When most teenagers turn 18, they get the opportunity to vote, can get inked on their own, or might join the military. For Cody Simpson, he cut ties with label Atlantic Records and set out on his own. Independently releasing his upcoming album Free later this year, Simpson is taking the title to heart.
Having spent much of his formative youth in the spotlight — he burst onto the scene at the tender age of 13 — Simpson's teenage rebellion is less of an insurgence and more of a submission into adulthood.
"I'm at a spot in my life where I know what I want," Simpson said. "People are understanding with where my head's at."
Being able to make those adult decisions comes from years of having to sit in the backseat when it came to his music. So the time felt right to shed the sunny, beat-heavy pop sounds of albums past for a more natural and casual writing and recording process, often with most songs being written and recorded in the studio during the same day with the help of the album's producer Cisco Adler of Shwayze.
"I've seen how the system worked and I wasn't a big fan of it," he said. "I wanted more creative freedom and no one was going to give it to me. I'm grateful that I can do it now like this."
The result is a stripped, mature, earthy Simpson. The album's first single, "Flower," whose single artwork pal Miley Cyrus is credited with creating, features a coffeehouse chill of acoustic guitars, velvety vocals and accessible lyrics, like "I know I'll never be the apple of your eye/But I'll pick you a flower if you'll like." Likening to the styles of Jack Johnson and Ed Sheeran, the musical transition is in line with Simpson's laid-back Aussie outlook.
"I definitely want to be free. I've seen a lot of things in the world, the music kind of goes hand in hand with that."
It's no coincidence that Simpson drops the word "free" a lot in conversation. He speaks largely about not being confined to standards, societal and in his case professional, encouraging his fans to "live the way I decided to" and driving home the notion with the words of wisdom and advice: "Hey, you can be free."
"It's sort of another message like, you don't necessarily need a lot to be happy," he follows up. "If you don't want to go to college, go rent a van and live for a year. Go to California and hang. Nothing is as serious as it is."
He hopes his message comes across as a positive reinforcement of an alternative lifestyle to his younger fan base — consisting of primarily adolescent girls who happen to be growing up along with him — to ignore the pop cultural preachings of excess and hop onboard the neo-flower child train, with Simpson as conductor.
"I've seen so many musicians and artists and public figures with such powerful social platforms and all they're preaching is materialism — you need a Ferrari and this is how good living is — whereas that's not my philosophy," he said.
Cody Simpson plays World Cafe Live (3025 Walnut St.) on Sunday, April 5. Tickets are still available.