Stephen Simmons
Success is a Slow Process

By Kenny Kerner
Success In Music
Listen to "Betty I'm Married":

Stephen Simmons had lots of things going in his favor: He lived within an hour of Nashville, Tennessee—Music City. He discovered that TAXI's custom Critiques helped his songwriting. And, definitely not last, he realized that achieving success was indeed a slow, painstaking process.

Stephen didn't begin playing guitar until he was in his late teens. "I remember reading about Rodney Crowell and how he was not just an artist but also a respected songwriter. So I started trying to write songs more".

At that time in his life, he lived about an hour outside of Nashville, and after graduating from college, took a job at an electric company because he was afraid that pursuing a career in music wouldn't pan out. "I started out as an art major and ended up with a technical degree. Once I got out of school and started working at the 9 to 5 deal, it really started getting to me. I never stopped writing or playing. I worked as an engineer for an electric company and drove a lot. But I would always find myself pulling over to the side of the road to work on a song I was writing. When I reached my mid-twenties, I began to realize that I was better at some things than others. I realized what it was I wanted to do."

Stephen moved to Nashville proper but kept his job to help pay the bills. "When I got there, I started doing some open mic nights at clubs just to see how my material held up with the other writers in Nashville. That's when I started looking around and got to see others play. That was the turning point. It gave me a lot of encouragement and made me realize that me wanting to do this wasn't just a crazy pipe dream."

The move to Nashville turned out to be the beginning of Stephen Simmons' career. The locals filled him with encouragement which in turn inspired him to continue writing and playing out. He made new contacts and, in 2001, joined TAXI and began asking them for Custom Critiques of his music. "I wanted to learn as much as possible about what people thought of my songs and the Custom Critiques really dove into my song completely."

Stephen used the critiques to hone his material and used the TAXI contacts to get real world feedback. "Soon after I joined I got something forwarded to Vanguard Records but nothing came of it. Then one of the contacts I made through TAXI was EMI Music Publishing. I met this guy named Bruce Burch at the Road Rally and he heard my material and even came to see me play a few times in Nashville. We still work with each other regularly. That was the first time a publisher actually called me!"

Simmons' entrance into the professional world of the music business brought yet another reality: That success is indeed a slow process. "Everything seems to drag out and take years. You gotta be doing it for awhile before anything gets going. You meet someone who thinks you're great and he likes your songs and he likes your show then he tells you that he'll get together with you in another month to talk about it again. All this time, you're ready to go but they've got a hundred other people to get to."

Summing up his two years with TAXI, Stephen believes that one of the most valuable lessons he's learned from them is that "you have to go and make your own success before you can expect anybody to do anything for you. Today, you almost have to go out and do your own thing for a while before you get noticed or get any attention at all. They just don't have the time or money to spend on you to develop you."

That astute realization led Stephen to keep working on his career and not sit on his laurels. He kept sending in songs to TAXI and recently, received an offer from Texas-based label, Lamon Records. "Just a few weeks ago this woman from the label called and wanted me to record for them. I told them that I wanted to record a CD by myself with my original songs and then she said she'd like to talk with me about the possibility of funding the project or distributing the records for me. Right now I'm speaking with the President of that label. Again, this was through TAXI."

Stephen Simmons heard about TAXI two years ago and, though skeptical, decided to join when he moved to Nashville. I wondered whether he was still skeptical about the Independent A&R Company? "Oh, no, for me it's working. This guy from EMI for example, I had to get him something through TAXI—a company he knew of—before he would listen to my songs. This goes to show you that you have to have an in with somebody. It is who you know."

If you're going to learn anything from this Stephen Simmons story, let it be this—"quit waitin' around for somebody to help you; quit waiting around for somebody to sign you or help you make a record. Just go out and do it yourself and if things start to work out, others will get involved."

A great lesson to be learned from a singer/songwriter celebrating his second anniversary as a TAXI member.

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