Shifting Course with an Attention to The Tide

In conversation with musician and actor Cody Simpson

Photography by Santiago Bisso
Written by Chris Campanioni



Chris Campanioni: You started publishing music on YouTube. You later were “discovered” on the same medium. How indebted are you to social media as an artist and where do you see the future of social media explicitly within the arts?
Cody Simpson: I wouldn’t call myself indebted to social media, I was an early adaptor and reaped the benefits. Social media really is the most practical outlet for wide consumption of art nowadays, in all categories … artists of all types are using social media as a means of expression and self-promotion. Instagram itself can be a form of art if approached in that sense. I use multiple platforms for my music, my poetic works, and my theatre/cinema endeavors. In the future, I could envision the abolishment of most physical forms of art in favor of virtual forms. 

CC: How does surfing intersect with or inform your music?
CS: They intersect completely. Surfing, as it was originally conceived, was a practice reserved for those living in deep connection to nature and seeking a form of union with it. For me, surfing invigorates a unique part of me inaccessible by other means. 

CC: When and how did you get interested in acting? What were some of the initial challenges? How has acting helped your music and vice versa?
CS: It was brilliant actors of generations past such as Marlon Brando and James Dean that inspired me to seek out formal study. Acting to me is all about finding the slipstream of flow, the moment to moment reality in a scene. Acting and the theatre has begun to find its way into my live performances with my band as well. I’ve realized a pop concert can be like a theatre trip too. 

“I remember being born. I have a vivid flash of memory from that day at the hospital. Then after that it’s all pitch-black until I was about 5 when I first picked up a guitar.”

CC: Tell me about the process and development of forming your own label. What have been some of the most noticeable advantages or benefits as an artist?CS: It’s allowed me extreme freedom in releasing whatever I feel like as a musician. I was able to start my own group, and begin releasing music on my own time. I’ve always found that the process of approval by industry veterans can spoil an artist’s vision. This is something I am trying to avoid in my process with Cody & The Tide. 

CC: Your music has become increasingly more socially-conscious and political. Tell me about that shift and where you see yourself going next as a singer and songwriter. 
CS: It’s been a natural shift as I’ve developed my own ideologies and viewpoints. As an environmentalist I’ve found it important to tell that story through music in addition to my work in social activism and with the UNDP. The line I like to ride in my music allows me to speak on common popular concepts like love, romance, and sex, but also about freedom, and environmental preservation. That will continue moving forward.

CC: Thinking about moving forward—what do you actually do all day? 
CS: At the moment I’m rehearsing on Broadway most days at the theatre, and before and after I’m either reading or swimming laps. I also like to go out with my friends and my band, and jam on new music at my apartment. 

CC: Favorite song growing up?
CS: “Flake” by Jack Johnson. And “Mean Woman Blues” by Elvis Presley. 

CC: If you could do anything in the world, what would you do?
CS: Clean up the earth. Move the world toward a cleaner, greener future, and raise nature-awareness the world over. 

CC: What’s your earliest memory? 
CS: I remember being born. I have a vivid flash of memory from that day at the hospital. Then after that it’s all pitch-black until I was about 5 when I first picked up a guitar.

CC: Looking at today fiftyyears from now, what’s our cultural zeitgeist? 
CS: From my perspective I’m hoping it’s viewed as a time in which young people took the planet back. Millennials are waking up, changing their diets, their ways of living. I think young people are extremely self-aware and intelligent in a manner that they haven’t been before as a function of having the Internet. I’d like to look back and see it as a major shift in consciousness and a kind of turning of the tides. 

CC: What’s the number one thing holding you back right now?
CS: My mind. We’re all victims of our own mental self-limitation. I’m trying to break through to the other side. To a mind-set in which anything and everything is possible. A kind of perpetual dream state in the real world.

CC: What’s the last book, film, play, song, artwork, or exhibit that changed your life?
CS: The album Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. 

“I’m never more alive than when I’m going someplace. I never want to feel stagnant. I always want to go.” 

CC: What’s the most pressing issue we’re facing today?
CS: The critical condition of our natural world. The depletion of natural resources, food, land and such. Without an earth to live on, there’d be no economic or political issues in the first place. 

CC: What’s your guilty pleasure?
CS: Social media.

CC: What does travel mean to you? 
CS: Everything. It invigorates the spirit. I’m never more alive than when I’m going someplace. I never want to feel stagnant. I always want to go. 

CC: What are you afraid you won’t do before you die?
CS: Write something miraculous.