By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of Keaton Simons.
There are two different kinds of talented people in the world — small talkers and big talkers. Keaton Simons of Los Angeles, CA. falls into the latter category. This does not imply that he creates grandiose illusions of his life experiences but rather that he takes those seemingly mundane life experiences in a way that genuinely exposes their significance. He must be a fan of Larry David.
BTR was able to have some big talk with Simons on his recent journey from coast-to-coast, gracing New York City with a week of promotion for his latest album, the pop-rock gem, Beautiful Pain. He discussed a myriad of topics from music-based reality television, the meaning behind the title of his new album, and the continued ‘transitional’ period the music industry seems to stay in.
The way he started his solo project in 2007 was not so much “the posting flyers looking for band mates” route but more of finding the proper producer.
“I’m always writing or creating in one way or another and what happened was I was trying to figure out who I wanted to work with as a producer and I met with a few different people and I hit it off with Mikal Blue. We’re both huge Beatles fans and we just really, really hit it off. We decided, ‘Let’s do this. Let’s do this thing.’”
Simons eventually decided to release the songs he had written for Beautiful Pain on his own label, Best Revenge Records. Not such an uncommon move, as more and more musicians are finding out that to achieve this new idea of “success,” being in control of your own work is the way to go.
He spoke of the aforementioned “transitional period,” saying that, “Just like anything, there’s always a changing of the guard and there’s always a period of time, an interim period, where the people who are already on their way out are still in charge.”
“We’re kind of in that place right now, I think, in the music industry,” Simons continues. “It’s very close to handing it over to the newer generation and really kind of affect all of the changes and really continue the evolution of the music industry in the direction that it should be going rather than hold it up because we’re trying to cling to the past.”
Another way in which the music industry has completely changed is the way in which some people ascend to success. Reality television revolutionized the industry, and with it came an influx of shows like American Idol, The Voice and the show Simons was featured on as a guest judge, The Winner Is hosted by Nick Lachey. He admitted to being uncomfortable with the competitive nature of these shows for the contestants but was way more comfortable being a judge.
Simons spoke of a viral quotation by Dave Grohl who antagonized these types of shows by saying, “I think it only has as much weight as it can have through the method of creating itself. Anything that’s created in an empty way isn’t gonna have a lot of fortitude. I think a lot of it depends on the artist, depends on the timing, it depends on a lot of different things. A lot of artists who end up winning those contest shows are people who have been around for twenty years working their ass of and just trying to make it happen. That’s just another avenue of exposure.”
It is clear that Simons takes more of a spectator’s approach to these shows as opposed to Grohl’s reactionary feelings on how the industry has changed, which really opens himself up to more possibilities instead of shutting them down.
These shows are not impervious to fault though, as Simons says that they have become “like an assembly line” due to how many there are, and that the chance an artist will have a sustainable career after they have won is unlikely.
It’s an understandable attitude given Simons’ social circle. He began the interview originally mentioning innocently that it was a “fun night,” which, after investigation, revealed him casually admitting that he was playing a show with Jason Castro and Ryan Cabrera, eventually saying he had a “Cabrera Night” of clubbing.
Needless to say, he’s not one for pretension. About his own successes with music, Simons recognizes his status in Los Angeles has been described as “cult-like” which is an interesting claim to make about an LA-based musician, especially when The Room came out of that town.
“I’ve been doing it for a really long time and I haven’t stopped so there are a lot of people, I’m fortunate to say there are quite a few people who have been with me the whole time and I think that’s what that’s in reference to,” he remarks about his identity as a cult leader. “Basically a following that’s loyal despite the ups and downs. It’s tough to stick with an artist when you really believe that they should blow up huge and even if they do really well and don’t blow up huge it can be very discouraging. I have been fortunate enough to have people stick with me through all of it.”
One fan even got a Beautiful Pain tattoo, which he says is an even bigger honor than judging musicians on television. When asked about why only one of his sleeves is tattooed, he gives a surprisingly succinct answer about his fascination with asymmetry, that all people are equal because they are different.
With a fan devoting part of her body to the meaning behind Beautiful Pain, Simons had yet to explain what it truly meant.
“Beautiful Pain is a concept for me that I’ve been experiencing for my whole life. It’s that feeling of being so overwhelmed by beauty and love that it’s painful and almost unbearably painful sometimes,” he says.
It seems that Keaton Simons hasn’t forgotten how close in the spectrum love and pain actually are.
To feel your own version of Beautiful Pain, click here.
Also, to hear Keaton Simons’ music and interview check out the newest edition of Discovery Corner on BTR!