MOORHEAD, Minn. — Growing up, many kids will tell you they want to be a pop star or a singer when they get older. Oftentimes, these dreams are quickly changed into something a little more realistic.
But for Moorhead musician Aaron Simmons, the dream of becoming a musician has continued with him. On Friday, Aug. 28, that dream will be one step closer to becoming a reality — in a way that most musicians can only dream about.
"I've been singing my whole life," Simmons said, sitting in his downtown Moorhead apartment just two days before his album release. "I grew up singing the National Anthem, singing Kenny Chesney, classic rock — and you know, as a kid, you want to be a baseball player or you want to be a singer and those were kind of all the things that I wanted to do, but it never really felt like it was anything that was in the realm of possibility."
It wasn't until the summer before entering high school, that Simmons really even started working on the skills that would be necessary to make an attempt at his future career.
"I wasn't until the end of my 8th grade year," he said, remembering. "I had made a statement about how I wanted to do what Blake Shelton did, and my mom was like 'Well, I'll bet Blake Shelton was in choir. So I joined choir. I was always in music — but just band from 4th grade on. I didn't even pick up a guitar until I was 18, right after my senior year of high school."
Simmons says while his family was musical, their involvement in sports was always more of a priority.
He is a self-taught guitarist. Besides learning a few basic chords from his cousin, he scoured YouTube to learn his new instrument and used social media to help cultivate a fan base.
He released his first single, "Minnesota," while a senior at Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2017.
"At that time, I'd had an artist page (on Facebook), and when I posted ("Minnesota") I had, like, 300 followers," Simmons said. "I was super grateful for those 300, but it jumped to 1,000 after that video posted."
Since 2017, he's been honing his talent, working on writing songs and playing shows, all while trying to navigate the scary world of post-college life.
"I can't really pinpoint a specific time and place where I was like, 'I'm making an album,'" he said. "But I've always been writing and putting things together, but, honestly, when I first started putting together "That's My Hometown," I had taken some ideas from other people and different fans and followers that I had and really put something together that I was super proud of. After I did that, I knew it was going to live beyond a video, beyond a cell phone recording. I knew it was going to be a song at some point, and whether or not that was going to be on an EP or a full-length album, I didn't know. It wasn't until I put together an inventory with all the stuff that I've written, I figured out I had a pretty good group of songs that I could put together for an album, and away we went."
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“Third St SW” It’s the street I grew up on. It’s where I learned to play guitar. It’s where I played outside well past when the sun went down. It’s where I met two of my very best friends to this day. It’s where my parents and brother still live. It’s still where I consider “home.” I owe so much of my life to that street and the things on it. There’s no release date yet, but my album coming. I promise you. I’m so grateful for everyone that has a hand in getting this project out. “Third St SW” might be the only album I ever put out. It might be the first of many. But if this is all that I’ve got, I’m so proud that these nine new tracks will have my name right below them. Stay tuned, y’all. I’m gonna take you home.
Simmons's debut album, "Third St SW," hearkens back to his life and experiences from growing up in Stewartville, Minn. — a town just south of Rochester with a population of just over 6,000, according to the 2020 Census — along with all of the other things that have brought him to where he is today.
"I feel like the reason it's called "Third St SW" is that's the street I grew up on," he said. "I felt like my hometown was really integral in shaping who I am today. It's the experiences that I had, the people that I knew, the friends that I met, the heartaches that I had. I wasn't always living at my parent's place at Third St. SW when I wrote all these songs, but it's a representation of all the things and experiences and people that I knew, and maybe that I still know, that helped shape me into who I am today."
Simmons says he will always be chasing the high of performing for a crowd — no matter if it's playing at his "regular" summer spot on the patio at Spicy Pie in West Fargo, playing for hundreds of excited North Dakotans at the North Dakota State Fair or opening up for well-known country music artists Scotty McCreery and Parmalee.
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I’ve been sitting here trying to write a caption for some time, but I can’t think of the right words to say. Nothing seems adequate. Last night was the most fun I’ve had on stage, in front of the most energetic crowd we’ve ever had, playing with people that I truly care about, at the biggest show of all of our lives, and we killed it. Also, we got it all on camera. I’m so grateful, but I’m not satisfied. This is only the beginning. See you again tonight @ndstatefair. #ndsf #northdakotalegendary - @indakmedia
"I've got a big-time dream, and I've got realistic dreams," he said. "I'm always shooting for those big-time dreams, but I'm setting myself up that way, so if I can still reach those realistic dreams, I'm not going to be disappointed or upset. The big-time dreams are just icing on the cake. But realistically, I'd like to spend my life just working in the music industry and not having to focus on anything else."
And "Third St SW" is just a small stepping stone to reach those dreams. The album debuted at No. 10 of all country music on iTunes, and continues to climb — setting Simmons among the ranks of country superstars like Morgan Wallen, The Chicks, Chris Stapleton and Kane Brown — thanks to a loyal fan base and hard work put in by Simmons and Highway 14 Records and 32 South Label Group.
"This album is setting up the foundation to shape who I am as a musician," Simmons said. "I am more than a musician, I'm more than a singer, but to many people, that's all I am — a singer. I'm so proud of this record, so proud of all the work that everyone has put into it. I wrote all the songs, essentially, by myself. There are nine words in the whole album that I didn't write. It took a lot of people to get this where it is today, and I'm so proud of it. Because I'll be able to look back on this, hopefully, 10 years down the road, when I've got a career in music and I'm comfortable, I can look back and say I'm proud of where I came from. And I know for a fact that I'm going to be saying that about this album in the future."
Find Simmons' album "Third St SW" on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your music. To see his journey in action, check him out on social media — Facebook (@AaronSimmonsMusician), Twitter (@aaronleesimmons), Instagram (@aaronsimmonsmusic) and YouTube.