Bonnie and Taylor Simms have been staples of Boulder County’s music scene for the past several years, playing in Americana roots outfit Bonnie and the Clydes and as a stripped-down acoustic duo. They also teach people more instruments than you can count on one hand, were a fixture at summer music festivals and played five or six gigs in a good week.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, they lost most of their income derived from touring and gigging, a new reality in which many professional musicians unfortunately found themselves. But fortune smiled upon them when “I See Red,” a song from their side project, the more rock and roll-oriented Everybody Loves an Outlaw, became an out-of-control viral smash hit in June.
“That was intended to just be music for sync licensing, music for television, commercials and movies,” Taylor says of Everybody Loves and Outlaw. “One of our songs got placed in a movie, and the movie went No. 1 on Netflix for weeks and weeks.”
“I See Red,” is a simmering, sultry rock tune in which the narrator lambasts an unfaithful lover. It appeared in the film “365 Days,” a controversial erotic drama considered to be the Polish answer to “50 Shades of Grey.” For the record, they haven’t watched the entire movie, but they viewed a bit to get an idea of what it is about. Mostly, however, they wanted to hear their song. (Another of their songs plays in the end credits.)
“We knew when our song came on,” Taylor says. “So once we had an idea of what it was all about we fast-forwarded to the song.”
Fair enough. Polish erotica is an acquired taste. But the song placement is unique in that it appears in its three-and-a-half-minute entirety, an unusual feat in soundtracks. It brings to mind the Martin Scorcese “Casino,” in which The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” appears uninterrupted during the requisite murder montage, an important part of any gangster flick. Likewise, “I See Red” appears during an important part of “365 Days.”
“It was at full volume,” Taylor says. “There was not talking over any of it, and it was set to the pinnacle, the more torrid part, the sexiest scene in the whole movie.”
Bonnie says that the reality of being a professional musician means having tons of different projects going on simultaneously. In addition to their more rock-and country-oriented fare, the couple plays children’s music, teaches at summer camps, play in pick up bluegrass bands and teaches private lessons
“We literally play in a 1,000 formations,” Bonnie says. “We had all this new attention and acclaim on this formation. It would be silly not to pursue this opportunity. Also, all of our gigs for Bonnie and the Clydes were canceled because of COVID.”
Bonnie says she and Taylor played live several live gigs a week in better years. That’s how they made new fans and spread the word about their music. With all of their live engagements canceled, however, they were forced to move on to other avenues. As Everybody Loves and Outlaw, they have amassed a large following on social media platform TikTok, where they share music and other content with fans, like the new puppy they picked up last year. It’s a different age group altogether than from when they played live shows, and the duo has gained younger fans because of its social media activities.
“We have almost a quarter of a million followers,” Bonnie says. “It’s definitely our biggest platform we’ve ever had in that capacity. It’s really fun to have that level of interaction.”
It seems to have worked. “I See Red” has two official remixes available online, but numerous other artists have taken it upon themselves to remix the song. They’ve amassed tens of millions of streams on platforms like Spotify. Spurred on by a TikTox challenge, other people have posted videos of themselves singing Everybody Loves an Outlaw songs. At least one amateur musician has posted a cover version of “I See Red” on YouTube.
“It’s literally like thousands of videos of people singing our songs,” Bonnie says. “That was so cool for me as a singer. It tripped me out to hear a ton of people cover our songs.”
The soundtrack placement has already led to a record deal. Bonnie and Taylor were flooded with offers to take meetings with labels after the song went viral, and they opted to sign a singles deal with Columbia Records, a legendary label that has boasted artists like Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.
“A ton of greats,” Bonnie says. “The roster is incredible.”
Bonnie and Taylor have been working with producer Robbie Nevil, who recorded several hit songs in the 1980s and 1990s, like “C’est La Vie.” He’s also worked with artists like The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and Earth Wind and Fire. The Sims and Nevil have been collaborating remotely because of the COVID pandemic and have so far recorded seven songs together. They are currently looking to find homes for their songs for future movies and television shows.
“It’s a process,” Bonnie says. “We’ve been putting together content right now, making videos to go with a couple of the songs to kind of make this complete package.”
Bonnie says Nevil has shown them new ways to make a living with their music, and it’s advice that has come in handy during the shutdowns.
“We are used to getting a check because we played a show,” Bonnie says. “That’s how we’ve operated in the music business. Robbie has shown us the beauty of, ‘Hey, you’ve created all this content and all this wonderful product. You don’t have to play shows to sell them. You can just sell them.’”
Bonnie and Taylor both hail from Texas and met at the college where they went to study music. They’ve called Boulder County, specifically Longmont, home for years, however, and they say the supportive music community and large number of singer-songwriters and string band musicians keeps them here. They also make money teaching guitar, banjo, bass, ukulele, vocals, mandolin and songwriting, and students have been supportive of Bonnie and Taylor’s music as well.
“I love living in Longmont and getting to have my student recitals,” she says. “There’s this really cool event barn. It’s someone’s personal house and they have a nice performance space in it, getting to do student concerts and having everyone come out and support those kinds of things in the community.”
2020 was a bit of a mixed bag because of the loss of live shows, but Bonnie and Taylor say they’ve learned a lot about themselves because of the extra time spent at home. Overall, it’s been really good, but they are struggling with the same problems as everyone else who has the world become increasingly small for the past 12 months. They are making the best of it, however.
“We’re camping a lot,” Taylor says. “We are hiking a lot and spending a lot of time together and lots of time outdoors and cooking dinner every night, catching up on things, working around the house, things we’ve wanted to do since we bought the house and didn’t have time to do.”
So it can be good. It can also be hard.
“It would switch into these lonesome pits of, ‘Is life ever going to be the same again?’ and, ‘We miss our friends and we miss the shows and we miss the applause.’ We miss that sort of real-time validation that what we are doing is being validated by someone.”
Bonnie adds that as the person who spent much of 2019 booking all of the shows for 2020 that would later be canceled, it’s been hard to see their tour schedule dry up. She shies away from using the term “heartbreaking” because that sounds overdramatic. But she misses Bonnie and The Clydes, who haven’t been able to get together because of the pandemic.
“It was sad,” she says. “We hung out with our band once a week. We rehearsed and we played a lot of shows, then all of a sudden we don’t see them anymore at all because we aren’t all in the same house”
Asked which Boulder County venue they look forward to returning to the most, they say the Gold Hill Inn located in the mountains above Boulder. Bonnie also has a special place in her heart for summer festivals they have played at around Colorado for the past several years.
“I’ll be really sad if a lot of festivals go by the wayside or can’t proceed because they didn’t make it through the pandemic financially,” she says. “I’m curious to see who is in and who is out because there will be some undoubtedly.”