Cody Simpson Talks Songwriting, His New Acoustic-Rock Album & Those Duets With Justin Bieber: Idolator Interview

From the cheerful bubblegum-pop of his debut single “iYiYi” to the mellow, beach-rock of 2013 LP Surfers Paradise, Cody Simpson‘s sound has already evolved beyond recognition. That’s probably par for the course when you arrive on the scene as a fresh-faced 13-year-old, but the Aussie star’s sonic transformation has been quicker and bolder than most. The teenager is about to take the next step in his career by embracing a largely acoustic singer/songwriter sound on his third album.

Cody has spent the past few months chipping away at the LP in Malibu with Cisco Adler. “The way I’m going about the new stuff is the way people would go about a rock album,” he explains. “I’m writing everything with the same songwriter and producer — then I get together with my band and record it live. That’s the way I’ve always wanted to do it but never had the capacity or the tools.” Is there still room for a little pop? “No pop for me,” the 17-year-old laughs. “Pop’s dead in my mind.”

That news could come as a shock to fans that grew up on bops like “Wish U Were Here” and “Pretty Brown Eyes,” but the hitmaker is willing to take the risk for the sake of creative freedom. “As a musician, you want to be your own favorite artist and be able to make the music that is an accumulation of all your favorite influences,” he explains. “Up until now I haven’t been that, and with the new stuff that I’m writing I’m making myself my own favorite artist… there’s still an element of the tracks that has to be somewhat commercial or marketable, but it’s all cohesive. It’s very organic.”

“Home To Mama”, Cody’s much-hyped duet with Justin Bieber, is a good introduction to his new sound. “It’s very slow and romantic, and definitely not out of context at all.” It turns out the collaboration was something of a welcome distraction for the superstars between solo projects. “We spent about two weeks in the studio together just messing around and wrote about 13 songs,” he says. “We did it really casually and didn’t make a big deal about it. It was something cool to pass the time while we’re both working on our own stuff.”

So, what did the heartthrobs write about during their jam sessions? Ladies, of course. “The stuff I have with Justin is all very much based around romance and women,” Cody reveals. “We were both in a place where we both had broken up with our girls, and we wanted to get all of that out.” Those tracks will be released eventually, but there’s no concrete date at this point. “We promised fans an album in November, but there’s so much going on that we have to push it to next year,” he laments. “But they will be hearing more, that’s a guarantee. And it won’t take too long.”

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While love is the central theme of the teen’s side-project with Justin, he’s exploring very different territory on his own album. “The songs I’m writing for my solo stuff isn’t all based around that,” he says. “There is that element to it obviously, there always has to be. But I wrote a song about war yesterday, and one about being lonely — not in a romantic way, but just traveling and having no one to share it with. I realized I can do other things. I started developing opinions on serious matters and it’s not all sugar and spice.”

The surfing fanatic also plays guitar on the record. “I’ve been playing casually since I was seven, but I never took it seriously in the sense that I want all of my music to be based around the guitar until this year,” he explains. “I never started to seriously practice until a few months ago.” The instruments is particularly important to him because it plays such an integral role in the music he cherishes. “Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Neil Young and Bob Dylan are my main influences. Once you get to a place where you can do it exactly how you want, you always come back to what you’ve been listening to your entire life.”

Cody hasn’t set a release date yet but he’s aiming to at least get a new single out by early 2015. “I’ll definitely be putting some cool content out through the rest of the year,” he promises. “I never want to starve my fans, I always want to give them things like [his acoustic cover of Mr. Probz‘s] “Waves” or other cool covers while I’m working on the new stuff. Hopefully closer to my 18th birthday (January 11) would be ideal to show them what I’ve been up to.”

If it was up to the singer/songwriter, the album would already be on iTunes. “I’m really excited and I’m frustrated that it hasn’t come out yet,” he admits. “I really want people do see who I truly am. I’m on the tipping point of making that jump. There are some nerves, but that comes with taking risks.” Regardless of the outcome or release date, Cody knows he’s on the right track. “I feel really free, and it’s a liberating feeling to be able to finally do this and have found a producer who gets my vision.”

Photo Credit: Nick Onken

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