Chris, thanks for speaking with us today about Simplified!
Q1: When did you first start playing music?
Thank you Greg. Music has always been a big part of my life since I can remember. I remember getting my first toy record player when I was 4 or 5 years old. I always liked anything that had a nice melody. My dad was an aspiring songwriter and wrote a lot of lyrics and poetry so I had that influence. The elementary school I went to in Dallas, TX had a music class for kids and I remember loving that. When I was 9 I begged my parents to buy me this little Casio keyboard and I promised them I’d be a musician if they did, ha. After my mom moved us back to Michigan I picked up drums and with my minimal keyboard skills, I was always chosen to play the xylophone, bells, and glockenspiel parts in junior high and high school band. I picked up guitar when I was 12 and that became my main instrument over the years. I self taught and had to do extending borrowing of books from my hometown’s little library and rely on guitar magazines to learn because there really wasn’t anyone around to teach me. I played guitar in the high school jazz band as well, but I really didn’t have a clue, ha.
Q2: Who were some of your biggest influences?
I’ve had so many influences over the years. Early on, Slash was my motivating factor in wanting to really get into guitar stuff. He had a great tone and style that I was attracted to, not to mention a pretty cool hat. The Edge from U2 is a big influence as well because of his style and use of effects. He really does great things that compliment the song. Andy Summers from The Police is another guy I dig. Eric Johnson for his tone. I always gravitated to listening to guitarists that do their own thing. In my teens and afterward I really got into listening to the jammier/southern rock stuff like DMB, Blues Traveler, Phish, Allman Brothers, etc. One of my first concerts was an Allman Brothers show in Detroit, MI and that was my first time seeing Warren Haynes and Dickey Betts together. One of my new favorite guitarists is 21 year old Australian virtuoso Joe Robinson. I got to sit in on a session in Nashville with him last summer and he is an amazing player and a hell of a nice guy. I’m also influenced by horn players because of their phrasing. Leroi Moore (R.I.P.) from DMB has some great lines that I liked to cop and make my own. I love piano too. Bruce Hornsby is an influence and one of my favorite artists.
Q3: How do you go about writing a new song?
Our process usually starts with an idea like a lick, riff, or melody that one of us comes up with. Then we will take that and a do a sit down writing session and come up with some potential lyrical content. It usually just grows from that. In the past we all sat around and just kind of jammed and came up with music and then the lyrics came last as more of an afterthought. The past few years, Clee and I have come up with a writing system taking a more singer/songwriter approach. We sit around with the acoustic and focus on lyrics and melody. We are currently throwing ideas around for an upcoming acoustic project.
Q4: What inspired you to be come a musician?
Everything I was surrounded by when I was a kid from family and friends. MTV back when they used to play videos. Just the love of music really. For a few years, I didn’t play at all after I moved to Charlotte. When my dad passed away, it was a wakeup call for me. That really let me know about mortality and how we are here for a short time. So I decided to pursue what I really love. I don’t want to look back later in life and regret “not doing” something.
Q5: How did you decide on the name Simplified for your group?
I sometimes wish there was a better backstory to this and I’m sure I could make something up, but I’ll be honest. When Clee and I started playing our acoustic shows around Charlotte 10 years ago, we were having a hard time coming up with a name. We were performing at a local pub one night, having a lot of tequila and Jaeger, and mentioned to a fan that we needed a name. She said “Why don’t you guys just be Simplified” or something like that. I instantly loved it because it is memorable and I think it describes who we are since we were really just a duo at the time. So it stuck.
Q6: What do you love most about making music?
Freedom of expression and being able to create.
Q7: How would you describe the music of Simplified?
It was hard in our first couple of years to describe our sound because as independent artists, we didn’t limit ourselves to once particular style or genre. But now, we describe Simplified as funky, reggae, roots rock, or something like that.
Q8: Your song “Wake and Bake” has a video on YouTube that someone created. It shows the Grinch smiling into the camera for the duration of the song. Have you seen that video and do you have any idea why he decided on that image?
This is funny that you have seen this. I came across the “Grinch” video a couple of years ago and noticed that it had a good amount of hits and it was growing. I looked for the guy that posted it and found him so I could thank him for spreading the music. His name is Tyler Murtaugh and he lives out west in Nebraska. I have my own theory of why he decide on the “green” Grinch, but when I asked him, he said it was a joke for a friend or something. Anyway, he is responsible for the “Wake ‘n Bake” Grinch video on YouTube and it is approaching 100,000 hits. When it gets a million hits, I’m going to fly him to a show and throw a party and find out the real reason why he used The Grinch. View the Grinch video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwZYZv75kpk
Q9: Are there plans for another album in the future?
The plan right now is to take an undetermined break for the full band. We have played a great amount of shows and we are ready for some changes. I’m not sure it it’s a hiatus or whatever, but I think it’s the right move for all of us. There are rumors going around that we are breaking, but we are just going to focus on the bigger shows and special events for a while versus touring constantly. Clee and I are going to continue with our acoustic shows though and focus on an acoustic record. It is something the fans want, and a something we’ve wanted to do for a while.
Q10: How has music changed you as a person since you began playing?
I’ve been into music for a long time so I couldn’t tell you how or if it’s changed me. It’s just who I am more than what I do. If I wasn’t into music, I’m sure I’d be doing some kind of performing arts thing. I am currently getting into some voice over acting and taking some voice over and acting classes for that.
Q11: What song do you enjoy performing live the most?
My new current favorite song to perform live is actually a cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”. It’s one of my favorite rock anthem songs of all time. We did a live recording of it at one of our shows this summer and got a license to put it out for people to download. For originals, “Something Bigger” is always fun to jam. I like “She Don’t Care” and “Screaming at the Ceiling” too.
Q12: If you had to choose one song that you connect with the most, that you think symbolizes who you really art, what song would it be?
Great question. That’s a tough one. I think I really connect with “Wait a Minute”. When Clee and I were writing that, we were both drawing inspiration from our own experiences. Lyrically, I connect with that song on a deeper level.
Q13: What do you love about playing the guitar?
The guitar is such an expressive instrument. There are so many styles you can play on guitar. Guitar is portable. When I’m feeling down, it’s there for me. When I’m inspired, it’s there for me. And there is always something new to learn on guitar. I don’t think anyone really ever masters playing guitar. Maybe a few, but not many…And definitely not me. Which is a good thing, so then I’ll always have something to look forward to, ha.
Q14: How does performing live in front of a crowd impact you as a musician?
There is nothing like the live energy of a crowd to really make a show great. When we do a concert, it isn’t just about the band. It’s everybody in the room. Our audience and fans make us.
Q15: What have been some of your biggest accomplishments?
We have what I call slow, organic growth. We’ve done a lot on our own in a tough business. 3 studio records, a live record, an EP, and 3 music videos. We’ve toured half the country and played around 3,000 shows or something crazy. We have songs licensed for major television networks and some upcoming film projects. We’ve played some great festivals and won a few awards. But I have to acknowledge that we’ve been surrounded by some great people throughout the years. Our agency has booked some great stuff for us and friends and family have helped us finance our projects and invested in us. We’ve been surrounded by some talented people that have worked with us on our records and music videos. My biggest accomplishment is that I get to play music for a career.
Chris, thanks again for taking the time to speak with us today. We really appreciate the opportunity and look forward to seeing what the future has in store for you!
Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time!