What it’s like to be Pat Simmons, Jr.


Pat Simmons Jr. isn’t just a Maui boy, father, singer-songwriter, musician, surfer, and organic farmer. He is also a cancer survivor and the son of Pat Simmons, an American rock musician and original member of The Doobie Brothers. Coming from a music-oriented family, Simmons grew up listening to all types of music. He learned to play guitar and ukulele at the age of six. He has two older siblings from his mother’s previous marriage and his family has always been extremely close.

His father introduced him to musical instruments, showing him at a young age how to play the 12-bar blues on the guitar. Later, Simmons continued his guitar studies with Tom Conway of Maui at Bounty Music. Conway taught him to play various songs from Jimi Hendrix to other rock icons.

“Pat was an excellent guitar student who was always eager to learn,” Conway told me. “He’s embraced several styles like reggae, blues, folk, and even a dash of gypsy jazz! Now he has grown into an excellent player, singer and songwriter with his own unique voice and a strong belief in his message as an artist. I am proud to call Pat a friend and I was recently honored to perform on his debut CD. Little known fact: he also plays a villainous Didgeridoo!

Simmons learned to play the ukulele over 20 years ago at Haiku Elementary School. The ukulele class was part of the Hawaiian Studies curriculum, focusing on basic technical skills as well as Aunt Makua Bailey’s Hawaiian songs. In fact, Simmons says Aunt Makua and her songs really inspired her passion for Hawaiian music and culture.

From his happy introduction to Hawaiian music and rock classics as a child, Simmons has always continued to expand his musical repertoire. He is constantly learning to play new instruments and continues to hone his playing skills.

“I always play with different things, not always in depth, but I play a bit of hand percussion, harmonica, slide lap steel guitar, flutes, didgeridoo, etc., mainly for fun”, a- he declared.

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Since Simmons is the son of a famous American rock musician, I was curious about his youth in Maui.

“I was exposed to all kinds of music, people and places at a very young age,” he said. “That’s what really shaped me into who I am today, including my various musical interests from Django Reinhardt to roots reggae.”

Simmons said his biggest musical influences are Bob Marley, George Helm, Gabby Pahinui and his father. “My father’s music with the Doobie Brothers influenced me so much, as well as his innate musical talents,” he said. “A lot of things I listen to today, I first heard about it from my dad. Our music collections are similar from traditional folk music to psychedelic rock from the 60s and 70s.”

Simmons was on tour with his father and the Doobie Brothers band until a few years ago when he decided to settle into marriage and family life. While he enjoys visiting the West Coast (because there are lots of opportunities to surf and eat lots of delicious organic food, he said), he prefers to play local and be the Maui boy he is. has always been. He cares deeply about the ‘aina and is currently focused on building his clientele in the Hawaiian Islands. In fact, he worked on a new set with two of his friends, Matt Del Olmo and Justin Morris. The Pat Simmons Jr. Ohana performed their first show together at the last East Maui Taro Festival in Hana. As for other musical projects, Simmons wants to record another album next year.

On a daily basis, Pat listens to a variety of music. “Lately I’ve been discovering obscure Hawaiian music and singing while driving,” he said. “One of my favorite ways to learn a song.” He draws a lot of inspiration from Dennis Kamakahi, Gabby Pahinui, George Helm and Keali`i Reichel. “I’m of course also very attached to Bob Marley, various reggae musicians and more recent music by Xavier Rudd and Trevor Hall,” he said.

Simmons said he recently fell in love with a song composed in the late 1800s by Eleanor Keho`ohiwaokalani Wright Prendergast. It was originally written for members of the Royal Hawaiian Band in opposition to the unlawful overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii by the United States. It’s called “Kaulana Na Pua” (you can find a Hawaiian-English translation here and you can hear the song on the Maui Museum YouTube Channel). Maybe soon we’ll all get to hear Simmons play it, too.

Eleanor Kekoaohiwaikalani Wright Prendergast

I asked him how his experience of growing up in a musical family would translate into his own growing family. Just last year, Simmons became the father of a baby boy.

“Since my son has been around, I have been singing and playing songs for him in his born presence, inside and outside the womb,” he said. “He loves it when I practice around him, and I can’t wait to share my love of different genres with him.

Simmons also spends much of his free time tending to his family lands in Haiku. He is an organic farmer and he is energetic in supporting Hawaii’s natural environment and protecting the land from dangerous invasive species. This was not always the case. Learning about agriculture and permaculture was a passion that began when he attended Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

“When I signed up for Evergreen in 2008, I was heading in a whole different direction,” Simmons said. “I tried to get into this music class given by a woman expert in ethnomusicology, especially Irish folk. But the class filled up, and I had to find something else. So, at the last minute, when I was looking for an open enrollment course, I chose a program called “Into the Woods – Community, Conflict, Alliance”.

Simmons said the class changed her life.

“When I was 18, I was exposed to what was going on in the Pacific Northwest: logging,” he said. “I learned about forest ecosystems and the damage to plant and animal habitats, including water. This perspective on the preciousness of the natural environment has really shaped my thinking and my daily choices. After four years of studying natural systems, including agriculture and permaculture, I left with a bachelor’s degree in ecology, studying the relationship between all forms of biological life. Plants are my specialty. It helped me better understand my own native island. I have a solid understanding of Hawaii’s natural environments, as well as their danger from pollution and exotic species. “

Simmons’ 10-acre family property in Hana is known as the ‘Opana Valley Farm’. He hopes to reforest the land with endemic Hawaiian species and continues to cultivate bountiful and diverse orchards and gardens that will continue to support his family. He is currently expanding his potato production and setting up an organic nursery with rare plants that he can grow and propagate to be shared with the Maui community.

“Lately my wife and I have taken care of the existing plants and trees that my dad planted almost 20 years ago,” Simmons said. “But we also plant vegetable gardens, woven among perennial medicinal plants, rare fruit trees, native Hawaiian ferns, trees, rare Hawaiian food plants and plants such as Kalo, Mai`a (ancient cultivars of plantain ) and ‘Uala (sweet potato). I really enjoy collecting rare plants that are literally on the verge of extinction, which is the case with most of the rare Mai’a that I have collected in the remote valleys of East Maui, old cultures must be perpetuated for future generations to enjoy.

Simmons and his wife also grow old varieties of Hawaiian sugarcane and squeeze the juice through an old-fashioned hand crank press. They sell their juice and medicinal teas every other Wednesday at the Farmer’s Market held at the Waipuna Chapel on Oma`opio Road in Kula.

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So far, it all looks like the perfect life. It hasn’t been. When he was 23, Simmons was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He told me that it was a very scary and intense time for him and his family. Naturally a lot of emotions came up and he always did his best to stay in the moment, full of gratitude for every moment, and confident that everything was meant to be. He told me that his spiritual work was what helped him better prepare for this kind of crisis in life, and that it was just another opportunity for him to let go and love his body.

I had read somewhere that Pat Simmons Jr. was a fan of Buddhism. Curious about how deeply rooted he is in the teachings of the Buddha, I asked him how he incorporated the teachings of the Buddha into his daily life. He began by saying that he would not be called Buddhist, but that he discovered the teachings of Buddhism as a teenager.

“I’m going to be pretty honest, as I explored the areas of psychedelics, such as LSD and mushrooms, I found myself trying to interpret the oneness and love I felt while taking these drugs,” Simmons said. . “The teachings of the Buddha took on their full meaning after spending time looking deep into my soul. The values ​​of unconditional love and peace have been instilled in my being because of my willingness to learn and move through my ego and all the negative things the mind may choose to dwell on. The return to love and the basics of life is what I took away from that time, and Buddhism helped me see more clearly how to be.

The most positive influences for Pat’s cancer healing process were the teachings of the Buddha and Eckhart Tolle. With the love and support of his family, Simmons said that Tolle The power of the present helped him stay happy.

“You have to remember that everything is perfect and that life does not give us challenges that we are not ready or able to meet,” said Simmons. “I am incredibly lucky to have grown up in Maui and to be able to raise my family here as well. I admit that I am just a guest here, among this homeland of the original inhabitants, Na Kanaka Maoli, the native Hawaiians. I truly cherish their culture and will continue to do my best to help revitalize this land with healthy forests and waters. After all, I am not Hawaiian by blood, only by culture, being brought up near these values ​​and this sacred ‘aina. My bones and those of my family will return to the same soil as those who lived here before me. And I will rise up, protect these waters, these mountain slopes and the creatures that live here. Aloha ‘Aina is my daily way of life.

Pat Simmons, Jr. plays live shows around Maui on a monthly basis. He frequently gives concerts at Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon in Paia and Fleetwood’s on Front Street. He also plays weekly at Café Des Amis in Paia and every Thursday at Mulligan’s on the Blue. For more information on its schedules and locations, visit its website.

Cover photo and farm photo: Darren Williams

Cover design: Darris Hurst

Photo of Eleanor Kekoaohiwaikalani Wright Prendergast: Wikimedia Commons

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