Hill Country Live Presents
Simplified, Joe Firstman
410 7th St. NW
Washington, DC, 20004
Doors 12:00 PM / Show 5:30 PM
“An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.”
— Charles Bukowski
With raucous guitar riffs, velvety vocals and hook-laden melodies, Simplified has been hailed as one of music’s most interesting and, ironically, most complex bands on the circuit today. Fusing elements of reggae, funk, and calypso, the rollicking quartet has not only stunned critics with its intricate songwriting and versatile stage show but also managed to create a sound all its own … a sound that appears to be stimulating the masses.
In fact, in just seven years since the band’s inception, Simplified has not only performed more than 2,000 shows and been hailed as a “Band on the Rise” by Relix Magazine, but it has also earned the respect of such renown artists as O.A.R., whose saxophone player Jerry Depizzo helped produce their latest album. But don’t be fooled. Simplified’s journey hasn’t always been an easy one. The band has done everything – from the writing, recording and even distributing of their four albums — completely on their own.
“We are proud to have released three studio records, one live album, an E.P. and even two music videos without the help of a record label,” said Simplified Guitarist Chris Sheridan.
That’s not the only thing the band has done on its own. They’ve also managed to continue to reinvent themselves with each and every new record – a feat not often seen in today’s sedentary music scene.
“When we started the band back in 2004 we had more of a ‘jam’ rock kind of thing going on that incorporated everything from funk and country to soul,” said Vocalist Clee Laster. “Yet, for our new album, we’re definitely taken on a more rock-driven sound. It wasn’t a conscious decision to look for a certain sound or style. It was just the band members, their individual styles, and their influences that make our sound what it is.”
Their latest release Brighter Days is a testament to the band’s musical evolution. Calling it “honest and organic rock,” Simplified’s newest effort embodies a bolder, more defiant sound than the previous albums and marks a focused vision for the band. Part of the shift in direction was, in part, due to the all-star team of engineers that were brought in by Depizzo, including Jeff Juliano (Dave Mathews Band, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Train) and Brian Lucey (The Black Keys, O.A.R., Sami Yusef).
“We are all very proud of our new album, says Sheridan. “It’s the best project we’ve done so far and we are excited to get it out for people to hear it.”
What the band should also be proud of its dedication to its loyal fan base. Since forming more than seven years ago, Simplified has always made themselves accessible to their audiences. In fact, at each and every show, members of the group can often be found hanging out with fans, shaking hands and taking pictures with those that helped them get to where they are today. They also pride themselves on staying current and keeping in touch with their fans through social networking sites and good old fashioned personal interaction.
“We love to interact with friends and fans, said bass guitarist Chris Lynch. “It’s important to us to let people know how much we appreciate them. After all, it’s them who make it happen for us.”
For the band that started as an acoustic duo in 2004 and has quickly become one of the industry’s top emerging rock bands, it’s safe to say that Simplified has evolved into a true tour de force thanks to its one basic belief — hard work, great music and a genuine passion for what they do. And there’s nothing simple about that.
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.
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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