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Melody's Miscellaneous: Interview with Ted Simmons

Ted Simmons is originally from Newfoundland, but currently calls Dartmouth, Nova Scotia home. His youth in Newfoundland was the start of his vagabond journey. It was spent traversing the island in a single engine airplane with his father, going into the wilderness, exploring, fishing, camping, and just generally being out there, up in the air. He learned how to live going from place to place carrying very little and needing even less.

Songwriting has been one of the only constants in his life, a life that has been shaped by the many people, places, and things he has encountered along the way. Some fantastic, some strange, some he wishes he had never seen, and others he wishes he could see at least one more time.

He has travelled to, and lived in, many other parts of the world. "I looked beyond where I was from and saw something bigger at a very early age". He traveled to America on his own for the first time when he was just thirteen years old. That was the first time he experienced New York City and it changed him forever.

It was the sounds and stories of the south that captured his imagination as a child. "The first time I heard blues music, I wasn't very old, and had no idea what any of it meant, but it captivated me." From Blues to Country, Folk to Rock and Roll, and R&B to Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, and with influences like Muddy Waters, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and The Band, with powerful, poignant, pretty and sometimes politically driven lyrics, Ted has created a diversity of songs that cover the spectrum of the Americana experience. His lyrics range from topical social commentary, to fun and humorously ridiculous tales, to the poetry of love, loss, loneliness, and longing.

We recently sat down with Ted and had the most interesting conversation with one of the most interesting people.

You recently released your new album. Can you give us a little backstory?

On January 20th, 2023 I released my new album, "Dark and Dirty World." "Dark and Dirty World" is a collection of songs meant to tell a complete story of a character searching for happiness, acceptance and a secure place in the world, as well as coping with grief and hardship in a sometimes humorous or satirical way, in the vain of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks/Desire, Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever/Wildflowers, or Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run/Ghost of Tom Joad. There are two overall recurring themes. First, is the displacement of the working class and the corruption and greed that has spawned the current climate of popular unrest. Second is the emotional struggle that accompanies a failed relationship and a longing for love, companionship, and a sense of belonging that is seemingly out of reach.

It took me about four years to finish. Initially, it was going to be a stripped-down folk kind of album, but I didn’t like the initial demos, so I started over. I wrote some new songs, mostly on the piano instead of on the guitar, and tried to give it a more contemporary feel, I took some things away from those demo sessions, but it still wasn’t resonating with me. So, then I kind of cherry picked my favourite songs out of the entire collection and decided to make a louder, more rock kind of album where it was applicable.

Then the pandemic happened, which slowed things down a bit, but I was able to go song by song and do the recording a little bit at a time until it was done, What came out the other end I was pretty proud of.

What are some of the exciting projects you are working on now?

I am working on a music video for track 2 from my album called Susanna. The imagery and the style of the song will work well for a video I think.

Who are some of your musical influences?

My biggest influence is Bob Dylan. In songwriting, there is Bob Dylan and then everyone else. That said, I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, Bach to The Rolling Stones (who are a big influence), as well as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. I also listen to things that are less obvious influences, Norah Jones for example, even Taylor Swift, I listened to her new album a lot. Then you have what I would call the more country poet type of songwriters Townes Van Zandt being the biggest one, when I first started out that was more my sound. So it changes over time as I take in more and more.

Do you ever experience writer’s block? What do you do to overcome it?

I am dealing with it right now, to be honest. I have been pushing hard to write some new stuff so I can start recording again but the little I have written is of a similar vain to "Dark and Dirty World," so what I have decided to do is just leave it alone for a bit and just live life a little.

What do you hope fans take away from your music?

I hope they listen to the whole album start to finish and it gets them to think about the world in a bigger way, that things are not one dimensional, everything is connected.

What are some of your hobbies outside of music?

I am an avid gardener. I grow food and flowers in my yard. I also love to cook so in the summer I take the food from my garden and incorporate it into my cooking, and I also use it to make preserves.

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