Chompin’ at the bit

How local troubadours Bonnie and Taylor Sims went from burned out to viral

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Bonnie and Taylor Sims have been integral elements of the Front Range music scene for over a decade, lending their unique talents to just about anything music-related you can think of, from performing and recording to teaching lessons and helping put on summer camps for young musicians. While Taylor originally made a name for himself in Colorado singing and picking in the beloved bluegrass band Spring Creek, which emerged out of Crested Butte in 2004, Bonnie founded her own band, the countrified Americana act Bonnie and the Clydes, in the late 2000s, and Taylor joined in 2013 when Spring Creek broke up.

The couple’s history dates back even further, though. Over lunch at Torchy’s in Boulder recently, Taylor recalled meeting Bonnie—a powerful singer—in the bluegrass program at South Plains College in Texas.

“I’m from West Texas and Bonnie is from north Dallas,” Taylor said. “I was 21 and she was 18. We had classes together. We had ensembles together. I lived in a house with three other guys who were also musicians and we’d end up hanging out there and picking most of the time. In West Texas there are a lot of dry counties and that happened to be one of them. She started coming over because she played mandolin.

“We did that for, like, three months before we started dating. She was dating a banjo-player friend of mine and I sort of swooped in and stole her away, as the story goes.”

Taylor happened upon a summer job as a fly-fishing guide in Crested Butte in 2003 and went back to Texas for the fall semester, but when he returned to Crested Butte the next summer for the fishing gig and also started Spring Creek, the band took off so fast that college no longer felt like a priority.

“When the fall rolled around, I didn’t want to go back to school,” he remembers. “I was, like, ‘I want to keep playing bluegrass here in the mountains.’ So I stayed, and Bonnie and I started doing the long-distance thing.”

A few years later, when Bonnie was finishing up her degree at South Plains College and thinking about a future in music, her relationship with Taylor faced a fork in the road when she considered trying to make it big in Nashville after graduation rather than meeting Taylor in Colorado.

“What can I do to get you to not do that?” Taylor remembers asking.

“Well, you gotta propose,” Bonnie replied, and the rest is history.

Between bites at Torchy’s, Taylor explained that “it was a really strong connection from the beginning.”

“Of course everything takes development, but it just worked.”

The two had planned to start a band together once Bonnie arrived in Colorado but, at the time, Spring Creek was wildly successful on the bluegrass circuit in America and Canada and remained Taylor’s musical priority. In 2007, Spring Creek became the first (and still only) group ever to win the Rockygrass Bluegrass Band award and the Telluride Bluegrass Band award in the same year. It also became the youngest band, and the only band west of the Mississippi, to sign with the legendary bluegrass label Rebel Records. 

While Taylor toured incessantly with Spring Creek, his young bride understandably got tired of their plan to start a band together remaining on hold, and put Bonnie and the Clydes together in 2010.

“She was working at Starbucks, and she was, like, ‘Fuck this; I’m tired of waiting,’ and she started her own band,” Taylor proudly recalls. 

As for Spring Creek, Taylor says, “As bands do, we started having some personal turmoil. Things started falling apart. Things started breaking down because of different visions. It sort of dissolved and it got tough. We plateaued and burned out.”

By the fall of 2013, Bonnie and Taylor were finally not just romantic partners but also officially musical partners, with Taylor playing guitar, singing and writing songs as a member of Bonnie and the Clydes. While the rollicking country group, with Bonnie’s passionate singing and stage-presence its focal point, became a beloved keystone of the Front Range music scene for over a decade—performing at virtually every small venue and local festival in existence—it also suffered from overexposure and, Taylor admits, a penchant for saying “yes” to just about any gig.

“We had set it up where…we liked to play but we set the wheels in motion where we built this machine and we felt obligated to keep it going. It was also out of force of habit, without thinking about, ‘Are we doing ourselves a disservice to be playing so much?’ And of course we were.” 

Ironically, Bonnie and Taylor were not really able to make a name for themselves outside of Colorado until they happened upon an opportunity to showcase their talents in a band that has never toured and doesn’t even have an album out.

In 2018, the couple befriended producer, songwriter and ’80s pop star Robbie Nevil, who helped them slowly break into the sync-licensing world, through a company called Extreme Music. At first, Taylor says, “They got us some placements in The Vampire Diaries and some commercials—really small stuff, where it was 10 seconds or 15 seconds of a song.”

Nevil had been looking for what Sims calls “a certain kind of singer: a badass twangy country, but rocking, female singer” for a licensing-focused project called Everybody Loves an Outlaw. Nevil wanted to make a splash internationally by building a “dark country” sound with the right musicians and, when Netflix picked up the sexy Polish thriller 365 Days in 2020, his song “I See Red”— with scorching vocals and guitar by Bonnie and Taylor Sims—became an absolute viral smash after being featured in a climactic scene.

“The song was placed in the pivotal scene in the movie,” Taylor beams, “and it was played at full volume from beginning to end, which is really rare in the soundtrack world, over this very torrid sex scene. It’s over this scene that’s, like, mainstream Netflix-sanctioned porn. People fucking went crazy. The movie started picking up steam, and then on Spotify we had an Everybody Loves an Outlaw account that had been at about 15,000 streams and now…”

“I See Red,” which has been performed on The Voice in America and Europe and received kudos in Rolling Stone, now has over 130 million streams on Spotify. It’s a surreal experience, Taylor says, having a hit single that not only broke when most Americans were on pandemic-rules lockdown but also carries the name of what Taylor calls “for all intents and purposes, an internet band at the moment.”

Via video, Bonnie and Taylor have done “record-label meet-and-greets and funny Zoom things where we’re playing little mini-concerts for 400 Sony employees,” but capitalizing on the success of “I See Red” by taking Everybody Loves an Outlaw on the road still gives Taylor the feeling of sitting on a runway, waiting to take off. The group’s label, Columbia Records, is currently finalizing plans regarding the debut Everybody Loves an Outlaw album, which is finished, and the process of turning the massive “dark country” sound Nevil manufactured in the studio into a palatable touring show (with a live band and background tracks) is a work in progress.

“If it wasn’t Covid times we’d already be touring,” Taylor said as we finished lunch. “When the song hit, we started having meetings with labels and doing press all over the world, and everyone says, ‘We can’t wait for you to come and tour.’ It’s just been kind of at a standstill. With Spotify, you can see where all your shit’s being played, and our biggest countries are Germany, Brazil and Poland. We’re kinda chompin’ at the bit, wanting to do it.”

In the meantime, the couple has been releasing Everybody Loves an Outlaw singles while continuing to play shows around Colorado as the Bonnie and Taylor Sims Band, including December 3 at Dazzle in Denver and December 16 at the historic Jamestown Mercantile. 

“It’s our vehicle for staying attached to our fans in Colorado, and we don’t have plans to take that on the road, but we also have an album that’s in the can and ready for release, hopefully in the spring. Bonnie and the Clydes was a country band, and Bonnie and Taylor definitely has country elements but we’re kind of in this more ambiguous Americana thing.”

As Everybody Loves an Outlaw gears up to become more than just an “internet band” and the Bonnie and Taylor Sims Band continues to embrace Colorado, Taylor was pensive when asked to reflect on the long journey he and Bonnie began at South Plains College and continue taking together, step by step, today.

“I’ve always known that Bonnie was a star,” he says. “I’ve always known that she was amazingly talented and had amazing drive. She really gives a shit about the important things that matter in music, not just fame and fortune and any of that shit we can lose ourselves in. But even before any of that, I’ve always known that I’d support her. People really identify with her voice and her stage persona and political stance, and how she is socially and professionally.”  

Asked what he would say to the 21-year-old version of himself, the kid who was about to steal young Bonnie away from his friend and start a life with her in romance and in music, if given the chance, Taylor didn’t hesitate. 

“I’d probably say something to the effect of ‘Just keep going, because it’s gonna work out, and don’t get too down or too up on any one thing.’ The second would be ‘Don’t play music for musicians. Play music for fans.’ It took me so long to realize it’s not about how many notes you can play or about the gear that you have; it’s about the connection you have with the audience. Hanging my hat on the silly compliment when you run into some guitar player is so empty. I want to make memories for other people.”

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