Cody Simpson is a free man. Not only has the Australian singer-songwriter, actor and former Dancing With the Stars contestant recently turned 18, but he is an independent artist, having exited his contract with Atlantic. "It's the first time I've had the creative freedom to do what I want," he says. And his friend Miley Cyrus, who contributed artwork for his brand-new track "Flower," couldn't be more proud of her pal: "He's a super fucking cool guy and an epic guitar player and singer," she says.
As Simpson describes his newfound independence and recent entry into legal adulthood, he uses variations of the word "free" frequently. It signifies not only his shift in attitude but his music as well, and he has appropriately titled his forthcoming album Free. "I needed the independence," he says. "[The album process] has been very reflective of that."
Working with Cisco Adler (Whitestarr, Shwayze) in Malibu following the break from Atlantic, Simpson has stepped away from his formerly synth- and bass-heavy dance pop and turned to breezy, Jack Johnson-esque acoustic beach pop. "It just came together so easily," he says of the process of creating not only the album but the first release from his new era, "Flower," streaming below.
"I wouldn't call it necessarily a single," he notes. Simpson hopes that his music will be less about creating hit tracks and more about the actual experience of listening to a full piece of music from start to finish. For now, he promises five songs to debut in the next couple of months while he's hoping Free will be out before summer.
Adler hasn't been the only famous friend to help Simpson bring his more mature vision to life. Cyrus contributed artwork for "Flower" when Simpson was on a tight deadline to get his work to iTunes. "I told her where I was headed, and she was stoked," the singer says of his pal's support. "I really admire how she's really unorthodox and fun."
Cyrus says Simpson simply "hit me up one morning" to ask for a little help with the artwork. "I was being emo and was like, I'm going to just lay in bed and chill with my dogs all day," she remembers. When she heard he needed an image fast, she ran to her living room and grabbed an almost-dead flower. "I shot it on some Polaroids, and then instead of complicating things, I said fuck it, I’m just going to shoot this shit on an iPhone."
Cyrus adds she was "just trying to do something simple for him" to complement the vibe of the track and help people think of Simpson differently. "I just wanted something where people didn't have a stereotypical idea of what he was and could just look at the song for what it is, because it's a fucking epic song," she says. She says Simpson, who she met at Art Basel, is a "super nice dude and super fucking talented." He's also, she adds, not what she expected. "I hate for anyone to get stuck in their own name and their own brand of what they built. I should be less of a judgmental person because of how I've been judged, but sometimes even I can think of what you would expect Cody Simpson to be, and he's not what you expect him to be." She says the 18-year-old musician is also getting involved with her charity, which aids homeless youth.
As for other projects, a collaboration with former tourmate Justin Bieber is on the back burner, no longer slated to be released anytime soon while Simpson focuses on the overhaul of his old sound and image. For 2015, he plans to play more shows but will first debut the first live performance of his Free era on Good Morning America this Friday. While delivering "Flower," Simpson will keep it simple and acoustic. The plan is "Just going to play and jam out."