Blues-Rock Guitar Powerhouse JD Simo Talks New Album, 'Off at 11'

(Image credit: Jeffrey Fasano)

After releasing four albums with Nashville rockers SIMO, JD Simo built a cozy home studio in his Music City basement and went to work on his debut solo disc. Following the homegrown vibe and the feelings it engendered, he cut an album centered around classic blues sounds and approaches. Sure, he felt great about it, but it left some more psychedelic exploration to the side, leaving him pondering which direction to choose. Then a one-night gig with the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh in June 2018 opened his mind.

“We played this incredible show of bluesy approaches to the Grateful Dead repertoire,” Simo says. “Afterwards I told Phil about my conflict between the traditional and the experimental. He just looked at me and calmly said, ‘Well, you can do both, you know. We just went to Mars and came back to land on a Slim Harpo song. Just do that.’ It was a such a simple thing, but so clarifying: You don’t have to pick a lane.

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Alan Paul

Alan Paul is the author of three books, Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan, One Way Way Out: The Inside Story of the Allman Brothers Band – which were both New  York Times bestsellers – and Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues and Becoming a Star in Beijing, a memoir about raising a family in Beijing and forming a Chinese blues band that toured the nation. He’s been associated with Guitar World for 30 years, serving as Managing Editor from 1991-96. He plays in two bands: Big in China and Friends of the Brothers, with Guitar World’s Andy Aledort.