JD SIMO (SIMO) Interview

JD Simo

Hot shot Blues slide guitarist JD Simo is on tour in the UK with Aaron Keylocke and Federal Charm. Mick Burgess caught up with JD to talk about the tour, their latest album, and more.

You’re over in the UK for an extensive tour with Aaron Keylocke and Federal Charm. How’s it going so far?

It’s going really well. The crowds have been really into it and there’s three great bands on one bill. We came over to the UK for the very first time last November and we’re really excited to be getting to visit all the nooks and crannies across the UK. When this tour concludes it’ll push us over 200 shows that we’ve done this year. We’ve only been home 25-30 days this year and we’re all a little loopy as we have no idea where we are but we’re loving these shows.

You’ll be playing 17 shows over a 3 week period. That’s a pretty gruelling schedule. How are you going to pace yourself on the road?

You just do it. We’ve done as many as 9 shows in a row. It may be gruelling to some but at the moment we’re so well-conditioned that it’s nothing to us. If you get a proper amount of rest and don’t do stupid things you’ll be OK. As a guitarist you should be able to play through anything. I’ve had the flu, have thrown up and still played through it but as the singer too, it’s a lot more difficult if you blow your voice out but you just have to try and stay healthy and go out and figure out how to do it.

How will the tour work? Are you rotating who goes on when or have you decided already on the running order?

We’re alternating every night which is fine. I’m cool with that. Every single night we do something different and never play the same songs. So if we are going to be playing a different length every night then that’ll influence the songs we do and that’s in keeping with what we normally do anyway.

What have you got lined up for your set?

We never know. We decide before we go out on stage what we’ll be playing. Our repertoire is rather large at the moment and we’re a quarter way through the process of making our next album so there’s a few songs that will be on the next album that’ll be in and out of the shows on the tour. We always try to put two or three new songs into the set so that we can refine them before finally recording them. We don’t plan in advance, we decide minutes before we go on stage.

Your new album Let Love Show The Way came out earlier this year. Are you pleased with the reaction it’s received?

We’re really happy with it. It’s funny though as we’re now a couple of months into working on our next one so we don’t really look in the rear view mirror that much. We tend to look forward but we’re all pleased with how it turned out and we hope the next one will be better still.

This is 5 years since your debut album Simo, why did it take so long for the follow up?

We originally formed the band to have a little fun in Nashville. It quickly became something where we had a desire to take things to a bigger place. We did that first album really as something just to sell at shows. There was no great plan in place. All of a sudden we got management, then signed a record deal and got all of the machinery of the business in place and started touring relentlessly. It wasn’t until all of that started that we became a real entity and began to think about making our first proper record.

Your original bass player Frank Swart left a couple of years back. What happened there?

It just didn’t really work out. He was around for the initial time when we were just playing around Nashville and maybe making the odd trip out of town every once in a while. Life moved on for him and it just wasn’t meant to be. There wasn’t any big thing about it.

You’ve spent a long time on the road playing all over the place. How did that experience on the road hone your songwriting and the way you performed together as a band?

There’s nothing like it. The work is daunting but what you learn from it is incredible. You can tell too. You can tell when a band has gone to school as it were and when one hasn’t. Every single performance is a refinement process. You have to put the effort in and every time we get off stage we ask each other what worked and what didn’t work and what could we do to make it better. That helps us grow as musicians and as writers and also as performers. There’s a big difference between what we were like at the start of this year and now. We’ve grown a lot in a short space of time as we’ve worked so hard.

There’s an intriguing song on there called Becky’s Last Occupation. What’s that all about?

That one’s actually about the bailout of the banks that happened here in America a few years ago. It’s about dissatisfaction about what happened. I come from a working class background and I’ve certainly had some moments where we worried about whether we’d starve so when it comes to situations like that I, like many other working class guys had a certain amount of dissatisfaction and I just wanted to write about that.

As a slide guitar player yourself what better way to open up the album than Elmore James’s Stranger’s Blues. How much of an influence was Elmore James on you as a guitarist?

When I was younger it was all about the Allman Brothers and it wasn’t until I was a little older that I grew to love Elmore James. I’m also obsessed with Lightning Hopkins at the moment. I think you have to have some life experience to fully appreciate their work. I love Elmore James’s singing and people don’t really talk about that much they always talk about his slide guitar playing. That dude could sing, he really could.

You actually recorded the album using Duane Allman’s 1957 Les Paul. How did you manage to get hold of the guitar that recorded Layla and the first two Allman Brothers albums?

I’m really good friends with the guy who owns it and I met him randomly ten years ago. When we were making the album my friend was there and he said that I was welcome to use it. It was a very, very childlike moment for me when I put my hero’s guitar on. It was a great moment for me. It’s a great instrument and I loved playing it.

The album has a very live, organic feel. Did you record together, live in the studio?

We were live in the studio. It was very spontaneous and very little of it was planned. It’s got a real live feel and that’s the way I like it.

You took the rather bold step of producing the album yourself. Why did you do that?

It just happened that way. It wasn’t a conscious decision. Those first batch of songs that got us a record deal were basically demos that I’d produced. When we went into make the record we just worked like we had done before and I did the production. There was no plan though, that’s just the way it went. Next time we’ll be working with a team of people and it’s already started to be a lot of fun. I don’t think I’ll produce myself again but I can see the day when I’ll produce other artists. I think it’ll be a lot easier producing someone else rather than yourself, that’s for sure.

Your new album is out and you have a huge tour ahead of you. What are your plans for Simo going into 2017?

There’s no end in sight as far as touring goes. We’re very excited to be playing live and love doing that. We’ll be recording and finishing the next record and we’re excited with what we’ve done so far and we’re more than ready to get it finished and released in 2017.

SIMO is on tour in the UK now with Aaron Keylock and Federal Charm.

Let Love Show The Way is out now on the Mascot Label Group


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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