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Sim Balkey—On the way up

The “kid who has the goods” has been quite busy lately. Just ahead of the MusicRow review he celebrated the release of his new CD, Messin’ Around, with a CD release party in Albuquerque on March 13, and before then he was in the national limelight performing in Nashville on February 24.
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“As I walked to the microphone I knew that I was realizing my lifelong dream, and, even more importantly, I knew I was ready. I’d been performing hundreds of times over the last few years and just couldn’t wait to share my songs.”

On the way up

Being reviewed by a national music critic in the same breath as country western notables like Blake Shelton is no easy feat, but the Laboratory’s Sim (Simon) Balkey recently received this honor. Reviewing Balkey’s How 'Bout We Do That Tonight song in MusicRow magazine on March 26, 2015, Nashville-based music journalist and author Robert K. Oermann picked Balkey for his DisCovery Award and noted that Balkey “has a solid honky-tonk baritone and a song with hooks a-plenty. The track simmers with pent-up energy and barely controlled fire. The kid has the goods.”

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Listen to How ‘Bout We Do That Tonight to decide for yourself.

Balkey

The “kid who has the goods” has been quite busy lately. Just ahead of the MusicRow review he celebrated the release of his new CD, Messin’ Around, with a CD release party in Albuquerque on March 13, and before then he was in the national limelight performing in Nashville on February 24.

“I always dreamed of playing in Nashville,” Balkey says, “but not through a pay-to-play venue or some other method by which I artificially inserted myself. I’m proud that the February 24 performance was by invitation only as part of a Digital Radio showcase that introduces promising new country musicians to high-level music industry representatives.”

One of Balkey’s most memorable Nashville moments came right before it was his turn. “Because it was a showcase,” Balkey recalls, “Digital Radio’s producers and promoters wanted to introduce me to as many industry professionals as possible, and I was walking around meeting people and shaking hands up to the last minute. As I saw the act in front of me get ready to finish, I realized that I hadn’t tuned my guitar, warmed up my voice or even put on the boots I was going to wear.”

Balkey rushed back stage to gather up his band and complete the fastest warm-up he had ever done. As he was being introduced to be brought on stage, he finished some final tuning of the guitar but never managed to slip into his boots.

“Nothing really mattered anyway,” Balkey says, “because as I walked to the microphone I knew that I was realizing my lifelong dream, and, even more importantly, I knew I was ready. I’d been performing hundreds of times over the last few years and just couldn’t wait to share my songs.”

Messin’ around

Balkey was born and raised on a small farm near Abiquiú, and music has always been a big part of his life. Especially his uncles and cousins provided a major influence by playing music at family gatherings and passing a guitar around the campfire on camping trips.

Balkey’s own initial focus was on learning the guitar and writing songs. When he was only about six or seven years old, he got in trouble for writing lyrics in his notebooks instead of finishing his school work.

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Balkey waited until he was 13 before feeling comfortable enough to let his voice be heard out loud. “I remember sitting in the doorway to my bedroom one evening,” Balkey notes, “learning to play a George Strait song on my guitar while my parents tried to watch TV in the living room despite my musical background racket. I finally decided to start singing as well, but it took me forever to get close to pitch. After about the third evening of fiddling with this particular song for hours, my mom came over and, humming the melody, said, ‘that sounds a little high for you, maybe you could try it a touch lower.’ We repeated a number of cycles of singing and humming that night, and I haven’t stopped learning and practicing music to this day.”

Since then Balkey not only has greatly expanded his level of expertise but is actively building a music career.  He employs his own band now and has shared the stage with Eric Church, Mark Chestnutt, Clint Black and Bri Bagwell, for example, as well as Bleu Edmondson, Pat Green, Josh Grider, Love and Theft, Randy Rogers, Aaron Watson and Wynona.

“One of the coolest gigs I ever played was opening for Eric Church in Albuquerque in 2010,” Balkey says. “I’m a huge fan of his. As my band and I walked down the dimly lit hallway that led to the stage, I was worried that we might get booed out of the place because the audience was really there for Eric and we were still fairly unknown at that time. But as the announcer finished introducing us, we heard a huge ruckus, which to my welcomed surprise grew even louder when we hit the stage.”

Balkey laughs. “From the moment we started playing until the second we walked off I could hardly hear our own music over the crowd’s screaming and cheering. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

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Balkey works for the Manager of Functions organization’s Program Cost and Schedule group (Principal Associate Directorate for Capital Projects).


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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Employee Spotlight articles are solely those of the featured employees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Los Alamos National Laboratory.


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