Janet Simpson first graced the Alabama music scene with her impactful songwriting at the Barnstormer Pizza stage in Montevallo as a solo act with a guitar - she's been wowing listeners ever since! Her individual performances at the now-closed venue quickly transformed into a loud, punk-inspired venture with James Fahy, Spencer Shoults, and Andy Sizemore called Teen Getaway.
As Simpson describes, good music with great friends was bound to come from the genuine setting. Barnstormer “was just a phenomenal place, and it was its own thing. Montevello being a very wild and friendly liberal arts college town. Everything was small, everyone knew one another. But we would have amazing artists come through. I started to make friends pretty easily through music taste and interests.”
In addition to being Simpson’s first Alabama band, Teen Getaway was by far her most collaborative writing experience - she tends to take on songwriting duties herself. Herself and Fahy took on most of the writing with this musical endeavor, but every member of the band played a hand in the wording of their music. A year or two after forming Teen Getaway, an adventure into other genres took form in the shape of a folk expression music collective that saw a return to Simspon being the sole songwriter named Delicate Cutters.
By 2003, Janet had acquired a music degree in addition to forming two established bands. It was time to leave Montevallo, but the next steps were unclear. She had friends that had already made the move to Birmingham, and she decided to take the jump herself - but viewed it more as a “waiting station” city while figuring out the next steps. Life had other plans, as she soon began dating the person she’d eventually fall in love and plant her roots in the Magic City with!
As romance captured her personal life, music was still the driving force in her creative career. Between her own songwriting and joining backing bands for recording and traveling musicians, Janet had a lot going on. But a call from Lew Nuby a few days before Janet was headed on a European tour with Wooden Wand put another twist on her music journey.
Newby asked Simpson to sing backing vocals for then-Nashville resident Will Stewart. Although she was pressed for time, Janet smade the trip and felt the musical magic the moment she began collaborating with Will. Her backing over his “intuitively written and pretty” lyrics resulted in a beautiful song called “Coosa”, and would eventually lead to the formation of a group called Timber (who created one of this writer’s all-time favorite songs with “Green Wire”).
Will joined Robert Wason, Tyler McGuire, and Jody Nelson in providing backing musicianship for Simpson’s latest album “Safe Distance”, which will be released on March 19, 2021 with Cornelius Chapel Records and was engineered by Brad Timko.
The album came naturally and quickly, as Simpson allowed herself to approach the process in a different way which created a raw, honest feel for the listener. The rule she made for herself this time was to “not hide behind poetry. I tried to be a little bit more direct with my songwriting than I’ve ever been, and not be afraid of how that might feel - the vulnerability of that.”
The blunt style shines clearly in her first single, “Nashville Girls”, which centers around feeling like an outsider throughout much of life but learning to delight in the fact of choosing your own path. A more somber counterpart to “Nashville Girls” is “Ain’t Nobody Looking”, which focuses on trying to avoid being the center of attention.
“I’m Wrong”, the album’s second single released today, provides an upbeat jangle pop song and rounds of a fantastic sampling of what to expect before the full album comes out next month! We are luck to have such caring and talented musicians calling the Magic City home, and Janet Simpson feels the same way about all of us.
When discussing the city, Simpson can’t help but compliment - saying “Birmingham shows up. Birmingham is a community that really knows how to show up when you see somebody in need. If somebody has an accident and they’re unexpectedly out of work - I just saw this recently with our friends who have Beehive Bakery. The community seems to jump into action to take care of our people, and I would like to see more of that. It seems like there’s a good network and a strong community in place, and I just want to encourage Birmingham to keep showing up for the people that need you.”