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Nashville recording session gift unwraps Charlottetown, N.L. musician's talents

Brad Simmonds credits his wife Melinda, who now acts as his manager, for being the backbone of his growing musical career. CONTRIBUTED
Brad Simmonds credits his wife Melinda, who now acts as his manager, for being the backbone of his growing musical career.

Brad Simmonds astonished by newfound fame as first press of 'Old Habits' CD sells out in days

CHARLOTTETOWN, N.L. —

What started out as a vacation to Nashville has turned into an opportunity for a Charlottetown, N.L. man who returned to the fabled city to record music and meet with some local songwriters.

In 2016, Brad and Melinda Simmonds were in what is often known as Music City, USA, celebrating their first wedding anniversary by taking in many music-related activities including the Grand Ole Opry, the legendary venue for country music.

The couple were at the Opry waiting to get into a show when they noticed a poster advertising a studio where one can pay a fee to record song.  The studio happened to be located at the Ryman Auditorium, which was the former home to the Grand Ole Opry radio show.

Brad was no stranger to performing music, having grown up in a musical family and receiving his first guitar at the age of five.

“When I was nine or 10 years old, Mom showed me the three chords on a guitar and I took it from there,” he said.

So it didn’t take long for the Simmonds to decide to take a drive to the studio, where he recorded a couple of songs.

Sometime after the vacation was over, Melinda had an idea. “I was trying to figure out what he wanted for Christmas. He wants to sing for people, so I’d like to get him to record a CD,” she said.

Brad Simmonds recently released his first CD, entitled Old Habits. The first printing of 500 CDs sold out within days. CONTRIBUTED
Brad Simmonds recently released his first CD, entitled Old Habits. The first printing of 500 CDs sold out within days. CONTRIBUTED

So, unbeknownst to Brad, who was away in Labrador City as a mining supervisor for the Iron Ore Company of Canada, Melinda was able to arrange a recording session with Photosleep Studios in St. John’s.

When Brad returned home on Boxing Day, he opened up a “letter from Santa” with details of the recording session. Melinda recorded the ‘reveal’ and posted it on the Brad Simmonds Country Artist Facebook page, stating in the video that “this is when he’s going to find out that he’ll become famous.”

The CD, entitled Old Habits and containing Brad performing a number of classic tunes, was recorded and released this past May. The final song list was based on the input of local fans — who the Simmonds call ‘pickers’ — who selected their favourites from his performance videos posted on Facebook Live.

The first printing of 500 CDs sold out within days, so another few hundred were pressed; an impressive feat when one considers Charlottetown is a small community of roughly 300 people.

“Everyone tells me I’m in the wrong profession,” said Brad, who cites Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson, Johnny Cash and other classic country stars as inspiration.

He has also picked up more followers thanks to performances this past summer such as the Clarenville Farmers Market.

Brad has been happily taken aback by his newfound fame, having several encounters with local travellers playing his CD in their vehicles.

“I went to Tim’s one morning and all I could hear in the parking lot was me singing,” he said. “I looked around and said ‘that’s me!’ It’s pretty cool.”

And now, Brad and Melinda are returning to Nashville. They’re leaving on Oct. 20 for a 10-day trip that will include Brad meeting up with a producer and taking part in a songwriters’ circle with local writers, as well as hopefully recording a song that can be posted on online music services such as Spotify.

Brad said he hasn’t done much songwriting, but knows that the best songs come from lived experience, and figures he has a lot of stories to tell. 

“I just need that little push,” he said.

His wife Melinda has essentially become Brad’s manager. This past April, she took a break from her own job to help with arranging gigs and promoting Brad’s music on their Facebook page. Now that the busy season is over, she has taken some part-time work but, she says, “it will allow me to continue my journey with Brad.”

Melinda acknowledged this experience is a bit of a financial undertaking. 

“If it’s something you invest in and believe in, it’s going to be an undertaking. I have all the confidence in the world that it’s going to fly.”

At 52, Brad admits he’s starting a little late in the game when it comes to a musical career.

“This is something I should’ve done years ago.” 

He expects to remain busy playing at different venues across the province, and is already lined up to play at dinner theatres and local pubs.

Regardless of how this story will end, it’s clear it couldn’t have started without the love and support Brad and Melinda have for each other.

“She’s the backbone to all of this,” he said. “She believes in me 110 per cent. I can’t say enough about her.”

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