Fans of folk rockers Cadillac Sky were surprised in 2010 when Bryan left the stage in the midst of a tour that found them opening for Mumford and Sons and seemingly disappeared from music altogether. While it seemed sudden, the move had actually been building for two years and now, four years later, Simpson is back with a new chapter in his story.
The shift started in 2008 when, as Bryan puts it, "the God of the scriptures made a believer out of me." After a lifetime of believing and living one way, the change required time to explore the new. Simpson explained that he entered into "a season in the wilderness, re-evaluating, re-constituting, re-channeling."
The change from a life of all about me to a life of all about God can be messy and confusing. Weeding out the old and finding joy in the new is a process that he described as playing out "like the time lapsed film of the birthing of a giraffe. Awkward and invigorating. Uncoordinated orchestration." The Whistles & the Bells, born out of that time, is anything but! The project, engineered by Grammy Award winner Vance Powell (Jack White, Willie Nelson, The White Stripes, the Dead Weather, North Mississippi Allstars) at Sputnik Studios, showcases every bit of the talent that Simpson was ever known for. Recorded with a group of Bryan’s favorite musicians (including Matt Menefee on banjo, Byron House on bass, Melvin Lightford on piano and Adam Stockdale on guitar), the record was finished in a mere two days. "Simply approached the canvas’ and painted. Simple, though, is my mind’s greatest complexity," says Simpson. "So it’s a little more Pollock's 'drip paintings' than Picasso’s 'blue period' but maybe, ultimately, more Wile E. Coyote's 'fake tunnel' renderings."
But recording doesn't mean releasing and that was a step that he wasn't sure he was ready to take. He sat back, breathed and waited. He pondered, prayed and decided to go for it, becoming The Whistles & the Bells rather than Bryan Simpson because, "this is not the whole of me- who I was yesterday, I am not today. The dragon’s scaly skin continues to shed. The egg’s white prison walls continues to crack and collapse. The escaping inmate’s daylight increasing. Continued revelation. This is a piece of the pie, but not the pie. I can’t imagine the whole of the pie myself so how can I feed it to you?"
The Whistles & the Bells has been well received thus far, It was a featured New & Noteworthy release on iTunes after the debut of the single "Mercy Please" on Rolling Stone.com, and inclusion on the Nashville Indie Spotlight, which is a compilation featuring thirty of Music City's brightest up and comers that was released in late 2013. One listen and you'll understand why. It is raw, yet refined, excitingly new, yet oddly familiar. It's like seeing an old friend that you haven't hooked up with in a while and knowing that there is something different about them, yet you can't quite put your finger on what it is.
Stream the album at American Songwriter or go check out The Whistles & The Bells at the album release show in Nashville at 3rd & Lindsley on March 20, 2014.