By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to the Wreckhouse Weekly
Musician Bill Simms was born and raised in Massey Drive and currently resides in Bonne Bay Pond. From a very young age, Simms was exposed to music.
“Both of my grandfathers played music on an amateur level,” said Simms. “My Pop died when I was seven or so, and I had access to a bunch of instruments that he had. I hadn’t played before then, and really, I didn’t start playing until I was about 14. There were some instruments kicking around, some of which I am still playing today.”
Simms grew up in a family where his affinity for music was nurtured and reinforced.
“They are still very supportive of my music, and any way they can help, they’ve done it. I’ve felt very fortunate for that because I know for some people, that’s not the case,” said Simms.
Music had always been something that Simms was drawn to, and everything about it appealed to him.
“I always just loved music, the idea of music, I would make little cardboard guitars and pretend I was playing them,” said Simms. “In a way it’s something that has always been there.”
Simms isn’t a one-trick pony. Not only does he write his own music, but he also plays a wide variety of instruments that people may not always see when they go to a live show.
“Mostly I play guitar. Guitar is my first instrument, then probably mandolin which I don’t play quite as often, but I love playing it. Electric bass and upright bass as well, I play a lot of those these days,” said Simms.
He doesn’t stick to just one particular style of music either. A lot of what he writes can range from roots/Americana to old-style country, bluegrass and rockabilly. Simms started off songwriting before he knew how to play an instrument, and that introduced him to another aspect of performing and provided him with valuable skills to use in his career
“I was writing songs, then I started learning guitar to go along with the songwriting in a way,” said Simms. “I’ve done that all along, but then I also shifted to being a side musician which I still love to do. Through doing that I feel I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot of experience. I’ve played with a lot of artists within Canada before, and it’s such a great opportunity to see how they run their business, how they organize their time, and what kind of people they have on their teams.”
In 2007 Simms attended College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville as part of the Music Industry and Performance program. It was not where Simms initially intended to go to school, but one presentation changed his mind
“I had applied to go to MUN, and I ended up getting into the university but not into the music program, and so I was still planning on going until Ginger Bennett came to my high school and did a presentation about the CNA program, and it really seemed like it was something for me,” said Simms. “I did three years there. I did the music industry and performance and the one-year crossover to recording arts and it was just fantastic.”
Simms’ album, Sweltering Sun, was recorded at Box Car Sound Recording in Hamilton Ontario and featured numerous, talented musicians.
“Recording this album has been really good, it’s been a long time in the making,” said Simms. “I love all kinds of music and I write a lot of kinds of music, so reeling it all into this country project was a challenge but also really fun and rewarding. This is a really important milestone, and I am really happy to have it available. I am really happy with the product and people seem to dig it.”
Simms has just finished a tour across Newfoundland for his album called the ‘Ol Billy Bob Boy Out and About Tour’. He started booking gigs in May, and his first show kicked off in Corner Brook on Aug. 23. His final show took place on Sept. 4 at Quidi Vidi Brewery. This was his first time doing a tour of his own music, but from vehicle troubles to COVID, Simms was dealt a few blows when getting geared up to go on tour, but is happy to be back on stage.
“I love performing, I love the feeling that I get when I’m performing. Over the winter it was something I missed and didn’t realize how much until I performed again.”
Simms said that his shows went really well and were very well received by those in attendance.
“Audiences have been really happy and really excited to be able to get out and see music again,” said Simms.
Simms said that the pandemic affected all aspects of his career from the release of his album to his ability to play live shows. In fact, he has never gotten the chance to play with the band on his album. They would record one at a time, but never played all together. Despite some setbacks, things seem to be taking a turn for the best.
Not only has Simms been taking part in numerous virtual conferences such as the Music NL online conference, and Folk Unlocked, he has also received approval for the Market Access Grant Newfoundland and Labrador through Music NL which is a grant used to support artists touring in the province.
Now that his tour is over, Simms plans on focusing on songwriting, and starting work on a new record with more of a rockabilly twist.
For more information on Bill Simms’ music, visit his website at: http://www.olbillybobboy.com, or find him on Facebook and Instagram under Ol Billy Bob Boy.