Simplified, Joe Firstman

When the laid back vibe of Myrtle Beach, SC meets acoustic rock of Lake Michigan, Simplified, the island rock band arrives with a loud and welcoming splash. In 2002, Clee Laster of SC and Chris Sheridan a MI native, started out as an acoustic duo. Early on, both musicians displayed innate musical capabilities, which were passed down from family members, and inspired by a diverse collection of original influences. They both grew up on the water, in different parts of the country, but the beach life-blood continues to surge within their suntanned souls, flowing forth in passionate, fun, and energetic jams.

They began playing acoustic shows, revving up and charming the Charlotte, NC crowds, while writing original songs. In 2003, the full band took shape as Simplified. Acclaimed as a dedicated touring machine, they gained new fans, one by one. Simplified’s sound caught on, with a devoted fan base in the Southeastern US. With their incessant touring, an enthusiastic buzz was growing, and in turn they began booking shows nationwide, playing for increasingly larger audiences.

With a never-ending tour schedule, including over 3,000 powerhouse, popular performances, Simplified members, with both electric and acoustic acts, are enthusiastic as ever. From Key West, FL to New York City and throughout the Midwest, their hard work, perseverance and commitment have always been key to their hard earned success. Sequentially, in 2011, their song “Shall We Begin” was featured on ESPN’s ‘Kick off to College GameDay.’ Currently their hit “Gettin Home,” is featured in the video game, NASCAR The Game 2013 and they have been praised as one of Pandora Radio’s top played indie rock bands.

Still writing and riding the sometimes choppy, always exciting musical shores, Clee and Sheridan reinvented the band in 2013 with their newest material, while getting back to their island rock roots. This year, they are releasing tracks from their crowd-pleasing, May 10th, 2013 show at Hideaway Cafe in St. Petersburg, FL. Sheridan states, “Our fans have been requesting a live album so we are focusing on getting as much live content out as possible.”

Sheridan and Clee have effectively reformulated the band by adding key ingredients: new players with positive energy, multi-instrumentalists, and a camaraderie that stimulates their passion for writing new material. Now abandoning what others suggested, returning to their roots of a feel good vibe, Clee explains, “We are writing new songs for ourselves and our fans, not for a producer or critic. We are getting right back to where we started, with what we know and love…music that makes you smile.”

Their signature sound is a contagious fusion of rock and reggae, attracting a diverse audience and embracing every kind of fan. Sheridan emphasizes, “We’re a rock band with elements of reggae, funk, and acoustic roots. We don’t limit ourselves musically and it shows in the songs we write.” Conjuring up the island rock roots, Clee expresses, “Our live shows are all about having fun. Each performance will bring you to the beach and right back home.”

A decade later, Simplified continues to evolve and attract new audiences through their crowd-pleasing, relatable songs and ongoing support from their loyal fans. Starting out as two musicians with a dream, to one of the industry’s top emerging rock bands, makes Simplified a true tour de force. There’s nothing simple about that.

Joe Firstman




Joe Firstman bought an $18 cross-country Greyhound ticket from his home in North Carolina to Los Angeles, arriving with a beat-up guitar and head full of songs. He quickly found the big stage. It all happened quickly: first came the big Hollywood gigs, then the industry buzz, then the big deal with Atlantic Records and national tours with big rock stars like Sheryl Crow, Jewel, and Willie Nelson. There was ego and excess and beautiful ladies and music, music, music. Firstman wrote it all down and sang his songs like his life depended on it.




"In the songs of Joe Firstman, sensitive young men prowl the hills of Los Angeles, searching for fame and beauty, only to find self-destructive behavior and egos gone wild…” wrote Jim Farber in the New York Daily News. “While Hollywood's peaks and pitfalls have been prominently charted by songwriters from Don Henley, Stevie Nicks and Jackson Browne to Warren Zevon, Firstman aims to reinvent the milieu for his own generation."

When the world stopped spinning, he’d landed a regular gig as the bandleader on the “Last Call with Carson Daly” show. For four years, this was his university – playing and writing songs in whatever style the show’s musical guests played and learning how to engage a studio audience, day in and day out.

Firstman released his 7th studio album, “Swear It Was A Dream,” on September 6, 2011. The album features 10 new songs written and recorded over the last year in studios in Charleston, SC, Mexico, Los Angeles, and Nashville. Of the album, Firstman shared, “You can really feel the year in the record, you can feel the whole journey in there and it’s my best piece. It’s my best thing thus far.”

The album’s first single, “Who’s Turning Your Light Out?” is Firstman’s exploration of straightforward, unadulterated songwriting. “It was just a very personal lyric, but I tried to make it into a pop song that everybody would get. Its got lyrics about South Carolina and falling asleep with your head in your hands—I thought the imagery was relatable, “ says Firstman.

“Swear It Was A Dream” is the follow-up to Firstman’s two 2010 releases, “El Porto,” and “Live At The Treehouse,” both released on Rock Ridge Music. In 2009, Firstman’s full-time, four-year job as bandleader on “Last Call with Carson Daly” ended when Firstman shifted his focus to his independent musical pursuits. Prior, Firstman put out a full-length (“The War of Women”) and an EP (“Wives Tales”) on Atlantic, plus another full-length (“DrAma”) and live EP (“Live at The Sandbox”), which were released independently.

As Firstman was wrapping up “Swear It Was A Dream” in Nashville, he formed a new band with longtime friends and collaborators Jaron Lowenstein, Toby Weaver, and John Lloyd, dubbed “Cordovas.” Their debut, self-titled, album features all new songs written and produced by Firstman in his first efforts at writing for a full-band and three part harmonies. Additionally, Firstman is currently producing Lowenstein’s forthcoming solo album.

On September 3, 2011, The Cordovas launched their first US Tour, featuring a solo Firstman as the supporting act. The Cordovas tour wraps November 15 in Yakima, WA and Firstman will immediately jump into his tour with Zach Myers (Shinedown, The Farewell.) Firstman usually spends over 200 days touring per year and has shared the stage with such acts as Sheryl Crow, Jewel, and Willie Nelson.

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Hill Country's Backyard Barbecue! Featuring Hill Country’s award-winning Texas-style barbecue, ice-cold Shiner beers, and signature cocktails on the spacious and picturesque West Lawn of the National Building Museum (401 F Street, NW; www.nbm.org; 202.272.2448). Gates open at noon!

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Simplified, Joe Firstman

Friday, July 19 · Doors 12:00 PM / Show 5:30 PM at Hill Country DC

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