By Nicole Hanratty
Posted May 8, 2013
On January 5, 2013, I caught a live performance by Keaton Simons at Hotel Cafe without ever having heard a lick of his music. I showed up to see Keaton based on his go-getter personality that shined in 140 characters or less on Twitter. I remember him making an announcement at that packed house show that he was creating his own label–Best Revenge–and putting out an album soon. One month to the date later, Keaton Simons released the first single, “Beautiful Pain” and launched himself well on his way to success.
How did Keaton get to where he is today? He credits his music, family and fans for getting him to this point but with a family tree that essentially reads like a who’s who in Hollywood, Keaton Simons could have certainly gone a different route with his life. His father is Jimmy Simons (television producer, Go On with Matthew Perry, Malcolm in the Middle), his step-dad is Eric Roberts the actor, making his aunt is Julia Roberts and his step-sister is Emma Roberts.
His sister Morgan owns the Pi bake shop which looks like a traditional pie lovers heaven–that delivers. “She is a brilliant Chef and owns her own catering company as well as an online bakery, called Pi bake shop,” Keaton says beaming with pride. “She now has a booth in both the Studio city and Malibu farmers markets, she’s kicking ass,” he tells me as we sit outside in the sun on the patio of a quaint French cafe. I asked Keaton, “Do you only breed success in your family?” “It’s a roller coaster for everybody no matter how you slice it and there are definitely some people in my family who have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success and some who have had less. We all define success for ourselves however we choose to, and the bottom line is that you’ve got to be happy no matter what, we can’t all have the same stuff. We can’t all have the same opportunities and the same accomplishments, so we just embrace what we’ve got and we love it,” he answers and I believe he means what he says.
Keaton’s grandpa, David Rayfiel, whom just passed away a few years ago was a screen writer (The Way We Were, Out of Africa, Three days of the Condor, The Firm, Rain Man). “He wrote a movie which I would consider to be one of the quintessential jazz movies ever made and it’s called ‘Round Midnight,” Keaton tells me and he’s lit up just talking about his grandfather. “It stars Dexter Gordon and a bunch of heavy jazz guys. Herbie Hancock is in it, everybody is in it. It’s about the Paris Jazz scene in the ‘50s and it’s brilliant. He had a very in depth understanding of music from a lot of different angles and definitely a tremendous appreciation for it. That’s something where he and I really bonded. My whole family loves music,” says Keaton.
The story of Keaton Simons’ new album “Beautiful Pain” began long before April 30th, the day he released it. It started with parents who loved him as a united front despite their divorce and created a loving environment in which he could thrive and explore his talents. His story is a journey that has some pretty wild tales that range from his teenage days where he recorded with one of the original drummers from Ike and Tina Turner’s band to recently hanging out with massive rock star Ozzie Osbourne. Yet Keaton’s humble nature would never even hint at the experiences he’s had and the artist is on many levels more concerned with paying back those who have helped him along the way than recanting his own tales.
“I see a lot of success coming out of independent artists right now so I think it’s good timing but it can’t go unsaid that you’ve named it Revenge Records,” I say. “Best Revenge,” he corrects me. “My manager David Helfant started saying to me right when we started working together, “Success is the best revenge.” I don’t know how I went through my whole life without hearing that exact saying because I don’t think he came up with it. It’s a really brilliant saying. To me the way that I understand it is that the reason that success is the best revenge is because it eliminates the need or desire for revenge. With success comes acceptance, comfort, it helps to open the doors for those things. Again like I said before, a person has the power and ability to define their own success. With any kind of success it ends up being the best revenge because you’re not worried about what other people think and what other people have done and what’s happened in the past. It’s all about what’s right now and how are we moving forward.”
“Have you ever had a situation in your life where you just really wanted real revenge?” I asked. “Yes, absolutely that’s why I need the Best Revenge… because I’m combating that. It’s tough when you work really hard for a really long time and little things happen along the way that kind of are obstacles, you go, ‘It didn’t need to be that way.’ I think it’s a natural instinct to be like, ‘I’ll get them.’ I don’t want to live my life that way and so I had to make a whole record label just to remind myself of it,” Keaton says and he’s half joking but half not.
I asked him about opening for Coldplay and Train and how he may have been influenced by them. “I was talking to Pat Monahan when I did the show with Train and he said to me, he’s like, “Just keep touring, keep playing.” I’d always heard about him that he takes every opportunity to play basically. They’re constantly touring, they’re constantly performing. We’re talking about a band that’s had tremendous radio success and a lot of people who have that kind of success at radio don’t necessarily put all that effort into touring and performing. He was basically saying, ‘Look, that’s what’s its always going to be all about, that personal connection, being on the road, being on stage in front of an audience.'”
Keaton adds, “If I had to choose a greatest love in terms of the overall world of what I do in music, I have to say that live performance is it.” “I see the people who just keep going, keep playing, I see them experiencing the most success,” I say. “Totally, of course, absolutely,” Keaton agrees, “and the people who love it who still love it. I was just hanging out with Ozzy Osborne a few weeks ago.” “Was he sober?” I ask and Keaton’s answer made me laugh. “There’s no way to know. There’s no way to tell. It’s impossible to tell,” he says and we both laugh.
“What an interesting, amazing, fascinating guy,” Keaton says. “He said he’s touring now more than he has ever in his career and he’s been doing this for over 40 years. I said,’How do you feel about it?’ He’s like, ‘I love it, I love it as much as I ever did.’ He’s like, ‘Something has got to get me out of the house away from those dogs who love to shit all over the place.’ It was so funny. He’s hilarious, just funny and real and right there and him, he’s totally Ozzy,”
Since Keaton’s new album “Beautiful Pain” co-produced by Mikal Blue and engineered by Brian Scheuble was released, he’s received some pretty amazing support especially via social media hype from his friends inside the music industry including Jason Mraz, Gavin DeGraw, Billy Idol, Ryan Cabrera, and Andy Grammar. Keaton is noticeably humbled and says he wants to succeed so that he can repay those who have gone out of their way for him and one day pay it forward to help new artists.
Keaton’s song “Is There Any Other Way” on the “Beautiful Pain” album was co-written with Jason Mraz at 4:30 in the morning at a Hanson music writing retreat. He says, “Man it’s still one of my favorite songs that I wrote. We worked together so fluidly and so beautifully. He’s such a beautiful soul…such an incredibly talented person, more than people would even think and he’s got millions of fans.” Keaton adds, “I just sent the info [to Jason and said], ‘I just want you to know the record is out and I’m so excited I can’t wait and our song is on there and I love it and I just love you and if you have some time go ahead and spread the word, no pressure or anything.’ He just posted the most amazing, just gushing support of wonderful, it almost brought tears to my eyes when I saw it.” It makes me even want even more to be able to be in that position that I can do that for some of the people that I believe in and also to repay some of the people.”
Also on Keaton’s record is Tyler Hilton. The two have been friends since Tyler was 16 years old (Tyler is a few years younger that Keaton). Says Keaton, “We were both signed to Maverick records at the same time. We got close starting then and we’ve been close ever since. What a talented, beautiful, amazing person; he is just unbelievable. I brought him in and I was like, ‘I know I want you on this record one way or another, I don’t know what song, I don’t know what I want you to do, we’ll figure it out when you get here.’ He came over to the studio and it just fell right into place, I knew what exactly I wanted him to do. He’s singing backgrounds on “Inspiration,” which is one of my favorite songs on the record.”
“Inspiration” is a one of the highlight songs on the album and I ask Keaton who inspires him and makes him a better person. He references his girlfriend and publicist Laura Goldfarb and says, “There are a lot of people that make me better, Laura is definitely right up there at the top of the list…the world makes me better. For me life is a collaboration and that’s why I love to collaborate when I write, but in general my overall view about things is that I try to maintain a constant awareness of our infinite autonomy and out infinite interconnectedness. …We are all individuals and should be respected as individuals and consider ourselves that way, but we are nothing without each other.”
￼”Your song “Hearts Don’t Break Themselves” …I’m wondering what breaks your heart?” I ask and his answer is quintessential Keaton. “That’s a toughie because sometimes I feel like my heart breaks all the time and sometimes I feel like I’ve never had my heart broken. There are a lot of things that break my heart in the way that I imagine heartbreak feels like. Some of them are positive and some of them are negative. It breaks my heart so when I allow myself to recognize the magnitude of suffering that goes on in the world. It’s almost unbearable how heart breaking that is to know and to understand. It breaks my heart when people aren’t recognized and respected for who they are, it breaks my heart when people aren’t recognized and respected for who they are.”
“Or don’t recognize or respect themselves,” I add.
“That’s the biggest heartbreak and honestly, thank you for saying that because I think that is the biggest heartbreak,” says Keaton. “That’s one of my main goals and missions in life is to help, to encourage people to recognize the importance of loving one self. You can love yourself in the most unselfish way possible. For me, I try to maintain a constant awareness that if I don’t love myself, then I’m not going to be suited to love or be loved by anybody else and so for me I can love myself as a completely unselfish act.
“I think one of the lines you have in ‘Beautiful Pain’ is if you’re going to save a life,” I begin and Keaton finishes the sentence for me, “maybe it should be your own.” “That’s a really powerful line right there,” I tell him. “I think a lot of people try to save everyone around them and they end up neglecting themselves and it ends up having a negative effect on their efforts to help the that people they love,” Keaton explains.
“It’s like when you’re in the airplane and they’re like put the mask on yourself first,” I say understanding what he means. “That is the analogy that I use all the time, put your mask on first before trying to help others,” Keaton says. “You know why because if you’re passed out dead then you’re not going to be able to help anybody else and that is exactly the analogy that I used, so yes you got that one right. Yes, it’s heartbreaking to me when I see people who don’t recognize that, don’t recognize their own value and their own worth and their own beauty. There are a lot of people out there who think of themselves as being worthless and ugly and so on and so forth. That’s just never true.”
Which brought me to my last question for the talented singer songwriter, “When you look back what do you see?” “One of the big reminders is that I always see with my past is just to trust myself with all my instincts and to not be afraid, not make decisions based on fear,” Keaton says and for a man whom just launched his own label and self-released an album it seems a brave statement to make and yet quite apropos.
He adds, “I found that through my life that every decision I make from a loving place, from a positive place, ends up on a positive trajectory and ends up in a positive place and the opposite is exactly true. Everything that I have ever done, every decision I have ever made based on fear or in some negative point of view has always ended up somewhere negative even if it seems its going the right way and I go, ‘Well, somehow I’m beating the system.’ It always ends up in the dog house.” I laugh, “Red flag thinking you’re beating the system.” “Exactly. Just right when you think you do,” says Keaton, “that’s when you find out how wrong you are.”
It’s evident Keaton Simons is on a positive path with “Beautiful Pain”–an album which clearly comes from a place of love–and is offering up his own brand of “Inspiration.”
KEATON SIMONS ON THE WEB
WE ASKED KEATON SIMONS
What song title best describes your personality?
Keaton: Man, I’m tempted to say “Beautiful Pain” because..it’s something that the initial place it that it all comes from is my deepest subconscious. I end up learning more about myself in the songs that I write than almost any other means.
Usually it’s during the years after the song is written and completed that I learn the most from it because its constantly revealing more things. I hate to be a cheese-ball and do my own song, my own thing but I think I have to say “Beautiful Pain,” that’s the one, not to say that I am so beautiful but that concept of being so overwhelmed by beauty and love that it’s painful and the simultaneous duality of things and opposite extremes working together to create one cohesive whole, I think I have to go with that.
What’s the most recent album you’ve purchased or downloaded?
Keaton: That’s easy. Andy Allo Superconductor (executive-produced by Prince whom also co-wrote three songs on her album) I’ve known her for years now and she was doing laidback singer, songwriter with an acoustic guitar thing for a little while, that’s what she was doing when I first met her. Prince got wind of her and took her under his wing and ended up executive producing her album and she toured … she spent the last few years, touring with him, opening for him and performing with him.
What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Keaton: I love dark chocolate in general, so anytime I have the opportunity for some dark chocolate ice-cream. I will do it, but I also like smashing a bunch of flavors together. If I have the option for chocolate or vanilla or both, I will always choose both.
What was your favorite cereal as a child, the one you begged your mom for?
Keaton: I grew up eating really healthy food. I’ve been through phases, I went through a massive Cookie Crisp phase, I went through an extensive Cinnamon Toast Crunch phase. Certainly have gone in and out of the Captain Crunch phases throughout my life.
Any crunch berries?
Keaton: No crunch berries, just OG Captain Crunch. Peanut butter is a little too rich for me. The thing about Captain Crunch and I know anybody out there who’s going to be listening or reading this knows, it shreds the hell out of your mouth, particularly the roof of one’s mouth. Captain Crunch is great, if it didn’t shred the roof of your mouth, I don’t know that I would have ever eaten a different cereal when I was a kid, I think it is that good. It’s just the hazards that come with it.
What’s your all time favorite movie?
Keaton: Favorite all time movie, that is so hard. Honestly, you’re going to laugh but it’s probably either the first National Lampoon’s Vacation or the original Caddyshack.
Keaton Simons contributed song “Currently” to the 2005 “Love Rocks” HRC album that includes artists such as Christina Aguilera, P!nk, Dixie Chicks, Sophie B. Hawkins, Carole King and more.
Keaton Simons contributed music for a PSA for Cindy Lauper’s Give A Damn campaign and appeared in the PSA for it along with a multitude of celebrities including Elton John, Jason Mraz, and Kim Kardashian.