James Simpson

EP 15: James Simpson

@jamessimo

Episode Transcript (autogenerated)

Dane: [00:00:00] You booked it. Episode teen, Hey, entertainers and performers of the world. I’m your host, Dane Reis, and welcome to you. Booked it. Where I chat with inspiring entertainers, seven days a week by digging into their journey. We’re going to discover everything you need to do to be a successful entertainer, you know?

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[00:01:22] Let’s do this. All righty. Let’s get started. I am excited to introduce my guest today. James Simpson. James, are you ready for this? 

[00:01:34] James: [00:01:34] I’m ready. Let’s do it. 

[00:01:36] Dane: [00:01:36] Perfect. All right, James is originally from the United Kingdom where he trained in performing arts. He began his professional career performing around London, where he danced in 50 cents UK tour.

[00:01:50] S credits include dancing. And Aerosmith’s resident show here in Vegas, the Australian BG show at Excalibur Las Vegas and the Latin Grammys. Currently he lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Ario, who is a professional figure, skater and yoga instructor. Well, nice little fun fact about James. He also has a great Dane and a black cat.

[00:02:11] Now, James, that is a quick intro of who you are and what you’ve done, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself? Fill in the gaps, who you are, where you’re from and a little bit more about what you do as a professional entertainer. 

[00:02:28] James: [00:02:28] yeah, sure. So, yeah, like I said, I’m originally from the UK.

[00:02:32]and I was born in a town about half an hour outside of London called Redding. And, I kind of started, I guess like my performing arts training there and then went on to a bigger college, inside of London. It was called, Tiffany theater college did three years there. and once I graduated from performing arts college, I was working as a professional entertainer in London for, about three years, I’d say, kind of going between like acting jobs, singing jobs, done, some jobs, like I was.

[00:03:05] Always available, always has been, have been pretty passionate about all three. so I, I was lucky enough to book the jobs. So all three of those, yeah, from there, I went on to work with Royal Caribbean, on cruise ships for a couple of years, where I met my lovely wife, Aria, who you mentioned, then, yeah, we did a couple of contracts together and we weighed up the pros and cons whether she should move to London or I should move to Vegas and, Here I am.

[00:03:28] I’ve been in Vegas for about five years now. and it’s definitely work, works out great. There’s so much entertainment work in Vegas. and also the cost of living is a lot cheaper in, in London. I did some great jobs and great shows and gigs, but you know, when it came to the end of the month, then paid everything off that needs to be paid.

[00:03:47] It was kind of back to square one, whereas, you know, Vegas, I’ve been able to have a good life here with. Arielle and, you know, we’ve made some great relationships and friendships with other performers who also have great lives and managed to buy houses and having I have kids. And, you know, whereas that kind of idea for an entertainer in like London or New York is so far fetched because it’s so expensive.

[00:04:11]so yeah, it’s been great. And, Oh, so yes, since I’ve been here, yeah, I’ve been working as a singer dancer, so actor then a couple of modeling jobs as well, which I honestly know I would do. That’s been cool. mostly kind of on the gig and freelance circuit. I’ve done a few shows, but mostly as a swing.

[00:04:31]I think I’ve been a swinging and about four shows now in Vegas and the rest of it is just, gig work, freelance, kind of things. And, and yeah, that’s, that’s my Vegas life so far. 

[00:04:41] Dane: [00:04:41] That’s wonderful. And that’s what I love about Vegas. I said this on another interview that I had, that I find Vegas to be the best city for entertainers that want to entertain for a living because we have so much here.

[00:04:55] We have so many live shows and there’s so much freelance and gig work here. 

[00:05:01] James: [00:05:01] Yeah. I also like that you don’t really get pigeonholed here. One of the things that I struggled with in London is that yeah. You know, you went to these auditions and castings with your resumes, but you know, even if you were the best singer in the world, if you didn’t have anything on the resume, they wouldn’t see you for this role.

[00:05:20] I wouldn’t see for this. And it was difficult to kind of. Get in and do everything you wanted to do where in Vegas it’s like turnip shows what you can do. And if you’re good, we’ll book you, you know, so it’s, they’ll give you a chance. I’ve had the chance to, audition first and like pretty major roles in, in, in shows.

[00:05:38] I would have never had a look in had I been back in London, you know? So I like that Vegas is very accepting in that way. 

[00:05:45] Dane: [00:05:45] Fantastic. I totally agree with you. Well, let’s move on to the next section here and I am a sucker for a good quote. What is your favorite quote that you’d like to share with our listeners?

[00:05:59]James: [00:05:59] I’m going to be such a Debbie downer on this one. I actually am not a quote person. I’m the kind of, I, this I’m going to get a lot of backlash for this, but I’m sort of passing that we’ll scroll through Instagram and if I see you could, A cheesy quote on one of your pictures. I just kind of just keep scrolling and just America, but, you know, I, I did think about it and I have thought about this before, but there are a few quotes that I don’t like, so maybe I can kind of dive into that a little bit with regards to, our industry, I don’t, I don’t like it when people put so much of their success, onto other people, like there’s, like the cheesy one is when people say like booked and blessed and so grateful for this and this, and I just wish people would just, you know, appreciate themselves more like, you know, you.

[00:06:48] If, if people are, you know, writing these quotes because of some big job they booked, or I’m so grateful for this person, that person, this, and this is like, yes, these people did help you out. And they, they did get you to where you are, but why did they do that? They did that because of your talent and your personality and your skills, you know, they’re not going to put their state, and vouch for someone that’s, you know, Doesn’t have any talent or isn’t any good or, you know, isn’t going to work well with others.

[00:07:15] So, so yeah, I, I, don’t always like it when people put a lot of their success, on other people and just, you know, appreciate yourself more. You put in hard work and this is all down to you and, and you’ve been seen for it. So. That’s my view on the quotes. 

[00:07:31] Dane: [00:07:31] No, I love that. I love that you have a unique perspective on that and it’s perfect.

[00:07:35] Yeah. All right. Well, let’s get into this section. So James, of course you’re an entertainer. I am an entertainer and I would, I think you would agree that. This entertainment industry is one of the most subjective, brutally, honest, personally emotional industries that either of us know about. And, you know, as well as I, that in order to create and to have a successful career in this industry, like you’re having now, it, it takes a lot of dedication and hard work.

[00:08:03] And while of course, yeah, there is an outrageous amount. Fun and excitement being an entertainer, doing those really cool corporate gigs or being on an amazing stage, doing a great show. There are also your fair share of obstacles and challenges and failures that inevitably you’re going to have to experience and work through.

[00:08:24] So tell us, what is one key challenge, obstacle or failure you’ve experienced in your career and how did you come out the other side better because of it? 

[00:08:35] James: [00:08:35] I think. A big one that stands out for me was very early on in my career. I’d say it was, so right after I left performing arts college and I, I hit London in the West end audition scene.

[00:08:47]I mean, taking this story back a little bit further, I actually started to lose my hair, when I was really young. So thanks dad or. Grandpa who attended one. and, I want to say I was like 18, 19. I started to really like, notice that I was losing it. And while I was at performing arts college and going out into the world audition, I was doing everything I could because you know, this, In this industry is as shallow as it sounds is it was all about looks for a lot of things, you know, not for everything, but a lot of time, you know, when you walk into that audition room, first thing that you have to show is is you how you present yourself and, and you’ll look and, I was literally trying to do everything I could to make my hair work for me to get books for these jobs and trying to different styles and coloring and straight and all this, all this crap.

[00:09:41] And it was just. My head was getting thinner and I was losing it and I was just, I was in a really bad, bad place. And, I just couldn’t do much with it. So one day I just said, you know, effort, I’m not sure if I can curse on the podcast. and I just, I just shaved off. I just want one night just sat there after a couple of beers and just grabbed the, the Clippers and I just took it all off.

[00:10:05] And, I didn’t hate why. So I was, you know, I was a little bit nervous about it, but then. it works for me. It actually, gave me a stronger look and I started to notice that, I got, cool, callbacks. I’ve got finals for auditions. I would book more gigs, book, more jobs, like a lot more success than when I had hair.

[00:10:26] And which I would have never thought would have been the case, you know, I, so, yeah, I kind of took a risk and it did work out for me. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I still, I still face my obstacles and struggles with it because being a. A bold man, a shaved head, man, ed man is a, is a, it’s a, it’s a unique look.

[00:10:47] So there are a lot of times where, you know, the casting will be with looking, I have everything on there, casting requirements less, but then when it comes to the hair, it’s like, you know, not everybody wants to board guy, so yeah. So it is still difficult. but it has definitely given me a lot more success than when I had my, Unfortunate maps I used to have, 

[00:11:08] Dane: [00:11:08] right?

[00:11:08] Yeah. You’re not, you’re not showing up for any hair show gigs. Are you? 

[00:11:12] James: [00:11:12] you may not like since their reach for the stars, but we’ve got to be realistic here. 

[00:11:16] Dane: [00:11:16] Right. You know, I’m right there with you. Just not too long ago. I felt like I just been living a lie with my hair a little bit too long, and I said, you know what?

[00:11:23] It’s got to go. So 

[00:11:25] James: [00:11:25] I’ve joined the club. I did see, I did see that. I think. Commented on a picture you post or something. And I was like, welcome to the club and yeah, I think as long as I don’t start wearing bomber jackets and boots walking down the street, then my, my elections be too drastic to anybody.

[00:11:51] Dane: [00:11:51] All right. Well, let’s move on to a time that I like to call your spotlight moment. That one moment in time that you realized, yes, I am going to be an entertainer for living, or maybe it was, yes, this is what I need to be doing as an entertainer. Tell us about 

[00:12:09] James: [00:12:09] that. so me, it was, I was very young. so when I was.

[00:12:13] I think I was around eight years old. I’d been for a few, a few months. I’d been playing a little bit of like Saturday league football or soccer for any of my American listeners. and I think my mom just kind of noticed that I wasn’t really into it. It wasn’t really enjoying it and said, you know, Let’s let’s, let’s take you out of this.

[00:12:33] Let’s find another hobby for you. Is there anything else you’re interested in and, you know, singing that to an eight year old is, you know, Pretty useless. And so she kind of went out on a limb and she grabbed a backstage. I think it was called backstage magazine, or something similar to that. And they were having an audition for, the West end production of Oliver.

[00:12:55] And they were looking for some orphan boys and she said, you know, do you want to go along and see what happens? And I went along and did this audition with all these other young kids, which. I think it was just a bunch of games all day, to be honest, I don’t think there was too much like performing involved in, I ended up booking the show and I did, I did, which is crazy.

[00:13:17] It’s probably one of the biggest jobs I’ve ever done. And it was the first thing that I ever did in my performing career. so yeah, I gotten the job and, I think I did it for, well, it was about six months. I think they had to do a turnover of kids, like every six months because of. some issue with like 

[00:13:34] Dane: [00:13:34] labor laws and things like this.

[00:13:36] James: [00:13:36] Yeah. Something like that. I mean, I wasn’t getting into a sweat shop or anything, but, you know, 

[00:13:40] Dane: [00:13:40] but you’re still, you’re still a minor working 

[00:13:43] James: [00:13:43] and I just, I have these, I have these memories of being on stage with some of my friends, and that was like one scene where we’re in the, we’re in the orphanage and there’s like a food fight and we’re kicking off and going crazy.

[00:13:54] And then. Someone comes in and yeah, I’ll stop when we have to like freeze now our crazy position and we there’ll be that giggling. And I just, sometimes I really wasn’t taking it seriously. And so when I had no idea of like how big a deal this was, and now once I, you know, You know, it would give anything to be back on a Western stage right now.

[00:14:15] And I was just kind of like messing around. And so, yeah, so that whole six months I loved it, I really enjoyed it. and I just, I guess the, I said to my mum afterwards, I want, I want to keep doing this. And she saw I really enjoyed it. So that’s when she put me into a lot of these, youth groups and afterschool clubs and just kind of went carried on and carried on.

[00:14:36] And then I made it into my career. 

[00:14:40] Dane: [00:14:40] I love that. That is such a nice story. Well, let’s piggyback on that and let’s talk about your number one book dish moment. So walk us through that day, the auditions and callbacks, if that happened to be part of it, what was going on in your life? And what about that moment?

[00:14:57] Makes it your favorite booked it. 

[00:15:00] James: [00:15:00] For me, I actually have two, but they’re great. They’re relatively quick so I can get through them. so my first one was, back in 2010, I graduated performing arts college, maybe six months before this. and, just. Some extra cash just to kind of like pay the bills in London.

[00:15:21]I was working on a construction site. I was doing manual labor and I hated it, but it was just my dad’s company and I needed the money. So I could just, and I could also get the time off to go to auditions and that kind of thing. and my agent called me and said, she said the 50 cent was coming over to do his UK tour.

[00:15:41] And, for whatever reason, everybody came over except the dancers, all the dancers, visas had been denied at the airport. And I can’t remember the logistics of it, but basically everyone could come over except for the dances so that the team had to do a mad scramble to find some, British is just for the, the UK part of his, his toe.

[00:16:06] And they said, you know, we want to submit you, do you have any videos? And I hadn’t done anything at this point. So all I had was like my college dance videos. So I kind of submitted some of those that they, they weren’t great quality and I didn’t really have. My hopes up and they said, cool, we’ll send that in.

[00:16:22] And we’ll let you know the next morning at like 7:00 AM. I think it was raining, freezing cold. I was digging a hole on some construction site with some plumbing work or whatever it was. And my agent called me up and said, Hey, they saw the video, your books. They, they want you for the gig. And I was like, amazing.

[00:16:40] They were like, amazing. What’s the details. And they said she needs to get on a train like ASAP because rehearsals are today in North, in the North of England. So I ran home, grabbed some rehearsal. Gay helps on us, on a train, still like dusty and muddy from, from work. I arrived to rehearsals like half an hour late.

[00:17:00] We rehearsed for four hours and then we had to go onstage that night. Like literally what? So I got the cool and to do, because obviously all the American dancers they’d had rehearsals for months and months and whatever. And 

[00:17:14] Dane: [00:17:14] of course 

[00:17:14] James: [00:17:14] in the U S and they had to just like cut a few numbers teachers, what they could, and we hopped on the NEC arena in Birmingham that night.

[00:17:20] And. That was crazy, but it was such an amazing ex experience as far as like, you know, how big the job was, you know, working for an artist, like amazing crowd, but also just being put on your toes and just learning it, banging it out. So that was amazing. Loved it. my second one was probably one of my favorite shows I’ve ever done.

[00:17:42]when I was working on cruise ships for Royal Caribbean, I did, We did the Broadway production of Chicago, Chicago. And I went to the audition in London. I was originally going in, so audition for a singer for Saturday night fever. I went in, sang a couple of songs and they were doing the whole whispering behind this table about me as I stood there, being judged.

[00:18:02] Everyone knows that. and they said, Would I be interested in auditioning for Chicago instead because Royal Caribbean, it just picked up the rights for Broadway and they were doing that next. And I said, yeah, sure. So they said, okay, come back tomorrow. And I turned up the next day and there was maybe a group of like 20 finalists who were there and everybody else was kind of giving me funny looks and asking me questions.

[00:18:24] They’re like, Oh, we didn’t see you for the past three, three days. And everybody else had been doing. All these other dance rounds, because as well as Chicago, you also do another show on the ship, which is the big light contemporary aerial show. So they had all these different dance rounds and pot ring and stuff.

[00:18:40] And then I just kind of walked into this like final and I had to just do some scripts and singing a couple of songs. what else was there? maybe do a little bit of all that jazz choreo. And then I booked the gig and I thought it was crazy that they put so much in me and really hadn’t seen me dance because, it’s fussy, which is, as you know, if anybody knows Farsi, it’s an incredibly difficult style, as well as all this contemporary dancing that we were doing in the other show.

[00:19:08] So I was like, this is, this is why I would just start a few songs and had a bit of script. They put their faith in me and I could turn up to their ship rehearsals and be awful. And, you know, without too my own horn, luckily I wasn’t, but, we got into rehearsals and we got to rehearse with the Broadway director and Broadway choreographer, and it was just such an amazing experience.

[00:19:28] I loved it. probably one of my favorite shows ever. So yeah, those are my two booked at moments, I’d say. 

[00:19:35] Dane: [00:19:35] I love it. That is such a good story as well. Well, let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now? What are you looking forward to? And of course, look, we are amidst this global pandemic.

[00:19:50] How do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years? 

[00:19:54] James: [00:19:54] Yeah. I’m pretty sure it’s on everyone’s minds right now in our industry. so me, right before, everything hit with the quarantine and COVID, I was, I just been booked for the Australian BGS. Show which is at Excalibur.

[00:20:12] And they also have a touring cast in Australia, Europe, and North America. And they were basically, they were looking for a swing to cover the, the rubbing track of the, of the three brothers. And, so yeah, I did my first show with them at its caliber. who was it? It was on March 15 and then went into the dressing room after the show.

[00:20:36] Everyone said, great job, but Excalibur is closing down somewhere. So I literally had my first night in the hotel clothes the next day. So I guess I was awful. I’m joking. I’m sorry. And then, I was also working as a, as a swing. I was covering, Justin Rodriguez. He’s a singer in town at the, the link with the extreme live band.

[00:20:57]so they perform on a Thursday through Sunday nights. It’s in the casino. If anybody wants to go check them out, they’re amazing. it’s you don’t have to pay to get in there’s no tickets or anything. You can sit at the bar or have a dance. They’re an amazing band. So whenever Justin can’t, Do his nights there, then I kind of come in and cover for him.

[00:21:15] And, yeah, I think we got an email the other day from Excalibur saying that if all goes well with the reopening plan that says the lack as proposed, then we should be able to kickstart the BG show beginning July 1st. obviously we’re not trying to get our hopes up too much because things can change day by day, but fingers crossed that we, yeah, I mean, we have some kind of show schedule, which is great.

[00:21:37] And, as far as the, the future for our industry, I feel like. A lot of the smaller things, the smallest shows though, there’s more aside Ben’s statement I think is going to open up the first. and I guess that’s just, you know, common sense being like smaller crowds and more audiences, there’s less chance of, you know, contracts and covert and all the, hello, safety issues.

[00:22:03] So. I feel like the, the big autists and the big, singers. And, what am I trying to say? Like TV, film, production. Yeah. I feel like, I mean, even on a bigger scale, like as far as like movie production until the world, I feel like they’re gonna, it’s going to be a while before they maybe get kickstarted with their, so it’s, it’s kind of the opposite way around when things were.

[00:22:29]running as normal. those kinds of artists and actors were the ones doing the big jobs and, making all the big money. And now I feel like that the smaller shows and the smaller side events saying that it’s going to come back and first, and they’re probably going to have to wait a little bit before they can start, doing their gig gigs again.

[00:22:45] But that’s, that’s my opinion. It could be different. It might change, but I feel as far as common sense would safety, it’s going to be the smallest side will, come through first. Great. And 

[00:22:56] Dane: [00:22:56] I love that insight. Thank you. Now let’s move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. It is called the grease lightning round.

[00:23:07] And I’m going to ask you a handful of questions. I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another. Are you 

[00:23:15] James: [00:23:15] ready? Let’s go. I’m ready. All right. 

[00:23:17] Dane: [00:23:17] First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an entertainer? 

[00:23:24] James: [00:23:24] longevity. I was always scared that, you know, and I still am like, will I be able to do this my whole life?

[00:23:31] Dane: [00:23:31] And second question, what is the best piece of advice you have ever received? 

[00:23:37] James: [00:23:37] Someone once told me that, The day that you can learn to laugh at yourself and laugh at your mistakes is the day that you’ll become more confident. And I definitely found that with myself. So just, yeah, just learn to laugh at yourself.

[00:23:51] Dane: [00:23:51] Absolutely. I totally agree. And third question, what is something that is working for you right now, or if you’d like to go pre COVID, what was working for you before our industry went on? Pause. 

[00:24:04] James: [00:24:04] staying in regular contact with, with the people that the master in this industry. So as far as like agencies and custom directors without annoying them, just kind of, because it’s very easy to be out of sight out of mind, you know?

[00:24:19] Dane: [00:24:19] Yeah, for sure. And the fourth question. What is the best resource, whether that’s a book, a movie, a YouTube video podcast, a piece of technology that you have found is helping your career right now. 

[00:24:37] James: [00:24:37] this may sound a little stupid, but, all these like  sign apps where you can like electronically sign contracts and things as a, as a gig worker and a freelance worker, you’d like constantly out on the road and driving around you.

[00:24:50] Don’t always, you know, always going to be at a computer or at a laptop and you get these like last minute. Deals and contracts and agreements come in that you have to sign and they’re old time sensitive and you can just do it on your phone and send it off and done and no paper, no print, nothing. So yeah, those apps have saved my life a lot.

[00:25:07] Dane: [00:25:07] Perfect. Do you have a name of a particular app that you like to use? 

[00:25:11] James: [00:25:11] I like DocuSign. I think DocuSign is pretty good. there’s a couple, but some of the agencies send out that just come as like a default, but I find DocuSign to be pretty, pretty quick and pretty user friendly. Agreed. 

[00:25:23] Dane: [00:25:23] Yeah, it’s super streamlined.

[00:25:25] James: [00:25:25] Yeah. 

[00:25:27] Dane: [00:25:27] All right. Then the fifth question, if you had to start your career from scratch, but still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in the industry, what would you do or not do? Would you do anything differently or would you keep it the same? 

[00:25:45] James: [00:25:45] I think. Two big things for me, I would have started, my dance training earlier.

[00:25:51] I didn’t start dancing until I was like 19 and I wish I would have had a lot more years of training in that. and also, I think being a musician is really helpful. so I would have learned to play a couple of instruments, because I think it could have opened up another side of, chances for gigs.

[00:26:09] Dane: [00:26:09] For sure. And the last question, what is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in the industry that you would like to leave with our listeners? 

[00:26:23] James: [00:26:23] just, just be a nice person. Honestly. I know it sounds like cheesy and like, kind of cliche, but. I feel like I’ve booked a lot of States like upstate, you need to have the talent and whatever to back it up.

[00:26:37] But half the time just, just being nice. We’ll, we’ll get you booked. Nobody wants to work with, and also, you know, it’s people just want to, they want to have a nice person on that team. So just, just be, be nice. People will see that and they’ll want to use you. 

[00:26:57] Dane: [00:26:57] Absolutely. I totally agree. It is being nice to everybody is one of my top three things that you need to do to ensure almost a successful career in this industry.

[00:27:08] James: [00:27:08] Yeah, I agree. 

[00:27:09] Dane: [00:27:09] Great. And to wrap this baby up, it is time for you to give yourself a plug. Where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you’d like to 

[00:27:20] James: [00:27:20] promote? So as far as, well, Once everything is hopefully reopened. you can come catch me at the Australian BG shows, the Excalibur.

[00:27:32]I normally kind of post where my dates are there. And also, as I mentioned before, with the extreme life band at the link, I hop in with those guys too. a lot of my other work is more kind of corporate gig things. but yeah, those two will be the ones. If anybody wants to come and check me out, social media, I’m not on Twitter because.

[00:27:49] I’m not really famous. So I never really see the point of that. but Instagram is a, to such for James Simpson or it’s my handle? The thing is James simmer, J a M E S S I M O I think I did it a long time ago and I kind of regret it, but that’s what it is. And Facebook has just changed since then. And, yeah, feel free if anybody wants to message or ask any, any questions, no, like I said, not that I consider myself a famous, a wildly successful person, but I, I think I’ve had a pretty decent career and I finished, they would like any advice.

[00:28:20] I mean, anything Vegas or performing related, like hit me up. Let’s chat, James. 

[00:28:26] Dane: [00:28:26] Thank you so much for being part of the show and agreeing to this interview. 

[00:28:32] James: [00:28:32] Hey man. Thanks for having me. This is a, this is a great idea. I love it. 

[00:28:38] Dane: [00:28:38] Thank you so much for joining us today. My one call to action for you is to go to youbookeditpodcast.com and join our free email community.

[00:28:48] Where we dig deep into a continually growing resource of truly actionable things you can be doing right now to help you advance your entertainment career. Don’t miss an episode. We have a new guest, seven days a week search for you, booked it on Apple podcast or your favorite podcast app and subscribe today.

[00:29:11] All the best to you. We’ll see you tomorrow.