…and those blues will never die when they are in hands as good as this…. (Photo at top for promotional use only: screen grab from Simo’s YouTube tutorial for Relix.)
BY TIFFINI TAYLOR
The blues are back and is on fire with J.D. Simo. There is special place in American history for the blues. J. D, Simo is a bluesman with heart in the music he creates. In the past he has toured with band such as The Allman Brothers and Blackberry Smoke. His success is due to a good talent and a love for the blues. His influences include Jimi Hendrix, Mile Davis, and bluesman such as B.B. King and Lightnin’ Hopkins. He came and played Hard Rock Café in Pittsburgh, PA and brought blues to a crowd.
There was a chill in the air and the audience was ready for a show. It was quite a show. The band is simple comprised of a drummer and bass. This allows for riffs of continuous blues that will impress anyone. He is truly a talented guitarist and his guitar will make you want one yourself. The evening was filled with crowd approving with roars of excitement and appreciation. If you want a good blues show and a great night out, check his concert out, you will not be disappointed.
We had the opportunity to speak with J. D. Simo, and below is what he had to say.
Blurt Magazine: How old were you and what was the first song you heard?
J.D. Simo: “The first song I remember was John Lee Hooker singing “Boom Boom” in the Blues Brothers movie. I was probably 2 or 3 years old. I was obsessed with that movie!”
Blurt: What age were you when you decided music is what I am doing?
J.D.: “Oh, it wasn’t too long after that. I got a guitar when I was 4 and it was all I wanted to do. I started performing for folks right around then too. By the time I was 8 or 9 I was playing out in bars. I can’t really remember a time where I wasn’t doing it.”
Blurt: What age did you begin playing guitar? Why choose the guitar, or did the guitar choose you?
J.D: “I was 4. I originally wanted to be a drummer but my folks where having none of that. The guitar was such a part of what I was into that it was a natural second choice. Scotty Moore behind Elvis, Steve Cropper on all the Stax stuff. I wanted to do that!”
Blurt: What style of guitar do you play now? What is your favorite guitar?
J.D.: “I’ve had to play all sorts of stuff to make a living. Lots of Bluegrass and country along with all the R&B, Blues and Rock and Roll. At heart, I’ll always be a blues player with a cherry on top, haha. My favorite guitar is an old 1962 Gibson 335 I’ve had for several years. I’ve beat it all to hell! We’ve been through a lot together me and that guitar.”
Blurt: Who were your early influences you growing up? Who inspires you now?
J.D.: “Elvis and his early band with Scotty Moore were big. As I mentioned, Steve Cropper and Booker T and the MG’s. Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry… All the 50’s stuff because once I was into Elvis, all that other great stuff was linked to it and I found it easily. Looking back, it’s cool that I learned about Rock and Roll from the original source forward instead of working backwards.
Today I’m still influenced by all that old stuff. Eddie Taylor, Earl Hooker, Otis Rush, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Johnny Guitar Watson, Magic Sam. I could go on and on!”
Blurt: How would you describe your musical sound?
J.D.: “Well I guess I’m a hippie who plays the blues. Hahaha”
Blurt: How did the band come to be, how did you come together with the other musicians?
J.D.: “Well when I was younger, I always played with guys 20 years older than me or more! No one my age was into playing. When I moved to Nashville 12 years ago, I finally got to work with guys my age. After a bit of struggling to get established in Nashville, I was lucky to get into doing session work. I made my living for several years playing on peoples records every day. My band formed initially out of that. I met a couple like-minded guys who wanted to play what I wanted to play.”
Blurt: Do you have a favorite song from the album being released in March?
J.D.: “Oh, they’re all special to me. I really dig playing “You Need Love though”.”
Blurt: How was the recording process like of the album?
J.D.: “It was low key. I built a studio in my house and throughout 2018 I’d cut stuff to learn the room. We’d have little breaks between tours and I’d invite folks over to cut some stuff. What makes up the album is really 1 session after the summer tour. We just cut like 5 tunes in a day and I really was happy with them. I added 3 from previous sessions and there you have it.
It’s a funky spot and I love having my own space. It’s only got 8 tracks so I can only work old school which I prefer. I love it!”
Blurt: There have been quite a few changes in the music industry and how music is released to the masses, what are your thoughts on the changes? Do you find it easier to get music out to people, and if so, what are the pros and cons of it?
J.D.: “Well, since recorded music is really less than 100 years old, I’d say it’s never stopped changing really. The general concept is still the same though. Get music to folks in the way that is prominent at that time. I’m a millennial and I buy vinyl and stream music constantly. So, it makes sense to me. I’d say it’s actually easier to get music out there than it’s ever been but it’s harder to market because there’s so much. I’m a firm believer that the cream rises to the top though. When something is good it might take longer for folks to find it, but they will.”
Blurt: What advice would you give to up and coming artists?
J.D.: “Get your butt out there and work. No one is gonna do it for you. In that same breath I’d say, how to you expect folks to help you if you won’t help yourself. Book shows, promote yourself on social media, make Youtube videos and work it. In the end it’s up to you how hard you’re willing to work.”
Blurt: This is your opportunity to say whatever is on your mind. Anything else you want to say?
J.D.: “That the world is a beautiful place. I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world and meet all kinds of folks. Poor, rich, educated, drop out, male, female, etc and we really are inherently the same. We all want security, a roof over our head, a good plate of food, money in the bank and most importantly, to be loved and accepted. It never ceases to amaze me how I can be thousands of miles from home and it can feel so familiar. We’re all in this together and it’s up to us to reach out and be kind and loving. The world needs it and we need it too.”
The blues are alive and well thanks to great musicians such as J.D. Simo, it is one of the best parts of American music history. The new album is “OFF at 11” and it is what the music world wants and needs. J.D. Simo and the Cohorts are touring the U.S. at this moment and so go check it out.