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 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.”