As a member of the Wonderful Grand Band, and co-founder of the Fables, Glenn Simmons could easily be pigeonholed as a Celtic/trad-only musician. Dispelling any possible misconceptions is his first solo album, “Sweet Vanilla … and Assorted Flavours.”
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“This album is a bit non-genre specific,” says Simmons. “It goes into many different ‘flavours’ … that’s the type of guy I am, I guess!”
Some of the tracks on this album began life eight or nine years ago, though most are more recent. “Not everything I wrote was suitable for the Fables,” he notes. These, Simmons would keep to himself, playing with the structure — even demoing the songs at home with his eye on a solo album in the future.
Those recordings were extremely helpful to his process, Simmons said, as they allowed him to “get perspective” on the songs, as well as allow friends and family to listen and provide feedback. And finally, when it did come time to go into the studio, the other session musicians could actually hear how Simmons thought the piece should sound before they even began — in a rough state, anyway.
A lot of that happened the Stagehouse Studio in St. Philip’s, with people like Paul Kinsman, Chris LeDrew, Byron Pardy and Billy Sutton each lending their particular expertise, with Justin Merdsoy handling the engineering.
“Cory (Tetford) did the mixing in Halifax, which is where I spend about half my time these days. He got in touch and said, ‘I hear you’re doing an album, how do I get in on it,’” Simmons says. “I was delighted.”
Why so long to come out with a solo album, if these songs have been percolating in his brain for years?
“I’ve always enjoyed being in the shadows somewhat. … Years ago, I had thoughts of being a session musician, working in L.A. maybe. But, over time I just fell from one thing to another. And suddenly, the kids are grown and I have more time on my hands. The Fables haven’t been pushing as hard as we once did, so there’s time to really take a look at these songs I feel strongly about.”
“This album is a bit non-genre specific. It goes into many different ‘flavours’ … that’s the type of guy I am, I guess!” Glenn Simmons
As to those songs, they are indeed a varied but cohesive whole. For instance, the title track, “Sweet Vanilla,” has a Motown feel. It’s one of those hurts-so-good songs about a girl (Vanilla) and the power she has over a man’s heart. Thankfully, it keeps itself from the saccharine with lighthearted lyrics and up-tempo rhythm.
There’s also some singer-songwriter work that veers into the almost political. “Anytime” treads along the line between anti-establishment rhetoric and inspirational, “man in the mirror” look at yourself and make a change kind of thinking.
Simmons even gets a little jazzy with “Where,” a number that’s rather more open to interpretation than some of the other, more straightforward tracks. Is it about the one that got away? God? The human condition in general? Whether any or none of the above, it’s one of those great tunes that you can find something new in with each listen.
Simmons says that creating and producing a solo album has been a very positive experience.
“You certainly have more control, and I like that. When you’re in a group, it’s a democracy.” Listeners will also be glad he finally took the leap toward giving the world a taste of all the flavours his music has to offer. Learn more about Glenn Simmons at http://glennsimmonsbackhome.blogspot.com.