BACK WHERE WE BE­LONG

AF­TER EIGHT YEARS IN TIN­SEL TOWN, THE TIGHT-KNIT SIMP­SON FAM­ILY IS HAPPY TO RE­TURN HOME TO THE GOLD COAST

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - FEATURE - WORDS: DENISE RAWARD PHOTO: RICHARD GOSLING

The Simpsons name might al­ready be taken in TV land yet the fam­ily of Cody and Alli Simp­son turned down three sep­a­rate of­fers for their own fam­ily re­al­ity show while they lived in LA.

“They wanted drama,” mum Angie says. “But there’s never any drama with us.” “Nope,” Alli agrees. “We’re drama-free.” The Simpsons — well, four of them — are sit­ting at the look­out on Mi­ami head­land, breath­ing in the clean Gold Coast air and snap­ping the odd pic­ture of the spec­tac­u­lar sun­set that seems to be putting on a wel­come home show just for them.

“This is what we missed,” Brad says. “The air and see­ing the sky; peo­ple hav­ing time to have a chat.”

They all chime in: “no dust on ev­ery­thing”, “a great school” and — get this — “the traf­fic is noth­ing”.

The Gold Coast fam­ily who de­cided to pack up their lives to ride the wave of their 13-year-old son’s mu­si­cal pro­file, launched by YouTube videos posted from his bed­room, are back af­ter eight years in the US.

“We thought we might be there for one or two years,” Brad says. “I didn’t ever fore­see any of what hap­pened was go­ing to be on the cards. “But Cody did,” he adds. They all agree. Cody did. At 12, Cody was con­tacted by US mu­sic pro­ducer Shawn Camp­bell who was blown away by the tal­ent of a blond Aussie kid on YouTube who played gui­tar like a pro, could sing, dance and looked like an an­gel.

He mes­saged him via so­cial me­dia with an of­fer to launch his big-time mu­sic ca­reer. Like any good par­ents, Brad and Angie thought it was all a hoax and ad­vised Cody not to reply. Camp­bell per­sisted, they Googled him and the rest, as they say, is his­tory.

The Simpsons, a nor­mal Gold Coast fam­ily, found them­selves thrust into the world of recording con­tracts, tour­ing, me­dia ap­pear­ances and showbiz deals. Some­where along the way, Cody’s younger sis­ter Alli, now 20, was dis­cov­ered as an ac­tor, model and singer. At 14, youngest brother Tom has spent more time liv­ing in Amer­ica than he has in Aus­tralia.

That they are all so nor­mal is com­fort­ing; that they are all so nice is a credit to them.

Not one has picked up a trace of an ac­cent and their tan­gle with fame, king­mak­ers and celebri­ties still leaves them slightly be­mused.

“When Cody signed with At­lantic Records, the con­di­tion was the fam­ily stayed to­gether,” Brad says. “We kind of kept our­selves close by our kids. We would sur­round our­selves around them and we’d have con­ver­sa­tions about what was hap­pen­ing all the time.”

“We kept it real,” Angie adds. “They did char­ity work. Alli was an am­bas­sador for a chil­dren’s hospi­tal char­ity in the US and Cody is a UN ocean ad­vo­cate.”

“We en­cour­aged them to use their voices for good,” Brad says. “To stay re­spect­ful, to treat oth­ers well so they knew that wasn’t go­ing to change just be­cause they got fa­mous.”

They are good to­gether, the Simpsons. They are no fuss, they lis­ten to each other speak and laugh about how com­mon it is for them to all come out wear­ing colour-matched clothes with­out plan­ning it.

For a tight-knit fam­ily stick­ing by each other in a slightly sur­real world, they ad­mit it’s a wrench leav­ing Cody, now 21, in LA to pur­sue his mu­sic ca­reer as an in­de­pen­dent per­former.

His new band, Cody Simp­son and The Tide, formed with two muso mates, re­leased a de­but EP at the end of last year, do­ing a short tour of south­ern Cal­i­for­nia. They re­leased an­other two sin­gles last month.

Alli though wasn’t quite ready to take the step of stay­ing be­hind in LA so has moved to Syd­ney where she’s signed with In­ter­na­tional Man­age­ment Group to see what op­por­tu­ni­ties arise here.

She re­cently ap­peared on Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion screens in the SBS se­ries Filthy Rich and Home­less, where five high-pro­file Aus­tralians spent 10 days liv­ing on the streets with­out money, food, phones, even ac­cess to toi­let fa­cil­i­ties. The go­ing was tough. Alli spent much of her time in tears but she says the re­sponse from the pro­gram has been “awe­some”.

“I did it be­cause I wanted to help,” she says. “I wanted to raise aware­ness and un­der­stand it my­self. It was the most dif­fi­cult thing I’ve ever had to do. It was emo­tional and trau­matic and very hum­bling. It was life chang­ing re­ally.”

Alli has since vis­ited a Gold Coast home­less shel­ter as a first stop to learn how she might be able to help now the pro­gram has wrapped. It’s not unusual that her fam­ily was with her.

They share what they’ve learned about the home­less­ness sit­u­a­tion on the Gold Coast.

“There was only room for seven kids where we vis­ited,” Alli says. “There’s an­other place that has an­other seven beds for young peo­ple. It’s just not enough. There’s noth­ing in north­ern New South Wales so they’ve got nowhere to go,” Brad adds. “You know there’s kids liv­ing in tents in the bush be­hind in­dus­trial ar­eas on the Gold Coast.”

“And there’s no proper gov­ern­ment fund­ing for the shel­ters,” Angie says.

The Simpsons are nat­u­rals in back­ing each other. It’s what saw them take a punt on pur­su­ing Cody’s pas­sion for mu­sic and sup­port­ing Alli’s for­ays into act­ing, mod­el­ling, singing and in­flu­enc­ing.

In large part they’re back in Aus­tralia so Tom can go to a good school and they can be around the fam­ily and friends they missed amid the gen­eral hype of life in LA.

“It was hard to make new friends,” Angie says. “We’re a close fam­ily and when you’re not sure who you trust, you rely on each other. Our kids are very close from our time away and I’m not sure if it would have been the same if we’d stayed here.”

The im­pec­ca­bly man­nered Tom started in Year 9 this term and when Angie asked him how he was set­tling in, his reply was: “Like a ram chip in a moth­er­board”.

Again, no fuss. As it turns out, Tom likes mu­sic and drama too — in his case though it’s clas­si­cal pi­ano and drama be­cause it’s fun.

The Simp­son kids spent quite a bit of their school­ing do­ing lessons with a record com­pany-sup­plied tu­tor in a bus while Cody was tour­ing.

The fam­ily has been to nearly ev­ery US state which, Angie says, is a great ed­u­ca­tion in it­self. “Ev­ery area of the States is so dif­fer­ent,” Tom of­fers. “The pol­i­tics is a bit strange over there — maybe, I’d bet­ter say ‘dif­fer­ent’,” Angie says. “But I love New York,” Alli throws in. Alli ex­pects she’ll still be go­ing back­wards and for­wards to LA for work and Tom says he’d “never say never” about liv­ing there again.

But, for now, the four Simpsons are em­brac­ing life back in Aus­tralia, wait­ing for their pos­ses­sions to clear cus­toms and look­ing for some­where to live, around the Mer­maid area ide­ally.

“We’ve come back with no re­grets,” Brad says. “Our kids wouldn’t have had the op­por­tu­ni­ties they had if we’d stayed here. You never know if you don’t give it a go. One of our fam­ily friends said to us when we were de­cid­ing whether to go, ‘the worst case is you would have taught your chil­dren to fol­low their dreams’.”

An in­spir­ing mes­sage that ul­ti­mately led to an in­spir­ing jour­ney, but one not nearly rocky enough for re­al­ity TV.

“WHEN CODY SIGNED WITH AT­LANTIC RECORDS, THE CON­DI­TION WAS THE FAM­ILY STAYED TO­GETHER.”

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