Aleyce Simmonds encourages aspiring artists to remember it's “100% OK to be your own person, to run your own race, and not to compromise that for anyone.”
Award winning country artist Aleyce Simmonds has one of the most moving voices and her songs cut straight to the heart. And this week, she has a conversation with Fenella Henderson-Zuel to talk about baring her soul in her music, her passion to see other other people achieve their dreams, and her musical career so far.
Aleyce Simmonds has the sort of success story that inspires young performers everywhere. During her eleven years in the music industry, she has distinguished herself as both a singer and songwriter in the thriving Australian country music scene, earning multiple Golden Guitar awards for her quintessentially personal work. Yet it is her status as a completely independent artist, which has arguably defined her career and made her an inspiration for young women trying to make a name for themselves by pursuing their dreams. By her own admission it was not Aleyce’s choice initially to go it alone, as she first secured a major record deal with industry giant Sony Music. But it was the severance of that deal which forced Aleyce to utilise the sort of personal determination that has come to define her life as a wholly independent artist.
“I had to learn fairly quickly how to do everything myself [after I] lost my manager and booking agent. Now I don’t think I could ever be anything other than Independent. I’m too Independent! I absolutely love being able to have all creative control and send the messages that I 100% want to send out. I also love not having to rely on others.”
Aleyce was rewarded for her persistence, not to mention her remarkable talent, when she was named the Australian Independent Artist of the Year in 2015 before being awarded the APRA Country Work of the Year Award earlier this year for her song Greatest Companion, inspired by her on-air work with radio presenter Luke Bona. The track was lifted from the Bonus Edition of Aleyce’s second album Believe, available now. Actually, Aleyce was only one of two women who won an APRA Award this year.
Having to orchestrate her own career has made the 30 year old particularly passionate when it comes to supporting new talent, particularly young female country performers like herself. Emerging artists like Tori Forsyth, who supported Aleyce on her recent tour, have benefited from her support and guidance.
Music has often been seen as a creative way to bear one’s soul and that has certainly been the case for Aleyce, who has become known for her incredibly personal lyrics. This is perhaps most evident with her standout and heartfelt 2016 single Defeated, which was inspired by her own experiences with domestic violence. The raw emotion displayed in the song was evident throughout her third album, More Than Meets The Eye. The album resonated deeply with audiences who pushed it to #25 on the Australian Album Chart. Aleyce used the attention the album and particularly its single created to raise awareness for others with similar experiences. $5 from every pre-order sale of the album was donated to the Tamworth Family Support Service, of which Aleyce is an ambassador.
Aleyce opened up to Music Love about her growing success as an independent artist, laying herself bare through her lyrics and her passion to help others achieve their dreams.
What does music mean to you?
Music comes second only to my family. It consumes my thoughts most of the time and it moves me (when it’s good!!) in a way that nothing else does.
Congratulations on your APRA Country Work Of The Year Award for Greatest Companion, a rare win for a completely independent artist. That must make the win even more special.
Thank you so much! I just got teary thinking about how I felt that night. I didn’t think I would have won that award in a million years. When I did, I just sat there until my mum shoved me to let me know that it was in fact my name that they read out.. Ha. I’ve worked so hard for so long and made so many sacrifices and it almost felt like the slate was clean and everything was suddenly worth it.
You were named Australian Independent Artist of the Year in 2015. Why is it important for you to be independent? How has that shaped the way you make music?
It wasn’t a choice to be independent at first, to be honest. I had a major record deal with Sony Music and was dropped. Then I also lost my manager and booking agent. I had to learn fairly quickly how to do everything for myself. Now, I don’t think I could ever be anything other than Independent. I’m too Independent! Haha. I absolutely love being able to have all creative control and send the messages that I 100% want to send out. I also love not having to rely on others.
Even independent artists need support. Who have been some of the people who have supported and backed you?
We really do. More so than signed artists, really. It’s a really hard slog out there and when you’re 100% funding it yourself too, it near breaks you at times. My family have backed me from the beginning. Despite the occasional pleads for me to get a ‘real job’ to make life easier, I know that they would tell me that I had no choice but to keep going if I told them I was giving up. My closest friends of course also and Checked Label Services who have put my music in stores since my first album.
Is this why you’ve been a vocal supporter of emerging artists such as Tori Forsyth, wanting to help others achieve as you have?
Definitely. I’m so, so passionate about Australian Country Music and about Tamworth, Country Music Capital. I can absolutely, whole-heartedly say that I have and will do anything I can to support and build our industry and get our great artists out there. When I heard Tori for the first time, I knew that I had to help her. She would have been heard eventually by the right people and was always going to be a star. But she had such an impact upon me that I needed for the world to experience the same thing. IMMEDIATELY!!
Your single Defeated is an incredibly raw and personal song. Did you have any reservations about opening yourself up so publicly with this track?
As you can probably tell, I’m a pretty honest person. (And that gets me into trouble a lot!) I always wonder before putting a song out, whether I’m brave enough to expose these pieces of me. It sometimes frightens the hell out of me. But – if I’ve experienced or felt something, then so have other people out there and maybe my little song can help even one person to feel less alone.
Why did you decide to become an ambassador for the Tamworth Family Support Service?
I was asked to be the Ambassador and I was absolutely honoured. I was doing a bit of work in the community for under privileged families, cooking for them and things (which my family always thought was so funny because I couldn’t afford to feed myself half the time… ha) and it was just coincidental timing to be asked to be the ambassador I guess. The organisation does such amazing work in the community.
What has more than ten years in the music industry taught you about yourself and being an artist?
It’s taught me that I’m the most stubborn person I know, slightly idiotic… haha. But most of all, it’s taught me that you can achieve anything if you work harder than you thought possible and that you need to be strong-willed and thick skinned to be an artist.
Who are your favourite women in music and what have you learnt from them?
That’s a hard one… I have so many hard working, inspiring friends in this Industry that I’ve learned SO much from.
Lyn Bowtell is one of the first singer/songwriters that I truly fell in love with. I heard her for the first time and felt my chest cave in. And then, I got to know her heart and then, her music hurt my chest (in the best, best, best way) even more so. I guess she taught me that you can be a technically good singer and have people like listening to you (I was classically trained) but once you put your heart and honesty into your music, you can effect people in the most deep, incredible, life-changing way.
And, Tori Forsyth. It’s no secret to anyone that I think Tori is hands down, the most talented singer/songwriter that I’ve ever heard but something that really inspires me is her work ethic and determination. She was pushed down a lot as a kid and told she wouldn’t amount to anything because school wasn’t her thing, etc. But she kept on pushing on, believing in herself until she found the place that she belonged. And now – she owns that place and is going to put all those others in their places!!! It actually brings on automatic tears when I think about it. I can’t wait for you all to hear her debut album. That thought brings on the tears too. Tori reminds me every day that it’s 100% OK to be your own person. To run your own race and not to compromise on that for anyone.