After nearly ten years making music together with Cadillac Sky, Bryan Simpson and Matt Menefee have revisited their acoustic roots to form a new band called, The Golden Age. There were two other projects before Bryan and Matt reunited for The Golden Age. Matt, along with Ross Holmes also formerly of Cadillac Sky and Royal Masat on upright bass formed the Nashville trio, ChessBoxer. Bryan’s solo project, The Whistles and The Bells included Matt and Ross along with guitarist Adam Stockdale, drummer Chris Powell, Phoebe Cryar of the Vespers and several others. I caught up with Bryan Simpson about the first offering from this new pairing of old friends called, I’m Sure It’ll Be Fine, out now via Poke the Bear Records.
AnaLee: The Golden Age sounds sort of like a return to the acoustic and bluegrass music that initially inspired you and your long-time friend and collaborator, Matt Menefee. Tell us a little about your history making music together and how The Golden Age was born.
Bryan: Yeah certainly this is a return to the music that originally inspired Matt and I. When we met back in 2002, he had a banjo in his hand and I had a mandolin and a few songs I’d written. That chance meeting led to us putting a band together, getting signed by Ricky Skaggs, producing music with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and touring with Mumford and Sons on their first sold out national tour. We’ve been wound up together ever since. Brothers for sure. I guess the idea to switch it up and head back down the acoustic rabbit hole, was born out of my solo project The Whistles and The Bells (of which Matt was the bandleader and played about 100 instruments a night). But something powerful would happen at the end of a lot of those shows when we would just grab our instruments and go down into the crowd and play a few songs on the floor just mandolin and banjo in hand. It would start with the crowd operating in this hushed almost reverent enthusiasm. I guess towards the authenticity of acoustic instruments and voices with no effects or tricks to get in the way. Before long they’d be stomping, clapping, singing along. It was pretty eye opening how tangible the exchange is when you get down to gut level stuff. I feel like that’s where The Golden Age kind of got birthed.
AnaLee: The album, I'm Sure It'll Be Fine, came out at the end of February, just as the pandemic was ramping up here in the US. The title seems more timely than ever now, what was the initial thought behind it and has that changed for you?
Bryan: Yeah, it did and yes it does seem timely, although accidentally. The title was basically us shrugging off all the anxieties that creep up when starting a new project. At some point it's kind of like "what’s the worst that could happen here? We’re making music.” I think Matt actually said the phrase and we were like “yeah... how about that? and of course we said “I’m sure.” Strangely enough since we’ve released it there’s been very little that has been “fine”. The night before our album release show a tornado dropped down on Nashville and then of course Corona came right behind it. I remember when all the virus stuff flared up, I think there was a similar feeling that it’ll be fine but obviously sometimes the molehill is a mountain, and the mountain falls on you. But I certainly think we will find our resolve and get back up as we’ve always done.
AnaLee: You recently released a video for the song, "Weirdo". Tell us about the song and the video.
Bryan: The song was written as a sort of anthem to all of us who feel like we don’t fit in. All my life I kind of have wanted to feel like I fit in. Like I wanted to walk in any room and just be smooth as butter. But it just isn’t gonna happen - it never does. always feel like an oddball - then at some point I realized oh hey most of the people I dig are pretty odd themselves. And so, this song is a chance to preach to myself and remind myself that it’s okay. That I’m okay as I am. Truth is - if any of us drill down deep enough and really get honest we’re all pretty strange birds.
The idea of the video was a green screen concept that our video guys Joshua Britt and Neilson Hubbard (Neighborhoods Apart Productions) had. but this was kind of behind the scenes of a green screen if you will. Ya know with all the junk that people throw on a simple picture or the vibe that gets tossed out on all the socials to make it seem as though we’re at the top of our game, it’s mostly smoke and mirrors and at our core we’re all just trying to make a little peace with the beast that we are. Matt and I had to make some peace when we climbed in those skin tight body suits no doubt! Yeah, I think we barely maintained any narrative once we saw how ridiculous we looked in these suits. There are some pics that will never see the light of day. It’s best for everyone.
Well, as the song goes, “nobody every changed the world by being normal anyway”.