He had the moves to be an NBA star but making good music won in the end.
“Music is in my blood’, says Tommy Sims. “Making soulful music keeps me going”. And it has – across three decades. That “soulful music” has won an Oscar and Grammys for Bruce Springsteen, landmark Grammys for Eric Clapton, Babyface, CeCe Winans and Israel Houghton. Sims’ artistry as writer, producer and session player has been featured on work by artists as diverse as Sheryl Crow, Taylor Swift, Michael Bolton, Michael W Smith, Amy Grant, Wynonna Judd, Toni Braxton, Blackstreet, Craig David, CeCe Winans, The Neville Bothers, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Randolph, Jonny Lang, T-Pain, Mary J Bilge and Garth Brooks.
His music has also been featured in acclaimed film (Touchstone Pictures’ “Phenomenon” and Tri-Star’s “Philadelphia”) and television (ABC’s Emmy award winning “Grey’s Anatomy”, “American Idol” and BET’s “Sunday Best”)
Yet it all began in a quiet, unassuming way in downtown Chicago with an old 70s model Fender Jazz Bass bought at a second hand shop. That and a fusion of his family’s church singing, his uncles’ Motown records and his father’s eclectic collection that included Stax records, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Jim Croce. Sims continued his study at the local record store, where the patient owner would let Sims play the parts he was to build into his diverse musical vocabulary over and over again. Sims muses with a smile, ” I was hooked.” Sims took lessons from relatives and progressed to the guitar, piano and the drums. At the age of 12, Sims began writing songs. He honed his craft at the Western Michigan College where he studied music and played gigs.
Soon his travels led him to Nashville, where he became a regular session man from the mid 1980s and was offered his first publishing deal. Working out of a popular L.A. studio in the early 1990s, his growing reputation led to an invitation from Bruce Springsteen to jam with him and his band, then to join him on tour. Sims was 26, but critics noted the maturity of his chops. Sims returned to Nashville and continued the sessions for other artists. A turning point came when he co-wrote “Change the World”, based in part on a socially conscious song he had written at the age of 16. Eric Clapton’s rendition won Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 1997 Grammys. Since then, Sims has travelled the world to write, play and produce on a diverse array of projects. He released his own project “Peace and Love” (Universal) in 2000, featuring the talent of Stevie Wonder, his musical mentor. He co-produced and co-wrote songs on the Grammy winning 2010 “Power of One”, and “Love God, Love People” in 2011 for Israel Houghton and recently contributed to the “100 Miles from Memphis” record and world tour with Sheryl Crow. He continues to develop new projects for new artists such as Jonny Lang, Jason Mraz and Javier Colon (winner of “The Voice”) as well as A list musicians looking for a soulful twist.
“I’m a fan of music,” states Sims. “So I will always be making music. Fender has been a lifelong companion. The Precision models of the mid 60s and 70s are important part of my studio set up and help make my music what it is”
The quality shows and the beat goes on.