I’m not that keen on recording in a studio and like to record in different spaces, quirky places. We had two days set aside. I have found that essentially the recording process is either fast or slow and not many points in-between. So a truck load of equipment arrived from Nashville. All worked perfectly and after an hour we had the bonus tracks recorded and had the extra time to fill so just kept working and then eight, nine, ten tracks were cut and usable. We just repeated the whole process the next day and left feeling really good but reserving judgment until starting mixing after we finished a bunch of shows. So mixed 2/3 songs really happy with them so decided with the engineer to keep mixing result a better album than the one we already had! Now with new running order sent off to Mascot – they agreed. Yes, we were inspired didn’t go with idea of making a record. Core was raw a jamming feel we are a bit of a schizophrenic group. We mix tightly constructed songs around three minutes including Please and I Lied, these are concise songs. Others are vehicles for improvisation when playing live and recording, We enjoy doing both. The mix jam and structured songs bring a balance we love them both and gives records a balanced feel keep trying to achieve this on the next record as well.
BD: Everyone is always interested in guitars what are your preferred set-ups plus the obvious thrill it must have been playing Duane Allman’s 1957 Goldtop
JD Simo: Guitar set-up is minimal. I do not have a complicated rig – no pedals just plug straight into the amp. I have a great love of vintage equipment it is a passion and a hobby. Old Gibson electric is my main guitar and 1960’s Fender/Marshall amps. For me, this gives a clear sound not muddled in the way of playing. Leave it to the hands to decide what to do, treat it like a voice you sing straight into a microphone. It’s pure that is what I am trying to accomplish.
Playing Duane Allman’s Goldtop was a thrill all that history. I am friends with the gentleman who owns it and have used it multiple times, on display in the museum in Macon. I was told I was welcome to use it what an honour, especially in that environment the Old House and old guitar. It is definitely one of those career moments you will always look back on and say Wow!
It is amazing that Duane is so well remembered not just in America but over here as well, the biggest pity is he never got to see the success. Allman’s were playing in front of fifty or so people in colleges and less in clubs often only around fifteen. Filmore’s was the exception and being on big bills at a handful of festivals. He never experienced the full wack of all the hard work. Boy did the Allman’s work hard and then Duane was taken. When he passed in 1972 Allman’s then started to headline he missed the success by a matter of months a real shame.
Being a new group getting established equates to the amount of hard work takes will play a lot and not sleep you have to be rigorous playing lots shows so climb to the point where people are aware of you. Nothing has really changed, it’s the same process. I am grateful people take time to listen, review, interview us and come to our shows it keeps the momentum building.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of a song. Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting?
JD Simo: All very personal. I Lied is me talking about not feeling very comfortable admitting when something is wrong. Expressing something that troubles me can do it in a song. Pulled a couple passages from Allen Ginsberg around his love of Jack Kerouac – being a man who is frightened not clear but the spoken phrasing encapsulates the inner madness and not having the acumen to do it. Then I’ll Always be Around is not a romantic song, but about a very close friendship coming to an end. There are also ethereal songs I’d Rather Die In Vain internal struggle of not letting negative side of one’s thoughts. One thing to be positive but often easier to yield to the more negative side. Internal struggle not always been easy. Songs have to be real not a penchant with something made-up. Normally I have to express a reality. Easier through songs than the spoken word.
BD: Having talked about guitars and lyrics do you consider yourself as a guitarist first, vocalist second or they equally important
JD Simo: Always be a guitarist. Older I get the vocals become more important. People including me respond to the singer more than another instrument. The voice conveys the emotion in every song, so I get to express myself. Analogy of a guitarist or any instruments use it as a shield to express, it is what you hide behind. When you sing you have nothing raw as ever but nothing to hide behind. Taken long time to feel confident. Gratifying as no purer way to express yourself. With an instrument all the notes are right where you left them. Whereas the human voice is not like that, it is more temperamental, every night it is different. Depending on what you have eaten, how much talking on a daily basis the voice changes, how you express yourself with the voice is most human.
BD I am sure you have many plans for 2016 and beyond for SIMO – hope you are going to do a more extensive tour of UK.
JD Simo: We are back in Europe in July and have lots of festivals including Ramblin’ Man and Cornbury in the UK. Then we are back in the fall for extended Planet Rock tour throughout the UK. BD: I hope that includes Wales.
JD Simo: Love to visit there too. Be amazing how recognition of band has grown from first London gig last year then the recent three gigs London. Sheffield and York. Taken aback by the audience it was wonderful lovely that an unknown band was sold out in London and Sheffield. Real thrill to see people queuing to get in. Always been influenced by UK RnB. Thanks to British groups playing the sound was re-energized as beginning to wain in America back in the 60’s. Getting to play in the UK has been very cool and becoming a fan of sausage and mash.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing JD Simo: This is fun….
Drums: Elvin Jones – Jazz drummer Miles Davies, John Coltrane etc.
Bass: Carl Radle – Derek & the Dominoes, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton etc. Guitars: Daune Allman and of course JD Simo have to be able to play with him on my fantasy band. Vocals: Steve Winwood – Traffic, Blind Faith etc..
Organ: Billy Preston
Tenor Sax: King Curtis
Trombone: Tom Malone
Trumpet: Wayne Jackson
Now should I have two drums moment consideration and it was yes so
Second Drums Al Jackson Jnr joins the band drummer at Stax and Booker T drummer.
SIMO – Members: J. D. Simo, (guitar & Vocals) Adam Abrashoff, (Bass), Elad Shapiro (drums).
Albums: Let Love Show The Way, Love, Vol. 1
Genres: Blues-rock, Psychedelic rock, Jazz fusion
Read more about SIMOHERE
Read Bluesdoodles review Let Love Show You The Way HERE
The album, Let Love Show The Way full of luscious music hits you with blues that has a new psychedelic texture. SIMO’s version of Stranger Blues, it is exciting vibrant and flows with the swampy mix of guitar that squeals and bends its strings around the heat haze of the Mississippi delta and the combination of melodic and raw vocals. This is an opening track full of hooks that make you want to hear much more of SIMO. This is a power trio that revolves around an authority mixed with the raw and blue talent that is JD Simo on guitar and vocals.
This is music with a deep blue psyche, bursting with anguish, hurt and life experiences. Lyrics embedded into the heart of the music with the guitar the dominant force as the chords act as the coloration of the moods and emotions expressed. None of this could happen without the balance and deep foundations of a rhythm section that is there in full force thanks to the drumming of Adam Abrashoff that has the capacity to punctuate the shape of the individual tracks and Elad Shapiro’s bass lines are full of tonal depth and energy allowing the guitar to build and soar into the blues stratosphere of an open sky.
Whoever says blues is boring and staid haven’t heard Let Love Show The Way, here SIMO plays the love of blues rooted deep in the musical lexicon continuing to delight with the mixes SIMO add to the Blues party.
Every track is different some are short almost fleeting as on Please which is upbeat with a nod across the Atlantic to The Beatles and upcountry to Motown, with its title not surprising this stomper is indebted to the legacy of Please Please Me. This is no cover but a short and sweet extension reworking the tempo with lyrics for now not the 1960’s! Change of mood texture and tone is what you get with Long May you Sail, this is a raw yearning as the tale of saying Goodbye unfolds. The choice of bounding rhythm and its hints of Celtic rock the roots of many a Southern person back to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and Ireland is the perfect form for JD Simo’s guitar.
In contrast there are tracks that are much longer I’d Rather Die In Vain, with enthusiastic free form Blues, the guitar is king as JD takes SIMO on a road of musical exploration. The lyrics are darker exploring internal darkness, in contrast with quality guitar work of this calibre. The future is bright with guitarist like this fronting the band reminiscent of Jimmy Page, yes a long track, is there the danger of the Trio loosing shape and form?… a big no with interludes from Adam and Elad this is class, experimental blues. The penultimate track Ain’t Doin’ Nothing, is most certainly doing something the guitar is a jam from the Big House Sessions. Jamming is natural to SIMO and the fluidity of the melodic outpourings are mesmerizing. This is progressive blues a big ask of a Trio and it works. How did this track come about was it plane hell no it wasn’t. “it was the start of the 2nd day of recording and Adam and Elad started playing a groove I walked in the room and picked up Duane Allman’s old Goldtop and what you hear is what happened. A Good way to start the day”. Let Love Show The Way, the first album recorded at Macon, Ga’s Big House – the communal home of the Allman Brothers Band during their late sixties /early 70’s heyday. Finishing as they started with a cover, Please Be With Me a song Cowboy did with Duane not long before he died, as a respect for the location. There is a fragility as the tempo quietens with an acoustic feel. This is a beautiful track to close an album that respects the Blues played by a band that want their voice heard with original thoughts and approach to music rooted in our past.
It is no wonder that JD Simo’s guitar playing has been noticed and considered by Joe Bonamassa as “one of the best out there right now”. This is definitely Southern Blues that excites and is full of modern twist and turns whilst the structure remains firmly rooted in the legacy of blues from the delta. This is a bluesdoodles band to watch out for in 2016 as they have lit the blues touch paper with Let Love show The Way.
Bluesdoodles gives this CD NINE doodle paws out of TEN ….
1. Stranger Blues
2. Two Timin’ Woman
3. Can’t Say Her Name
4. I Lied
6. Long May You Sail
7. I’ll Always Be Around
8. Becky’s Last Occupation
9. I’d Rather Die Vain
10. Today I’m Here
11. Let Love Show The Way
12. Ain’t Doin’ Nothin’ verging on progressive huge ask for a trio…
13. Please Be With Me
As if creeping from the Southern swamps and mist-soaked cotton fields, SIMO’s “Stranger Blues” is the perfect table setter for the Nashville power trio’s vibrant new LP, Let Love Show the Way, The song is a blueprint for reinvigorating the fusion of jazz improvisation, downhome blues and classic R&B, as well as these genres’ psychedelic Brit Invasion and countrified Southern-rock manifestations. The rest of the record follows suit, a souped-up vehicle transporting the band on a deeply satisfying, off-the-cuff musical journey.
Cut entirely live in full, unbroken takes—vocals and solos included—the sound is primal, sweltering and immediate. “We live and die by the take,” says singer-guitarist JD Simo. “We don’t edit, and if there are overdubs, they’re minimal. I want it to be unaffected and pure. For me, the music that always resonates most is when a performance is captured. That’s what I love, and that’s what we go for.”
The first album ever recorded at Macon, Ga.’s Big House—the communal home of the Allman Brothers Band during their late ‘60s/early ‘70s heyday — Let Love Show the Way finds SIMO not just reveling in the hallowed space’s unique mojo and history, but taking it to a fresh and inspired place. As a musical unit, Simo, his longtime drummer Adam Abrashoff and bassist Elad Shapiro have an undeniable chemistry, taken to even greater heights with JD playing Duane Allman’s 1957 gold-top Les Paul for every track on the record. This is the same six-string heard on the first two Allman Brothers LPs, the same storied guitar that delivered the unforgettable riff on Derek & the Dominoes’ “Layla.” JD is now part of an elite group of artists—including Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and Wilco’s Nels Cline—who share the rare honor of having wielded this talismanic instrument.
“There’s definitely a magical element to the recording,” Simo says of Let Love Show the Way. “The vibe of the Big House, using Duane’s guitar, plus all the touring we’d done leading up to it, all the refinement of the material on the road—it was a perfect storm.”
Simo – Let Love Show The Way – Album Trailer 29th January 2016 via Provogue/Mascot Label Group(Joe Bonamassa, Black Stone Cherry, Monster Truck, Walter Trout) SIMO went down a storm opening for Walter Trout at The Forum , London not surprising when you hear the swampy infectious blues vibe that rocks.
SIMO impressed Get Ready To Rock, when they saw the band live: SIMO – St.Moritz Club, London, 23 November 2015 read what Pete Fenestra said HERE
Let Love Show the Way was not planned—results this potent are difficult to script. In fact, when SIMO headed down to Macon, the band had an entirely different set of songs already approved for release by its label, Mascot Label Group—this last-minute trip to the Big House was merely intended to yield a pair of bonus tracks for a deluxe edition. But with engineer Nick Worley at the boards of a stripped-down mobile recording unit, the band caught fire, burning through more than a dozen tracks in less than 48 hours. Once they heard the raw and electrifying intensity of the mixes, they didn’t think twice about abandoning the original plan and rolling with what suddenly felt so right.
“As the producer of the project, I couldn’t live with myself if we didn’t use these songs,” Simo says. “I just felt it was better than anything the band had ever captured—so we decided to scrap the original record and build this new one around everything we recorded at the Big House.”
By the time he was five, JD was begging his parents for a guitar. They obliged, and by age 10—much like his peers Derek Trucks and Joe Bonamassa—he was regularly playing bars backed by older musicians. By 15, he’d dropped out of school, put his own band together and was touring full time. “For six years,” he says, “I just lived in a van and played all over the country and never really had a home.”
When he was 21, JD moved to Nashville, where—after making a living as a session guitarist and moonlighting in bar bands for half a decade—he made an important decision. Though he’d learned much from his experiences as a sideman, the time had come for him to pursue his own muse. He met like minded musician Abrashoff and original SIMO bassist Frank Swart, and they set off on a journey together, hitting the road hard and honing their craft. Eventually, Swart left the band, making way for Shapiro to join on bass. “When we played with him it was so immediate,” JD says. “It was like, ‘Where the hell have you been?’”
While Simo is comfortable with his role as a bandleader, he’s never wanted to be a solo artist. “A band is something very unique and special,” he says. “You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Adam is one of my best friends. He and I have been through the whole scope of the journey so far together. And now, with Elad—who has taken the band to a new level—we truly are a team. We’re brothers.”
Together, they’re an adventurous rock & roll trinity, a thriving creative partnership completed by JD’s combustible guitar playing and soulful vocals, and Let Love Show the Way is a game-changing album from a band in the midst of an evolutionary breakthrough. “I’m a stranger here,” JD belts on the record’s opening salvo, all mysterious swagger and smoky, downhome grit. But for a band with such with such memorable songs, uncommon rapport and awe-inspiring musicality, SIMO can take solace in knowing the line won’t hold true much longer.
You have read but the music says so much more here are two tracks from forthcoming album – Let Love Show The Way
I’ll Always Be Around
Becky’s Last Occupation
JD Simo – vocals/guitar
Adam Abrashoff – Drums
Elad Shapiro – Bass
Thanks for staying until the end – here is a free download to appreciate until 29th January 2016 the release date of Let Love Show The Way
Bluesdoodles Reviews Let Love Show The Way – Read HERE