Since coming on the world scene a couple of years ago, it’s been pretty obvious that Cody Simpson is being groomed as Atlantic Records’ (or Australia’s) answer to teen superstar Justin Bieber.
Turn to almost any teen magazine, and chances are Simpson’s face will be splashed across the pages. He’s been a regular presence on Radio Disney and Nickelodeon and even shares the same management company with Bieber.
The 16-year-old native of Queensland, Australia, doesn’t seem the least bit fazed at the prospect of achieving Bieber-ish stardom – or being subject to TMZ.com coverage, tabloid rumors or any of the other downsides of being a celebrity.
“I was 10 years old and I started racing competitively,” Simpson said in an early May phone interview. “I didn’t win my first race, but I kept training, and it was just like eventually I was winning like every stroke in my age group nationally. I don’t like to stop training until I get to the point where I want to be, and I think it’s the same thing with my music. I’m still getting there, but eventually I’d love to reach that point. I have my family around me, and I have a lot of amazing people around me to keep my feet on the ground if that does happen.”
Simpson has a way to go to reach those heights. His 2012 debut album, “Paradise,” was a modest success (peaking at 27 on the Billboard magazine album chart) and not a blockbuster breakthrough.
Most of Simpson’s summer tour was playing theaters and not arenas.
Simpson was originally scheduled to play the Cotillion in late July but canceled to join Bieber’s tour. His concert has been rescheduled for Thursday at the Century II Concert Hall.
He has come a long way in a short period of time.
Music started out as a hobby, Simpson said. When he posted videos on YouTube in the summer of 2009 of him playing guitar and singing several songs, including covers of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and Justin Timberlake’s “Senorita,” as well as his original songs “Perfect” and One,” it wasn’t part of any great strategy to go viral and get discovered by music executives.
But his early videos caught on, and when Shawn Campbell (who’s produced songs for Jay-Z and Missy Elliot, among others) came across Simpson’s videos on the Internet, he saw star potential in the Australian teen.
Simpson recorded a demo with Campbell and soon had record labels vying for him.
“I found myself in a meeting on my 13th birthday, which I really had no idea the enormity of, but I was in a meeting with like the CEO of Atlantic Records, who sort of signed me right then and there as I was playing guitar for him,” Simpson said.
Atlantic went right to work with Simpson. He went into the studio and recorded his five-song “Coast to Coast” EP, which was released in summer 2011. Then came the “Paradise” album.
Like many young artists with little experience in songwriting or recording, Simpson was paired with an all-star cast of pop songwriters and producers for “Paradise,” including Dr. Luke & Cirkut (Katy Perry, Flo Rida), Adam Messinger & Nasri (Bieber), John Ryan (One Direction) and Colby O’Donis (Lady Gaga). The result was a fairly generic collection of teen pop with a taste of acoustic guitar-based pop.
Simpson said he let more experienced hands take the wheel in making the “Paradise” album.
“I wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted to take my music and how I wanted to be portrayed, and it was sort of, not done for me, but more directed,” Simpson said.
His second full-length album, “Surfers Paradise,” which was released July 16, was a different story, as Simpson said he now has a clear idea of the kind of music he wants to make, and he took greater control of his music.
“I wanted to be a part of it from the jump as to creating the music and creating the direction (of the second album),” Simpson said. “It’s much more of (a cohesive) album rather than multiple songs thrown together.”
“La Da Dee,” a single from his new album, is featured in the “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” movie scheduled to be released in September.
His new music, Simpson said, more closely represents his musical tastes and who he is as a person.
“I grew up on the beach and I grew up surfing and I grew up swimming in this very genuine-like beach town back in Australia, and it’s just something I really want to reflect in my lifestyle and in the way I am, the way I represent myself, the way I dress and the music that I make,” Simpson said. “I think with the album, you’re going to hear a lot of that really cool, like, acoustic guitar vibe.”
Simpson’s beach-themed live show also will have elements of the music and image he is trying to present.
“I’ve been working with a pretty awesome production team on it,” he said. “I’ve tried to do a little more than just straight-forward, play the songs how they are on the record. I like to give them special spins, and the upbeat records, we like to incorporate dance breaks and different production ideas into those. … It’s called the ‘Paradise’ tour, and I really want to take them to paradise, take them on a journey and really create a show that reflects who I am and reflects my lifestyle.”