Cody Simpson got signed to a record deal on his 13th birthday.
Since then, the Australian music star has been on the up and up, touring with Justin Bieber, collaborating with Ziggy Marley and amassing nearly 7.4 million Twitter followers. Not to mention the media spotlight Simpson's experienced thanks to his relationship with "it" model Gigi Hadid, who accompanied him during his recent visit to CBS News.
"I was naive and impressionable at that age, as we all are that age," he said about landing a record deal at 13. "Fortunately enough [I've] had five years of this experience, just growing up in those years that you're a sponge and just learning so much along that way. And now being at a point where I have the courage and the knowledge to say, 'Thank you. I need to do it this way now.'"
Simpson is doing music his way these days. He abandoned his record label and is about releases his first indie album on his own label, Coast House Records/Banana Beat Records.
Called "Free," the set -- due out June 23 -- features 14 tracks, including collaborations with Hawaii-based singer-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter and G. Love, frontman of G. Love & Special Sauce. He also linked up with John Mayer for some advice, and had his pal Miley Cyrus create the artwork for the single, "Flower." Simpson said all the collaborations happened so naturally -- nothing was forced.
Now Simpson is ready to share who he really is with people, and he says it's the right time to do so.
"I'm only 18 years old, but that age is sort of in line with independence and coming up on adulthood and a certain freedom...And turning 18 happened at the same time that I decided to leave my major record label deal," said Simpson. "Fortunately I've been able to do that...go an independent route and find an entire new level of creative freedom that I didn't think I could have."
In March, Simpson debuted some of the new material at South by Southwest and has been performing smaller gigs around the country.
"It takes a lot of time. I'm not expecting to be selling out Madison Square [Garden] with my band tomorrow," he said.
Still, so far he's enjoying this new phase of his career, from playing 21-and-older-only gigs for a new set of fans and getting to work on the type of music he wants to play -- without having to fit in a specific genre.
"I'm grateful that I sort of have a little bit of a fresh start. It's an easier process for me now, because I never really grabbed too hard onto the child pop star thing," he said.
And through it all, Simpson says his passion for music has grown.
"Every day I love it more," he said. "It never started as like 'this is exactly what I want to do. You never know when you're that young. But now I have a clear vision, a clear head."