The UP Express platform is quiet these days unless Jason Simmons is around. He’s filling the empty space with his vocals from a safe and private corner as he serenades his favourite coffee shop – until they open again. Yes, we’re here to sing his praises, because we can use his voice right about now.
He’s smoother than crème poured into a cup of good morning coffee.
As well as a sweet reminder of a shared – though temporary – loss of the simple things for us all.
On some days, thanks to the decline in ridership due to COVID-19 measures, you can hear a pin drop around the UP Express departure platform at Union Station. But then, the voice of Jason Simmons can break through – both longing for the simple things we’re all doing without, as well as becoming a reminder that there’s still joy out there.
The UP Express train operator starts his shift late in the afternoon and finishes up in the early hours of the morning. It used to begin with a stop at his favourite coffee shop along the platform, but popular Balzac’s café is temporarily closed.
“Working my shift, there was a big part of it missing – that’s why I decided I was going to serenade this coffee shop until they come back,” says Simmons, who has gained a following online for his music.
“But then it became a lot more than that. As I started posting, people started to reach out to say ‘thank you’ and asking me to keep posting.”
Simmons has been overwhelmed with the responses and the reception of his posts, which have also gotten him some media coverage.
He went from singing acapella to creating self-harmonized videos, all of which have been hits on his social media accounts.
People have also reached out to make requests – something Simmons is happy to do. “When somebody tells me how my post made a difference in their day, that they weren’t having a good day and that my post helped, that means a lot,” he points out.
This is a voice of experience you’re hearing from.
Simmons has an extensive background in music, having worked with the Black Eye Peas, Will. I. Am, RuPaul and the producers of NSYNC’s first two albums.
In the beginning of 2011 Jason released his first CD called ‘My Butterfly/A Capella Lullabies, which in 2012 received a Juno nomination for Children’s Album of the Year.
The pandemic has forced many of us to self-isolate and be physically distant from friends and family. It can be a bit of a dark time. But Simmons is hoping to bring in some light.
Simmons says throughout this pandemic, there have been some good things that have happened.
“It’s kind of forced a lot of people to search from within and find a creative outlet.”
For Simmons, it’s been about rediscovering his passion and helping make a positive and creative impact on people’s lives.
“Sometimes it’s the right song that brings back memories,” he explains. “It brings you back and helps reminisce of gatherings and a better time than what we’re dealing with now, and that brings a smile to their face.”
Simmons first became an UP Express train operator to help people easily get around.
Now he’s happy he can also help everyone get through a rather tough time.
Story by Nitish Bissonauth, Metrolinx bilingual spokesperson, media relations and issues specialist