Pat Simmons Jr. grew up in a dual world, both on the road with his father’s band The Doobie Brothers, exploring concert halls, and at home being a kid exploring the rugged Redwood coastline in Northern California. He moved with his family to Maui, Hawaii at age six. There, Pat was raised close to nature, around waterfalls and waves, immersed in Hawaiian culture. Maui has developed in him a powerful sense of love and respect for the land and the traditional native stewards. In 2012, Pat received a degree in Ecology from The Evergreen State College. He now spends most of his time on his family’s land on Maui, gardening, living a purely organic lifestyle and spending as much time as possible in the water surfing and swimming, and exploring the forests and uplands of Haleakala.
How has growing up in Hawaii shaped your songwriting?
My community here is very strong and my music and words express these roots and why I care about this place so much. Growing up in Hawai’i has been the most abundant gift of my life honestly. I’ve been extremely blessed with a close connection to the life-giving element of wild water flowing off of the 10,000 foot forested mountain in my backyard. This sacred place called Maui is the center of the Pacific Ocean. It has nourished me so much with vital food and medicine for my body and spirit.
You have toured with your father’s band The Doobie Brothers and been in front of huge crowds and also played more intimate shows in smaller venues. Do you have a preference?
It is nice to play for smaller crowds where everyone can really listen and pay attention to my messages, but I realize that the messages also need to be spread to bigger and farther crowds. I’m just happy to share with as many people as possible who need the medicine in the music.
Is there a motto that you live by?
“Aloha Aina” is my motto. In my community this means loving, respecting and taking care of the land that nourishes and sustains our existence.
Are there people and/or musicians that have influenced you as a person?
First and foremost Bob Marley. His life was a message of love and his music has deeply infused into my being since I first heard it around age 12. I am inspired by the activists who have used they’re music as a tool for social and environmental justice and awareness. Jack Johnson, Xavier Rudd are great examples of this. Lastly, I have most certainly been influenced by the teachings of the Buddha and all indigenous peoples around the world.
Your father’s music has become the soundtrack for many generations. Is that daunting or encouraging for you as you embark on your own music career?
To be honest, I’m just grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given, by my father, to share this medicine. Music is medicine, and it is deeply encouraging to know that my music has the potential to nourish and inspire people, like many musicians have done for me.
How do you feel you are different musically from your father? How are you the same?
My dad and I both love the blues, folk music and jazz. We listen to many of the same artists and are inspired and influenced by the same sounds. However, I feel my love for reggae music is stronger than his and I think that just comes from growing up around the island culture in Hawai’i.
What is your favorite part of the entire musician life? Touring? Recording? Songwriting? Performing?
I would have to say songwriting along with performing. The feeling of creating something with a story is so much fun and is hard to hold back once it starts pouring out. It is amazing to share the finished song when there are ears to listen.
One thing that illustrates how musical you are is the fact that you have mastered many instruments. Do you have one that you prefer over the others?
I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve “mastered” any instruments. I’ve just learned to let the instruments express what’s inside me. The instruments are actually playing me. Guitar and Ukulele are my main mediums, along with my voice. Dabbling here and there I’ve taught myself to play metal and wooden flutes, djembe, conga, any kind of hand percussion, harmonica, drum kit, didgeridoo, mandolin, banjo, dobro and thumb piano. I just have fun and see what kind of sounds come out.
You are a cancer survivor. How has that changed the way you look at the world if in fact it has?
The cancer experience has given me a lot. I’ve rediscovered that it is so important to nourish and love myself completely. I also do my best to live each moment and each day with immense gratitude for all the blessings in my life, that includes family, organic garden fresh food, waves to surf and nature to immerse myself in daily. The land is where my healing truly is. It’s the land where I came from and where I belong.
Your songs are full or powerful messages about the Earth, living your life in harmony and balance. How would you articulate your core message that you try to deliver with your music?
My simple message is Aloha. My message is love: love for ourselves, each other and the Earth. I believe Jimi Hendrix once said that when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.