To be honest, I was a little surprised to see Cody Simpson on the SXSW lineup this year as I had a pre-conceived notion that only serious rock, urban, alternative, electronic and indie pop acts usually make the cut. But then again, this year saw Miley Cyrus show up for a quick little number and I never once thought in a million years Id get to see acts like Perfume or Crayon Pop either. But my curiosity got the best of me, so I headed down to the haunted Driskill Hotel to see what Justin Beiber’s Aussie BFF had in store.

To my surprise, it seems like the former heartthrob has grown up a bit. He’s still only a tender 18 years-old, but the level of maturity that he’s achieved in his music after leaving the majors to embark on his own independent career is quite impressive. He’s swapped the trendy pop throwaway music for a singer/songwriter approach that resonates with audiences old and new. He’s gone from being the Aussie Bieber to a more relevant and on-point version of Paolo Nutini, when Paolo Nutini made good music (ie: his debut album).

Whilst new single ‘New Problems’ is doing quite well on it’s own (watch the video here), the upcoming tracks from Cody Simpson’s new album ‘Free’ sound like they might be something worthwhile. My favorite tracks from the night were ‘Livin Easy’ which you can watch below and ‘Happy Little Hippie’ which is quite cute and easy breezy.

I’m really happy that I got the chance to witness the musical emancipation of Cody Simpson. Yes, he’s still got those swoony eyes, lovely locks and a velvety voice, but you can tell this kid is a serious musician with serious talent and I’m super glad that he’s not diluting that anymore with teenage projects that aren’t that relevant to today’s current music landscape.