Name: Drew Simpson
Location: Long Beach
Profession: Musician / Songwriter / Producer
Years Playing: 18

I first met Drew at a performance in Temecula, California while I was still in high school. After my set, I was invited to sit in with a local singer but I didn’t know any of the songs he was performing. Off to the side, there stood a guitarist whom I had never met, but so that no one noticed, Drew whispered the chords to the songs – while he was playing – before I was called up to take a solo. I walked away from that performance extremely appreciative of his help.

After that show, I ran into him again at a couple other events and it wasn’t long before Drew started playing with me, pushing me to learn new material, and bringing new life to the music in my shows. He helped me grow and learn a lot as a young musician and has been a big influence on my playing. I am extremely grateful for everything Drew has taught me, all the opportunities he’s given me (we recorded a song with Wilton Felder once!), and for the opportunity to know and to have worked with such a great person.

Drew agreed to do an interview with us at Teen Jazz and share a bit of his knowledge and experience. I’m really excited to share this latest interview with you and introduce you all to this wonderful musician. Be sure to check out his album, Noteworthy – we definitely recommend it.

The Interview

When did you first begin seriously studying your instrument?

I began to seriously start studying the Guitar at age 13 in October 1992.

Who are your greatest influences?

My greatest influences in music are: Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Billy Higgins, John Scofield, Brad Mehldau, Eric B & Rakim, YellowJackets, Wilton Felder, Amadeus Mozart, etc… The list goes on and on however I would say these are the artist who I’ve really learned a lot from.

Who or what gave you the confidence to pursue music as a career?

Both of my parents allowed me to seriously explore music at an early age. Kurt Mayo (guitar teacher) really encouraged me to make a career out of music, he taught me how to be a musician and not just a guitar player which made a huge impact on the way I view music in general. Most recently, my wife Kimmy has been incredible with the support she has given me to pursue music. It’s because of her that I went ahead and decided to produce an album.

How do balance doing the music you love and doing music as a career?

I view music as a whole and see that setting boundaries for yourself as a hindrance. The Musicians who I mentioned as influences all have something in common; they all have taken a form of music (whether that’s Jazz/Rap/Classical) and told their own story with it. They have unique sounds, mostly because of their composition skills. I love songwriting and feel that there will always be awesome guitarist, pianist, bassists, however when you can compose music and bring in different genres that interests you, tell your story, now you are placing a small or large stamp in musical history.

Saying that, I never would compromise staying true to the music I love just to make a quick buck. It is difficult in this era due to people wanting to classify or put your style of music in a box but I feel when you play what you feel, write the kind of music you enjoy playing night in and night out, there is no better feeling of self-satisfaction.

What are your thoughts on what it takes to be successful as a performer?

It takes determination and a realization that you have to live outside of your comfort zone. It’s always easy to do the things that you are used to, however you should always try to put yourself in situations where you are always learning. Metheny said “you should always be the weakest person in your Band” and I agree.

Humility is a skill set that goes a long way in the Music Industry. Realizing that you can always grow will help your interaction with all types of people in the business.

What are some of the things you’re doing in music that you’re excited about?

I’m really excited because I just recently partnered with First Tribe Media and have been doing a lot of songwriting/producing for myself and other artists. I’m looking forward to exploring other opportunities in the music business by establishing relationships off and on the bandstand.

Do you wish anything had happened differently in your career?

Of course, I feel like there were a couple of years (5 to be exact) where I got stagnant due to personal reasons. I let life get in the way between me and music and I’ve learned never to do that again. However, I feel that I’ve learned a lot during those years and it has helped me become the musician/songwriter I am today.

Where do you think music is going in the next 10 years?

I think live music is the way of the future. Yes, everything now is seems to be electronic driven but I believe that the bubble is going to burst soon. No matter what style of music you are into, people respond to good live music. I think that we are going to make a huge circle and go back to recognizing artists who are unique. There is a big need for that; a lot of people are trying to sound like the next guy and remake things that have already been made. We can see that from the TV shows, Movies, Music, etc… Original music is going to make a big comeback…. I hope at least…. That’s what I’m going to strive for.

What inspires you to continue to pursue music? Have you ever come close to giving up?

The pure Love of Music. Music has a way of changing lives, moods, people, whether that’s 3-minutes or a whole day/evening.

Yes I’ve considered that a couple of times but I soon realize that it’s just not an option. I came to also realize that it’s just who I am as a person.

Cool people you have played with:

Besides yourself…. Let’s see, Wilton Felder, Terence Blanchard, Pat Metheny, Christian McBride, Ronnie Laws, Eddie Marshall, Alex Al, Lester McFarland, Mark Stephens, Aaron Mason, Munyungo Jackson, Lynne Fiddmont, Chris Bautista, Sekou Bunch, Josh Heffernan, Ricky Lawson, Austin Peralta, Bubba Bryant, Angelo Bell, etc… The list keeps going very far. That’s why I named my Album Noteworthy btw, it was to celebrate all the wonderful musicians who I’d come into contact with. There are many more musicians in So. Cal/New York who I can mention but you don’t have enough time for that.

What was your lamest gig? What was the best?

Wow, that’s a funny question. I would say early on in my “career” and I mean early, I played for a funeral with about 4 people who showed up.

Best gigs for me are always gigs with my Band. I love all the guys I hire and it’s a new experience for me every time. Sorry cheesy but true.


Public speaking, Reading, Basketball, Traveling…. Oh and writing a ton of music.

Advice for a Young Musician:

Be very serious about your craft and always strive to be better. Never try to take short cuts and strive to surround yourself with people who are encouraging musically.

Your most Embarrassing Musical Moment:

First time recording, I was the only person who couldn’t nail my parts while everyone was looking at me from the booth for at least 45 minutes. It got so bad that the organ player came out and gave me pointers. Never again my friend!

Favorite Joke About Your Instrument:

Question: Want to know how to get a Guitar Player to stop playing?

Answer: Put some sheet music in front of him.


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Published by Shannon Kennedy

Shannon Kennedy is a vocalist and saxophonist living in Southern California. She is author of "The Album Checklist" and the founder of Teen Jazz. She has been contributing articles to music magaizines and websites since 2004.