Dave Simpson
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Dave Simpson

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"...simple, powerful tunes that lay out his story with lyrical jabs that lead to a knockout..."

The sober guy hosting the open mic at Karma every Wednesday night is that way by design, not by chance. He walked out of rehab on his 21st birthday and, at 22, he knows how he wants the world to look when he's 80: through the still, clear lens of sobriety, unclouded by regret.

The influence of sober second chance is clear on Dave Simpson's new CD, So, Sober, which hushes its way through simple, powerful tunes that lay out his story with lyrical jabs that lead to a knockout. Three of the songs were actually written in rehab, and another tune was penned at an Edmonton open mike night where the songwriter took the stage, post-rehab, for the first time in over three years.

"There was a time when I tried to write songs with all the metaphors, tried to make them beautifully written, like things you would see quoted in magazines. I realized that that's just not the style that I write - I'm pretty blunt when I write", the songwriter says.

True to Simpson's vision, some songs sneak along solo on vapour wisps of guitar and vocals, others swell with organ, strings, and percussion straining for space. All are graced by uncluttered, direct lyrics that reveal the craft of a man with nothing to hide.

"The way I reasoned that to myself is that if I don't try to paint anything a certain way or cover it up with certain words, there's more chance that a listener would be able to connect with it and relate it to their own life. My favorite songs are the ones that for whatever reason I'm able to relate to and put towards things that are going on with me."

Ironically, Simpson's first-ever time onstage was at the same open-mike night he now hosts, four years later. Time in college and rehab helped clarify his path, but it was not until he was watching a performance in Austin, Texas, that the singer realized he had to get back onstage to continue forward with the songs he'd begun writing at 18.

"I've always really loved music - it's always been a huge part of my life. But seeing the Austin festival, I realized I would kick myself in the ass if I was 80 and hadn't given this a go."

- Mary-Lynn Wardle - Fast Forward Weekly Magazine

"...sounds like a vaguely country mashup of Joseph Arthur, David Gray and Damien Rice..."

Hosting the open mic night at Karma for the past six months has proven a couple of things to Dave Simpson. First, is the first-hand knowledge there are a lot of talented people in this city, and secondly, there are far too many people wasting the skills and artistry they have.

"It can be frustrating when you see someone that's got a lot of talent and they're not necessarily pushing it or anything," says Simpson, a Crowsnest Pass native who relocated here six years ago. "And maybe it's just not what they want or whatever, but when it's someone with a lot of talent, I go 'Wow - you could really do something with this, why aren't you?'"

It took a trip down to Austin two years ago and a show by songwriter Ray Lamontagne to get Simpson to ask himself that same question and convince him music is what he "could be doing, and should be doing."

It's hard to argue listening to his debut, So, Sober, which he'll release tonight with a show at the Liberty Lounge. The sublimely modest and impassioned disc, which sounds like a vaguely country mashup of Joseph Arthur, David Gray and Damien Rice, has the capability - should it find the right ears - of making Simpson's dreams of songwriting as a full-time gig a reality.

"It's not necessarily a goal where I want to be on radio and I want to do all of that stuff," he says. "But if I can sustain myself comfortably through, doing this - which is the biggest passion in my life - that would be success to me. That's where I want to be.

"The best compliment that I got," he continues, "was a friend who said, 'watching you do this now, you can totally tell it's what you're supposed to be doing.'''

If you miss Simpson doing what he should be doing tonight, you can find him every Wednesday night or opening for John Wort Hannam next Saturday at Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Centre.

-Mike Bell

- The Calgary Sun

"...his voice sounds like it’s positioned somewhere between Joe Cocker and Tracy Chapman..."

His official name is David Lea George Simpson Jr.
“When I was little and the other kids would ask what my name was, I would tell them the whole thing. Suckers.”
And so now, 21 years later, when people ask for his name he replies, “Dave Simpson. It’s just Dave Simpson.”
These days he’s trying to make a name for himself through the Calgary music scene.
He was born on June 25, 1983 in Calgary and moved to Coleman, in 1985 with his family, of course.
“My dad plays guitar so there was always a guitar sitting around… I never took lessons or anything like that--just what my dad taught me, my dad kinda taught me all the major chords and I took it from there and kinda figured it out from there.”
Nonetheless, he is a self-described “momma’s boy.”
He says there was always music playing at home.
“When I was growing up there was always music playing… like Van Morrison and Otis Redding and old Rod Stewart and when I was really young, James Taylor.”
The influence of these artists accounts for the mellow and subdued quality of Simpson’s recently self-released album, “So, Sober.”
His voice sounds like it’s positioned somewhere between Joe Cocker and Tracy Chapman.
Simpson describes his album’s theme as “the struggle with sobriety and coming to grips with living that way… Most of the songs that are on there were written while I was recovering [from drug abuse] or shortly thereafter. A lot of them were just songs that I needed to write just to work things out in my own head.”
Simpson plans to tour in support of the album but is unsure of his next Pass performance.
He’s played at the Grand Union and the Elks Hall and remembers one of his shows as having a very quiet crowd.
“I thought my fly was down,” he recollects.
For more information about Simpson, his album and his upcoming tour, you can visit www.davesimpsonmusic.com/ .

-Peter Huisman
- Crowsnest Pass Promoter

"Live Review"

"Simpson wooed the audience with his melodic and airy voice" - The Hillhurst-Sunnyside Voice

"Fellow Artist Raves About Dave Simpson"

"Dave Simpson represents, to me, most of what's cool about his generation of singer-songwriters : aside from a great voice, solid guitar chops, and an engaging stage presence, he actually writes songs that are about something." - Tim Williams - Canadian Acoustic Act of the Year, Real Blues Magazine

"Charlie A'Court"

"Dave Simpson is quite simply the most honest singer I've heard in some years. The words he sings come from a place that once was dark and cold and has guided them into the warm light. His voice is engaging and his delivery is his own. In words taken from Rudyard Kipling, Dave Simpson has met with Triumph and Disaster and has truly treated those two imposters just the same." - 2004 East Coast Music Awards Best Male Artist Nominee


So, Sober (LP, 2005)
Live at Karma (LP, 2006)



September 18, 2004, 2:00 PM, Zilker Park, Austin, Texas. That was the exact time and place that Dave Simpson found his calling. He had spent much of the previous twenty one years of his life struggling with personal demons and a substance abuse problem that eventually landed him in rehab at age 20. Dave walked out on his 21st birthday, having regained his life, and has not touched alcohol or drugs since.

Dave took a trip to the Austin City Limits Music Festival in September of 2004, and there he saw a relative unkown singer/songwriter named Ray Lamontagne. Dave had always been a passionate music lover, and had played guitar for several years, but never as a performer. In Ray's performance, Dave saw a man that telling stories of his experiences with such emotion that he was inspired to do the same.

Based out of Calgary, Alberta, Dave has built a loyal following of fans, and continues to make more with every performance. His debut album, "So, Sober", chronicles his experiences while jumping between musical genres, and has garnered praise from critics and fans alike. Drawing comparisons to artists including Damien Rice, David Gray, Joseph Arthur, Joe Cocker, Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, and many others, the album is an intimate look at life through the eyes of a young man with nothing to hide. Fast Forward magazine described the songs as "simple, powerful tunes that lay out his story with lyrical jabs that lead to a knockout", and the Calgary Sun added that the overall product is a "sublimely modest and impassioned disc".

Dave followed his full length studio debut by recording a live record of new material at a local Calgary music hotspot that was forced to close its doors. "Live at Karma" was recorded on November 22, 2006, and released in January, 2007. The songs still feature the same emotional delivery and honest songwriting as the previous record, but also signify a maturation in Dave's songwriting. He takes on a wider range of topics and does so with much more insight than before. Releasing two records of new original material within a calendar year may be more than most artists care to take on, but Dave plans to continue the prolific pace by going back into the studio in the Spring of 2007 to begin work on another new recording.

Dave's live show features his smoky, impassioned vocals, unique musical looping, and his ability to have a crowd laughing and hanging on every word spoken. Because of Dave's eclectic musical style, he has been able to share musical bills with artists such as Josh Ritter, Serena Ryder, Guy Davis, Kyle Riabko, John Wort Hannam, Lorrie Matheson, Danny Michel, as well as many others, and he has graced stages all across Canada.

Having only been a full time musician for a short time, Dave keeps everything he has accomplished in perspective, "The best compliment that I have received was from someone who told me that watching my show was proof that I'm doing what I am supposed to be doing. And that's exactly the way I feel."