Even without meeting Cody Simpson, one has the sense that he’s a glass-half-full kind of guy. Maybe it’s the Aussie thing, maybe it’s the all-good-no-worries surfer vibe, but when he does get on the phone, it’s not surprising to find he is maintaining a relatively positive attitude toward the current state of the world.
“Looking on the positive side of things, it’s almost like a real global awakening in a way, in the sense of giving us all a little time to sit and reflect,” Simpson says, in his light Australian accent. “We’re kind of all forced into this period of time that I think we all wish we have when we don’t have it. Now that we have it, we don’t want it anymore. All I ever want to do is sit home for a month, and now we have and we’re all twiddling our thumbs.”
Simpson has been isolating at home in California, making tikka masala french fries, watching reality TV for the first time (“Love Island,” the “best and worst thing” he’s ever seen), rediscovering old favorites like Jack Johnson and Ben Harper and Instagramming his new puppy with Miley Cyrus, Bo.
“As terrible as it is, everything that’s happening health-wise around the world, it’s giving a lot of people time, I think, to reset and be grateful for things that we often take for granted,” Simpson says.
For him, that includes surfing. “I went for a surf by myself and was out in the air and it was the nicest thing in the world. I’d never appreciated going to the beach that much ever in my life.” And there’s also writing, in the form of song and poetry. Simpson has been known as a musician first professionally, but he’s introducing a new side of himself next week: “Prince Neptune,” his debut collection of poetry, arrives April 7.
Simpson has been writing poetry since he was around eight years old, around the same time he picked up a guitar, and won his first poetry and prose contest at school when he was nine.
“I won like $50 or something, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is what I’m going to do with my life. I can write,’” he says. “Ever since then, I’ve been writing songs and poems.”
He was 18 when he started to take poetry seriously, during what he calls his rebellious phase. He left his first record deal, moved out of his parents’ house, and set up shop in Venice Beach, spending his days surfing, playing guitar and writing.
Now at 23, he looked back through all those journals he filled up at the time and realized he had something like a collection. He pitched it around, not expecting much interest, “and then ended up getting a deal out of it,” he says.
The collection spans poems from five years ago as well as pieces he was editing a week before he had to deliver them. Simpson has been told it all reads a bit incohesive, but that’s fine by him. “That’s what I intended it to be — almost to read like a notebook.”
He cites the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg as inspirations, but identifies his contemporaries as today’s best-known Instagram poets, from Rupi Kaur to Atticus, the latter of whom helped connect Simpson to publishers.
WATCH: A Moment of Zen With Cody Simpson
He’s also releasing two new acoustic songs to coincide with the poetry debut, both of which shy away from his pop past and open up a new direction, with an album in the works (more so than ever before, given the amount of time he’s spending in his in-home studio these days).
“I started in teen pop, being a young kid coming out from Australia and getting signed very young. I went along for the ride and had a ball and made stuff that I still love to this day. But as I grew up, it was only natural that I should start developing a more unique identity for myself,” he says. “With the music itself, I think it really reflects that: the maturity of it and the lyrical themes.”
The April release date for this new side of Cody Simpson has long been set, of course, without any notion of what the world might look like come release day. But he says he never seriously considered pushing things back, seeing the messaging in his music and poetry as the kind of positivity needed right now.
“That’s something that I had hoped to be asked about,” Simpson says. “A lot of the themes in the work draw from quite optimistic and hopeful messages, and so that’s part of the reason I really wanted to release it at this time, because I feel like that’s something people need to hear at the moment. A lot of the imagery and a lot of the things I work with touch on escapism: escapism from society, escapism from the norm, from conventional ways of living, ways of thinking. And I feel like with those things, it’s very timely because now for maybe the first time in a lot of people’s lives, they have significant time away from the status quo. Maybe it’s a good time for people to read and for people to hear things, maybe more so than they would, should they be picking it up while they’re in the office or at school or college or somewhere. It’s a time for at-home learning, at-home inspiration, and it feels good.”
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