MAUI TIME WEEKLY COVER STORY
Pat Simmons Jr. is not just a Maui boy, father, singer-songwriter, musician, surfer and an organic farmer. He’s also a cancer survivor, and the son of Pat Simmons, an American rock musician and original band member of The Doobie Brothers. Being from a musically inclined family, Simmons grew up listening to all types of music. He learned how to play both the guitar and ukulele at age six. He has two older siblings from his mother’s previous marriage, and his family has always been extremely close.
His father introduced him to playing musical instruments, showing him how to play the twelve bar blues on the guitar at a very young age. Later, Simmons continued his guitar education with Maui’s own Tom Conway at Bounty Music. Conway taught him how to play various songs from Jimi Hendrix to other various rock icons.
“Pat was a great guitar student who was always eager to learn,” Conway told me. “He embraced several styles like reggae, blues, folk, even a pinch of Gypsy Jazz! Now, he’s developed into a fine player, singer and composer with his own unique voice and strong conviction about his message as an artist. I’m proud to call Pat a friend and I was recently honored to play on his debut CD. Little known fact: He also plays a mean Didgeridoo!”
Simmons learned how to play the ukulele more than 20 years ago at Haiku Elementary School. The ukulele class was part of the Hawaiian studies program, focusing on basic technical skills as well as Hawaiian songs from Auntie Makua Bailey. In fact, Simmons says that Auntie Makua and her songs really inspired his passion for Hawaiian music and culture.
By Pamella Bellmore on May 9, 2017
The release of this EP is one of the more stylish moments achieved in the singer/songwriter and Americana scene heard in recent memory. Maui local, Pat Simmons Jr. brings a lot of the life of his home island into the six songs on This Mountain, but the songs are likewise geared to appeal to many different kinds of listeners.
Much of the music relies on a small combination of musicians, usually no more than three or four instrumental voices, and they are all expertly shaped to complement Simmons’ voice. The production brings all of this into seamless harmony and the songs are allowed to breathe thanks to those production choices and their innate construction. Simmons gets the material over as spontaneous, but extremely well crafted – there simply isn’t an extraneous note or word heard throughout any of these performances. Simmons will please many and invokes a host of emotions that will resonate with listeners.
Up And Out By Five is the sort of opener that young performers pray for. This comes out with a bright hue, never rushing itself, and gives Simmons a near note perfect platform for introducing himself vocally to listeners. The occasional spots of electric guitar that come along give it some extra splashes of color. Simmons really has a steady vocal touch that never betrays a hint of hesitation – he gets into these lyrics and reveals their possibilities with great phrasing while still cutting his voice as close as possible to the spirit of the songwriting.
This lesson applies, as well, to the EP’s second number Rust. There’s even more lyrically subtlety setting this track apart and it works quite well within the musical arrangement thanks to their quality and some more strong Simmons vocal phrasing. There’s a more laid back pace to this than the opener and it’s a good shift in mood so early on.
Mauna Mele has a easy going strut and an affirming air sure to bring smiles to many listeners faces. One gets the sense that this is more strongly and directly drawn from his personal life than much of the other material, but Simmons wants to communicate with his audience and never bogs them down with details that don’t matter to their experience. He weaves a spell with the simplest of musical equations and with the confidence of a much older performer.
How Many Years has a much strong reliance on acoustic guitar and doesn’t use slide guitar as much. The different feel helps sustain its five minute plus running time and gives Simmons a different dynamic to play his voice against.
All The Way brings piano into the mix and its presence has a transformative effect. The bluesy feel of the final track never turns into a full on romp but it brings the EP to rousing finish that will satisfy many. This Mountain is a great monument upon which to build a career and will likely stand as a powerful reminder of his talents for some time to come.
9 out of 10 stars
'This Mountain' Receives Rave Review from Skope Mag
May 1, 2017 Skope Mag, Cyrus Rhodes
Pat Simmons Jr. just released his debut solo CD entitled “This Mountain” in January 2017. Pat Simmons Jr. is the son of legendary guitarist and Doobie Brothers founder Pat Simmons. For the record – I am going to write this review like I have no prior knowledge of this fact.
The CD gently lifts off the ground with melodic intro piece “Up and Out by Five.” This song serves up an infectious reggae-folk kickoff piece served up against mesmerizing vocals, hypnotic guitar and inviting folk-rock rhythm that confidently leads you by the hand down the path of musical indulgence. Track 2 “Rust” keeps things moving with its slamming Pedal Steel guitar licks meshed against impressive musical peak and valley, inviting/soulful vibe and impressive vocals from Simmons Jr. Track 3 “Mauna Mele” is an impressive piece with powerful message that flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition courtesy of vocals from award winning Hawai’ian artist Keali’i Reichel and electric guitar from Hawai’ian bluesman Willie K. By track 4 this CD hits solid stride delivering many impressive songs back to back. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences but one in particular in Bob Marley. I would classify this music as Soulful, Singer/Songwriter and Americana Rock with a fun and carefree Reggae vibe. The CD at times presents brilliant peak and valley flow via a care free Island spirit that can’t help but suck you in. Besides the four piece standard you will also notice rich layers of impressive Electric guitar from Willie K, rocked out solo guitar, Harmonica, Banjo, Slide Guitar, effective harmonies, enticing melodies and Piano – all built on a nice, easy flowing rhythmic foundation. As a vocalist Simmons Jr. showcases an impressive and soulful singing skill set. He’s got good timing, finesse, timbre, and uses his power and control just when he needs it. All other members play their parts well and the production strokes though simple are pro grade. Kudos goes out the impressive guitar work from Willie K and amazing vocal and musical personality courtesy of Simmons Jr. who also plays guitar and Ukulele. All the musicianship and compositions are solid across the board. Simmons Jr and the gang aren’t going out of their way to win you over, but he’s not going out of his way to prove himself despite playing in his father shadow either. This is the most impressive aspect of this release. Simons Jr. does a great job at establishing his own musical personality. All production aspects check out. CD possesses solid low end punch and crystal clear high end clarity. Simmons Jr. has an effective baritone and his vocals flow well with the music. His overall touch behind the microphone is amazing.
All songs over 3.5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. CD is a bit short for A CD release. I want to hear a bit more vocal risk-taking from Simmons Jr. with things like power, falsetto and emotion. For some reason the vocal ending of Mauna Melle by Keali’i Reichel sticks out like a sore thumb to me.
For my money it doesn’t get much better than “This Mountain” by Pat Simons Jr. This surging artist is clearly making waves around Hawaii with his music for all the right reasons. His strong suit is his amazing songwriting and vocal touch, not to mention the musical personality delivered song for song will win you over. There isn’t a weak song on this entire 6 Track set. The music is easy breezy, grooving, upbeat, soulful and entertaining. The songwriting – all consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair and signature groove. This CD will be a real joy for those listeners out there who want an easy going musical experience to fill their atmosphere. This easy to digest musical format makes for a great musical experience many will enjoy. I recommend you just hit play, close your eyes and see where the journey takes you. Like a vacation to Maui, chances are you will want to come back soon.
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Rock n’ Soul, Reggae, Rock, Blues, Rock, Americana. Jazzy Pop
Sounds Like: Pat Simmons Jr.
Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Weakness: Feels like an EP
April 18, 2017 The Huffington Post, Chris Epting
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Pat Simmons Jr. has lived a long 26 years. Part of his depth and maturity may have to do with the fact that his father is Doobie Brothers founding member, Pat Simmons. After all, as a family they have traveled the world many times over (and Pat Jr has either shared the stage with, or opened up for, many artists including, Trevor Hall, The Wailers, Boz Scaggs, Chicago, Willie Nelson, Jack Johnson, Dave Mason, Buddy Guy, The Turtles, Little Feat, Kenny Loggins, Los Lobos, War, Tower of Power, Xavier Rudd, and of course The Doobie Brothers, among others.)
But it goes beyond that.
He recently experienced the birth of his first child, a son.
And he is also a cancer survivor.
Lots of life, so when you listen to the music on his new six-song EP, This Mountain, you hear the voice of a seasoned, serious and committed artist who lives not just for the music, but also for the environment around him. The project features, among others, John McFee on Dobro and steel guitar, Bill Payne on piano, and John Cowan on background vocals. Elvin Bishop provides slide guitar on the final track, “All the Way.”
With the songs inspired by the Hawaiian island he’s called home since the age of 6, This Mountain also features the voice of award-winning Hawaiian artist Keali’i Reichel on “Mauna Mele” as well as electric guitar by bluesman Willie K on “Touch the Ground.”
At home in rural Maui, Simmons Jr., a true activist and a steward of the land, blends acoustic surf-rock and traditional Hawaiian folk on the six original songs. Speaking with him, it’s easy to connect the laid back ethos of his music with his personality. But don’t be fooled by his surfer-cool soft- spokenness. He takes the world very seriously.
“It’s a blessing to be able to share stories about life on Maui. It’s a special sanctuary. I grew up in the country next to wild water and wild mountains. I was taught to grow food and to share that abundance with our community. Sharing what the land provides matters to me.”
Many days the young artist can be found at a local farmers market, not just sharing his bounty of organic produce, but also his music, performing with a small PA for locals. In 2012, he received a degree in ecology from The Evergreen State College. He now spends most of his time on his family’s land on Maui, gardening, living a purely organic lifestyle and spending as much time as possible exploring the waters, forests and uplands of Haleakala. He looks after unique ecosystems, collects rare Hawaiian plants and works as a small-scale organic farmer.
But things may certainly change once the mainland hears the music. Evocative, exotic and extremely tuneful, the collection was produced by Pat’s father. “I loved that part of the experience,” Pat Jr. shared. “ My dad has been an incredible influence on me. He’s such a positive person. And he’s a lot of fun. He’s really a perfect mentor and he made this musical project extra special.”
The music simply soars; an ethereal, hand-crafted sonic souvenir that transports the listener to the mystical island where a young boy has become a young man.
Before our conversation ends, Simmons tells me that there is one message he wants to leave people with.
”Love the body and love the land- wherever one finds one’s self on the planet — take care of that place and it will take good care of you.”
You can listen to This Mountain here.
Feb. 2, 2017 Maui Beat, Jon Woodhouse
Pat Simmons Jr. has been around music all his life. Ever since he can remember, he spent time on the road touring with his musician dad, Pat Simmons Sr., of the Doobie Brothers.
“My mom says I took my first steps on a tour bus,” he says. “It really brought me close to a lot of traditional music, blues and roots and rock ‘n’ roll. And I really appreciate country and Hawaiian music.”
So it’s no surprise that Pat Jr. would eventually start writing and releasing his own music. And with dad producing the debut album, he’s fortunate to be able to call on some stellar backing by an amazing ensemble — from Maui’s Keali’i Reichel, Willie K and Tom Conway, to blues rocker Elvin Bishop, Doobie’s guitarist John McFee, Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne, Bonnie Raitt bassist Hutch Hutchinson and of course his father.
“My dad really made it happen,” says Pat, who has lived on Maui since the age of 6. “He guided me all the way. It was really special to have his support because he has so much experience.”
“This Mountain” features six sparkling songs that encompass his love for Maui and respect and appreciation for the culture, our natural wonder and a general gratitude for life.
Maui’s revered kumu hula Reichel graces “Mauna Mele,” contributing both chant and some lyrics to a moving homage to Haleakala. “The mountain is sacred, giving life; the mountain is sacred, it has no price,” Pat prayerfully sings.
“That was a major blessing,” says Pat. “Keali’i really loved the song. It really touched him and he said he would love to sing on it.”
One of the album’s most sonically beguiling tracks, “Rust,” which is buoyed by McFee’s evocative dobro playing, contrasts Pat’s love for surfing with a concern about environmental degradation.
“I had picked up a copy of Surfer magazine, and the cover was about oceans being under siege,” he explains. “I started understanding our oceans are becoming acidified and the reefs are literally rusting, they’re dissolving. ‘Rust’ is about the reef. I surf most mornings at Ho’okipa and the lyrics talk about what a gift it is that I can go out there.”
On “How Many Years,” Pat addresses the arduous journey when he faced and survived cancer in 2013.
“Coming out of the cancer experience about a year ago, I was sitting on the porch with my grandmother, who just passed away, and I realized I don’t know how many years I’m going to have in this body. I realize how blessed I was to come through the experience I had and that every day is a blessing,” he said.
From there he ups the mood with the more rocking “Touch the Ground” (ably driven by Willie K and Conway’s combined guitars) where he offers sage advice to keep our spirits up. “Any time I get thrown off balance getting my feet on the ground, returning to nature, brings me back to balance,” he affirms.
Pat’s love for caring for the earth led him to graduate with an ecology degree from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. Back on Maui he spends time growing food organically.
Over the years, he’s taken up playing a number of instruments including guitar, ukulele, didgeridoo, percussion and flutes. On the road with his dad, he’s opened for the Doobie Brothers, while his Maui gigs have included opening for singer-songwriter Trevor Hall.
Pat hopes his debut album will help inspire folks.
“The local life I’m living here is an example of aloha aina, how I can love my home and take care of my island,” he says. “Maybe it will get people to care about their home too.”
Pat can be heard playing on Maui at Fleetwood's On Front St. in Lahaina, Cafe des Amis in Paia from 7-9pm every Friday, and Toohey's Butchery & Bistro every Thursday from 6-9pm.