Sweet Vanilla

Sim­mons solo al­bum shows a whole new side

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY KARLA HAY­WARD

Sea­soned mu­si­cian and Trin­ity South na­tive, Glenn Sim­mons has re­leased his first solo al­bum. Sweet Vanilla is a non-genre spe­cific al­bum, which serves up a va­ri­ety of mu­si­cal flavours.

As a mem­ber of the Won­der­ful Grand Band, and co-founder of the Fa­bles, Glenn Sim­mons could eas­ily be pi­geon­holed as a Celtic/trad-only mu­si­cian. Dis­pelling any pos­si­ble mis­con­cep­tions is his first solo al­bum, “ Sweet Vanilla … and As­sorted Flavours.”

“ This al­bum is a bit non-genre spe­cific,” says Sim­mons. “It goes into many dif­fer­ent ‘ flavours’ … that’s the type of guy I am, I guess!”

Some of the tracks on this al­bum be­gan life eight or nine years ago, though most are more re­cent. “Not ev­ery­thing I wrote was suit­able for the Fa­bles,” he notes. These, Sim­mons would keep to him­self, play­ing with the struc­ture — even demo­ing the songs at home with his eye on a solo al­bum in the fu­ture.

Those record­ings were ex­tremely help­ful to his process, Sim­mons said, as they al­lowed him to “get per­spec­tive” on the songs, as well as al­low friends and fam­ily to lis­ten and pro­vide feed­back. And fi­nally, when it did come time to go into the stu­dio, the other ses­sion mu­si­cians could ac­tu­ally hear how Sim­mons thought the piece should sound be­fore they even be­gan — in a rough state, any­way.

A lot of that hap­pened the Stage­house Stu­dio in St. Philip’s, with peo­ple like Paul Kins­man, Chris LeDrew, By­ron Pardy and Billy Sut­ton each lend­ing their par­tic­u­lar ex­per­tise, with Justin Merd­soy han­dling the en­gi­neer­ing.

“Cory (Tet­ford) did the mix­ing in Hal­i­fax, which is where I spend about half my time these days. He got in touch and said, ‘I hear you’re do­ing an al­bum, how do I get in on it,’” Sim­mons says. “I was de­lighted.”

Why so long to come out with a solo al­bum, if these songs have been per­co­lat­ing in his brain for years?

“I’ve al­ways en­joyed be­ing in the shad­ows some­what. … Years ago, I had thoughts of be­ing a ses­sion mu­si­cian, work­ing in L.A. maybe. But, over time I just fell from one thing to an­other. And sud­denly, the kids are grown and I have more time on my hands. The Fa­bles haven’t been push­ing as hard as we once did, so there’s time to re­ally take a look at these songs I feel strongly about.”

As to those songs, they are in­deed a var­ied but co­he­sive whole. For in­stance, the ti­tle track, “Sweet Vanilla,” has a Mo­town feel. It’s one of those hurts-so-good songs about a girl (Vanilla) and the power she has over a man’s heart. Thank­fully, it keeps it­self from the sac­cha­rine with light­hearted lyrics and up-tempo rhythm.

There’s also some singer-song­writer work that veers into the al­most po­lit­i­cal. “Any­time” treads along the line be­tween anti-es­tab­lish­ment rhetoric and in­spi­ra­tional, “man in the mir­ror” look at your­self and make a change kind of think­ing.

Sim­mons even gets a lit­tle jazzy with “ Where,” a num­ber that’s rather more open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion than some of the other, more straight­for­ward tracks. Is it about the one that got away? God? The hu­man con­di­tion in gen­eral? Whether any or none of the above, it’s one of those great tunes that you can find some­thing new in with each lis­ten.

Sim­mons says that cre­at­ing and pro­duc­ing a solo al­bum has been a very pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

“ You cer­tainly have more con­trol, and I like that. When you’re in a group, it’s a democ­racy.” Lis­ten­ers will also be glad he fi­nally took the leap to­ward giv­ing the world a taste of all the flavours his mu­sic has to of­fer. Learn more about Glenn Sim­mons at http://glennsim­mons-back­home.blogspot.com.

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