An artist who commands comparisons to an ostensibly motley crew of musicians such as Brett Anderson, Neil Finn and Paul McCartney is bound to stop listeners in their tracks. Indeed, an artist who’s gained the direct support of heavy hitters like Chris Difford of Squeeze and the legendary Jackson Browne, in turn, deserves some serious attention. Meet Chris Simmons. After teasing the music pundits with a host of laudable openers, a roster of punch packing support slots and headline shows of his own between 2013 and 2015, Simmons proved that he had an affect on those keen to know who was worth watching – and rightly so.
Having toured with fellow Brightonian Passenger, Chris Simmons has played a litany of British festivals including Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight Festival, opened for Australia’s Matt Corby, and flown the English and Trans-Atlantic support flag for the likes of Kate Nash and Suzanne Vega. Continuing his love for playing house concerts across Europe over the last handful of years also, if there’s one thing Simmons does without question, it’s staying true his incredible energy for performance and sustaining his effortless output.
But the last few years haven’t been easy. After losing his beloved brother four years ago, writing became difficult, performing even more so. Recognising the need to take time out and sit with his grief, Chris decided to take a break. Then, at the end of 2015 during a trip to India to recalibrate, Simmons found the words came to him easily: “I started writing again. Loads actually. I decided to hold off performing and just totally absorb myself in writing and recording.” Now? “Now I have a new record ready to go, and in the process… and have created what I think is my best ever material.” So good in fact, that it attracted co-writes from Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr and his stalwart advocator, Chris Difford.
Despite this, launching in with an LP didn’t feel right. Instead, his standalone track Deepest Wound, was in direct response to the loss of his brother. It’s only natural, then, that this is why Deepest Wound, and its CSNY / Nick Drake flecked double A-side Gold Dust which also deals with loss, is the precedent release ahead of an upcoming album.
While still entirely true to Simmons’ signature ability to lyrically personify every human emotion to resonate absolutely with his listeners’ own experiences, Deepest Wound possesses a depth of contemplation never before heard in Chris’s material. “It’s a sad song, but it has a very positive message. It’s a message to say, ‘Look, things happen like this, but we have each other and we can get through this’.” It’s impossible not to notice the same heart-breaking beauty balled up in the melancholy of Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah; the rawness in Simmons’, at times, quavering vocal; the ghostly but cathartically haunting string instrumentation and considered pauses. For every song that’s ever been written about loss of any kind, Deepest Wound is the song that touches the nucleus of and coalesces that pain, going on to encapsulate the process of healing too.
Without doubt, an authentically stripped bare piece of songmanship by one of music’s most honest and talented individuals, it feels like it doesn’t matter who wrote Deepest Wound. What matters is that it exists. For anyone who knows what it’s like to lose someone, and even for those who don’t, this song’s resonance goes far beyond its surface sentiment. Chris Simmons has gifted us all with one of the most beautiful tracks about human frailty you’ll hear all year.