With large crowds watching and fans chanting his name, it brought him back to the heart of his music as he regularly performed in front of thousands of people and made live appearances on television.
“I had the experience of having to get up and do things in front of a lot of people that I cared about the outcome,” Simpson said. “I knew how to handle that rather than letting it ruin me at that point, I guess.”
It’s been nearly three years since Simpson turned his back on music to competitive swimming.
“It put me on a trajectory of rapid improvement because I just had to learn to deal with it – whether it was throwing up at least twice a week for the first six months, just adapting to what I was trying to put my body through.”
Earning a place on the Australian team for the Paris Olympics has been Simpson’s goal since returning to swimming, but right now he’s preparing to compete in his first international event at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, with his 50 meters. butterfly playoffs scheduled for Friday.
The brutal training schedule and hours spent staring at the bottom of a swimming pool seem a far cry from Simpson’s life as a pop star, which began when he started covering songs and posting videos on YouTube at the age of 12.
As his music began to gain traction and his online following grew, he was “given opportunities I couldn’t turn down” and within a year moved to the United States with his family.
Since then, he’s recorded four studio albums, performed in venues around the world, collaborated with Justin Bieber and Flo Rida, dated high-profile celebrities — including Miley Cyrus and Gigi Hadid — performed on Broadway and appeared on TV shows. television Dancing with the Stars and The Masked Singer Australia.
But throughout this whirlwind time, Simpson’s desire to return to swimming never left him. He had competed at a high level as a junior in Australia and had even started looking for teams to join when he first moved to the United States.
“I think because I left it in a good place in my mind, the desire to swim again never faded,” he says. “The fire stayed gently inside me until I had to pick it up.”
Simpson, 25, was born into a family of swimmers, with his parents, Brad and Angie, both competing for Australia. He jokes that he could swim before he could walk and always considered a career in the pool before his music career took off sooner than expected.
“I think everyone in their life has that moment when they realize they have a capacity for something or an affinity for something that they maybe don’t have for other things,” Simpson says. , “and for me, it was swimming.
“It was my first love, the first thing I remember enjoying doing. And that hasn’t changed, I guess, to this day.”
‘Scratch the itch’
Simpson says his parents never pushed him to take up swimming and admits his mum, having experienced the demanding nature of the sport firsthand, even tried to talk him out of returning in 2019.
But in the end, the attraction of the swimming pool proved to be too strong.
“It was a matter of not wanting to deal with assumptions in my life and having no regrets,” Simpson says, “and kind of having to do myself to try and fill in this unfinished business that I thought I had. in the pool — — that total untapped or unrealized potential that I thought I had.
“And just to scratch the itch, really – it was getting too much to bear…I knew the music would always be there for me, and I can tour and I can do all these things until I’m an old man. man, but you can only swim for a certain number of years. I wanted to see what I could do.
“Having people like that in my corner and being able to call them or text them and ask them for things or advice, it’s very special,” Simpson says, “especially because they’re the guys I had on my wall and on my computer screen saver and things growing — Ian being one of them and Michael being another.”
Being able to turn to Phelps for advice comes full circle on Simpson’s swimming journey: On his first trip to the United States, he had his father drive from New York to Baltimore to try to meet Phelps at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club .
“We went in when we thought he could train,” Simpson recalled, “and the next thing you know, he shows up.
“I got him to sign 20 swimming caps; my dad took pictures of us together and I met his coach. I ended up going in and doing a few sessions with the junior team.”
Simpson’s late arrival in professional swimming makes him an anomaly in a sport where most elite athletes train and compete intensely from a young age. He hopes to show people that it is possible to thrive in the pool without having trained rigorously throughout his teenage years.
And with a total of 17.4 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, he’s likely to bring more attention to the sport by documenting his swimming career on social media.
“I would love to inspire more kids to get into it and show it’s cool,” Simpson says. “I love sports, so if that’s all I do for swimming is try to get more attention, then I feel like I’ve done part of my work because I like it and I want more people to like it.”
Simpson is scheduled to compete in the 50m and 100m butterfly at the Commonwealth Games; reaching the end of one of those events, he says, would be “pretty special”.
For now, her music career is on hold, but she continues to play an important role in her life. Late last year, he took advantage of a lighter training week to record his fourth studio album, ‘Cody Simpson’, which was released in April.
“I play the guitar all the time,” Simpson says, “that’s one of the things that’s kind of cathartic at this point. It’s something I do to relax and it’s really nice to have. ‘having something that I love like that outside of the pool.’
He plans to return to music full time when his love for swimming starts to wane, but not anytime soon.
“I’m going to keep writing and cultivating my guitar playing and stuff and I’m definitely going to get back to it after the swim,” Simpson said. “My mind’s priority is on what I’m doing in the pool now.”