Cody Simp­son


GQ (Australia) - - NEWS -

There are teenage girls every­where. Teenage girls and par­ents of teenage girls. It’s a chilly Satur­day evening and we’re at a small live venue in Syd­ney’s Kings Cross, wait­ing for Cody Simp­son to ar­rive. The dark is set­ting in, but fans have been lin­ing up out­side since 10am. We meet the 18-year-old in a mod­est back­stage area. Tall and tanned, he’s dressed in a denim jacket and jeans; his hair, that just a cou­ple of years ago was whipped into a stiff peak is now re­laxed into a long, blond wave that curls around his ears. “I’m only re­ally conf­dent when I’m up there play­ing,” he says, set­tling into a couch and re­fect­ing on tonight’s per­for­mance. “It’s the only time I feel 100 per cent com­fort­able in my own skin. It’s how a lot of mu­si­cians feel, like they’re be­ing judged any­time they’re not able to prove them­selves by play­ing.” Simp­son, born on the Gold Coast in 1997, has spent a third of his life in the spot­light. At 12, he posted a se­ries of song cov­ers to Youtube, which caught the at­ten­tion of US record pro­ducer Shawn Camp­bell. “I think he’s the next Justin Tim­ber­lake,” Camp­bell told ABC’S The 7.30 Re­port in 2009. Simp­son quickly moved state­side, to Los An­ge­les, and signed with At­lantic Records on his 13th birth­day. He then re­leased four EPS in as many years, hired Justin Bieber’s man­ager, ap­peared on the US ver­sion of Danc­ing With the Stars, and built a so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing al­most equal to Aus­tralia’s pop­u­la­tion. It was ex­actly how a pop star’s ca­reer is sup­posed to go. But then Simp­son took con­trol. He dropped At­lantic Records in Au­gust 2014, and launched his own la­bel, Coast House Records. “I’m not call­ing them out, but be­ing so young and not hav­ing the courage to voice my opin­ion, I just went for the ride,” he says, look­ing back. “It took a while to re­alise how far I’d been taken from my au­then­tic roots.” What were they turn­ing you in to? “A full-blown man­u­fac­tured pop star, and that’s not what I am. So I pulled the plug.” The re­sult was his frst in­de­pen­dent al­bum, Free. Re­leased this July, it fea­tures 14 tracks writ­ten by Simp­son that de­liver the same laid-back, surfy vibe that sent Hawai­ian Jack John­son to the top of the charts in the early 2000s. “It’s more re­spon­si­bil­ity on my part, but I’ve al­ways liked do­ing things by my­self,” he says. “I don’t re­ally care

if it goes down, to be hon­est – I’ll make an­other one and I’ll only be 19 or 20. I’m in no rush.” Some of the pres­sure is no doubt re­lieved by Simp­son’s al­ready mas­sive, loyal fan base (the al­bum’s frst two of­f­cial videos quickly racked up more than 3.5 mil­lion Youtube hits). Still, so­cial me­dia can cut both ways. “I tweeted about le­gal­is­ing cannabis the other day be­cause it’s stupid that cig­a­rettes are le­gal and weed’s not,” he says. “It causes no harm. All th­ese pre­scrip­tion pills kill peo­ple ev­ery day. Weed has pos­i­tive ef­fects.” Do you smoke? “Ev­ery once in a while, if I’m chill­ing with some mu­sic; at the end of a long day, if I just want to sit down and play gui­tar – I don’t do it to es­cape any­thing. It’s more of a recre­ational thing.” Not ev­ery­one in his cir­cle of friends is so re­laxed – a fact re­vealed when he posted a Snapchat video of him jam­ming with Bieber and One Di­rec­tion’s Niall Ho­ran. Me­dia out­lets spot­ted a ‘sus­pi­cious’ yel­low ob­ject in the footage and ran with it – some sug­gest­ing it was a crys­tal meth pipe. “It’s ob­vi­ously a weed pipe,” says Simp­son. “I wasn’t re­ally both­ered by it, but it was more that there were other peo­ple who needed to look out for their pub­lic per­cep­tion.” It comes with the ter­ri­tory. Af­ter all, Simp­son’s star-stud­ded so­cial feeds reg­u­larly fea­ture Se­lena Gomez, Ken­dall Jen­ner and model Gigi Ha­did, who he dated from 2013. The pair broke up in May this year, but re­main close. “It was a su­per-cool ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing a frst love like that,” he says. “Then peo­ple started pay­ing way more at­ten­tion to us, which took its toll be­cause I didn’t want to be a celebrity – just some guy who’s dat­ing mod­els. It started get­ting su­per gnarly where we couldn’t go out to res­tau­rants. I got scared. Then I had to go away on tour, and we ended up split­ting up.” Talk turns to Simp­son’s four tat­toos, all inked in LA. “I don’t ever want to get a sleeve or any­thing, but I like lit­tle sym­bols – I have one here,” he says, point­ing to his right fore­arm and re­veal­ing a small an­chor that sprouts into a palm tree. It’s taste­ful. “I guess it’s sym­bolic of stay­ing grounded, but hav­ing my head in the clouds.” Though he owns a house in the US – “the only big thing I’ve pur­chased” – his fam­ily lives just 10 min­utes down the road, and he cred­its them with keep­ing him grounded. So too, Mi­ley Cyrus. “Mi­ley is one of my best friends and she helps with some of that tran­si­tional stuff – try­ing to es­cape your child­hood. She’s su­per open-minded and I’m work­ing on be­com­ing more like that.” Tonight’s venue is now a sea of glow­ing phone screens. Swap­ping a denim jacket for a leather one, Simp­son makes his way on stage and slings a gui­tar around his neck. “Hi, I’m Cody Simp­son,” he an­nounces to the scream­ing crowd. They al­ready know that, of course. But for the frst time all evening, it seems the young man from the Goldie might just be­lieve it, too. It’s time to play. n

Vin­tage leather jacket, vin­tage cot­ton top, and hat, all from Cream On Crown; cot­ton ‘501’ jeans, $140, by Levi’s at David Jones.

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