ON THE RISE: 21 Questions with Simone
Updated: Mar 13, 2021
Simone is an incredibly passionate and talented singer/songwriter based in New York City. At just 16, Simone has already released three EPs and a multitude of singles, all self-written and a few even self-produced! Her music is raw, honest, and mature, drawing inspiration from artists like Taylor Swift and Conan Gray. On December 29th, 2020, Harmony World had the pleasure of interviewing Simone to discuss her songwriting process, her most memorable performance, and more.
HWM: Tell us about Simone! Give us three words to describe yourself. What do you like to do for fun besides making music?
Simone: Three words to describe myself… I would say hard-working, disciplined, and motivated. I have been making music for as long as I can remember, and I really started getting into it around when I was ten. I got a guitar for my birthday and I would go to concerts with my dad and I was just like, this is really cool, I want to be doing this. And I just started writing from there, being really inspired by Taylor Swift and Alanis Morissette and all those people. Since then, it’s been my life. For fun, besides making music... it’s funny cause I get asked this question a lot and I’m like, well, I don’t really do anything other than music. It’s interesting because I feel like there’s so much more than just music that goes into it. Sometimes I do graphic design, or sometimes I’ll try to come up with cool outfits for photoshoots, and all of that stuff. I think that’s why I’m so in love with music--because there’s so much that goes into it. Writing, recording, playing music... it’s just so much. Honestly, I like to color. It’s a very good way to calm down a little bit. And I also love watching TV. I do that all the time.
HWM: If you had the chance to collaborate with another artist who would it be?
Simone: I think that Charlie Puth is super talented. I think that his melodies and his production are just really interesting, and it’s also very inspiring, like how he got started and how long he’s been doing this. I saw him open for Shawn Mendes a while ago and it was just him on stage doing these fully produced songs. I think that I would love to just try and write a song with him, even if it wasn’t for me.
HWM: If you could open a show for another artist, who would it be?
Simone: I would love to open for Conan Gray just because I feel like we’re very similar. I think it’s important for an opener to be similar to the artist so the fans like the openers, and a lot of people that listen to my music also like Conan Gray. I’m very inspired by his music and how he writes, and he’s amazing. That would definitely be a dream of mine, to open for him.
HWM: What is your go-to subway song?
Simone: It’s funny cause I literally haven’t been on the subway in nine months, but when I did, I went to school on the subway every day, and I usually make playlists for every season. I’m trying to think of the last playlist I was listening to when I was on the subway. It was definitely a lot of Conan Gray, cause his album had just come out around that time, and some Clairo also, of course. I love “Bags” by Clairo, I’ll say that that’s my subway song, I love that song. It makes you feel good when you’re walking down going to the subway.
HWM: What is a song that you think is a masterpiece?
Simone: Wow… I think that “Vienna” by Billy Joel is probably one of the greatest songs of all time. It’s just perfect. “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen is another song that’s just amazing and… perfection. I feel like that’s subjective to everyone, but for me it means I could listen to it at any time and feel like I’m floating.
HWM: How did you first get into music?
Simone: I grew up watching a lot of shows and movies that incorporated music, like Highschool Musical, Big Time Rush, all those things. It was also… I think my parents were very smart in the way that they pushed music into our lives. Not in a forceful way, but they were always playing music around the house, or my dad was burning me CDs of different female artists, and we were always into it. My brother and I would put on shows for anyone that came over. We were born into that kind of house.
HWM: How would you describe the music you typically create?
Simone: I think that it’s hard to place a genre on what I make because I feel like every time I write, it could be a completely different genre. I think the one thing that’s always apparent in my music is that it’s honest, it’s not hiding anything, and it’s supposed to be something for people to relate to and connect to. I want people to listen to my music and be like, “Oh, I’ve felt this a hundred percent,” just connect to it in a very specific and emotional way. I think that’s always my goal because that’s what I love about music. It’s being able to listen to a song and be like, “Oh I feel this a hundred percent.” That’s always my goal in the music I create.
HWM: How long would you say it takes you to write a song?
Simone: You know, it’s weird because it’s different every time. When I’m writing alone it’ll probably take twenty to forty minutes, but there’s also times where--I just finished a song two months ago that I started writing in 2018. It could literally take anywhere from years to minutes. It’s crazy and it’s different every time, but I think that usually, it’s around that twenty to forty-minute thing. The other thing is, I’m very like: “Okay, I’m writing a song right now, I can’t go and do something else.” I have to finish it before I leave because if I don’t finish it, I’ll never go back to it unless I really love it. I’m just that type of person that can’t function with so many things in their brain at once, which I think is why it happens so fast most of the time.
HWM: Where do you get inspiration for your songs?
Simone: I think it’s from a lot of different things. I feel like because I’m pretty young, I haven’t been through a lot in my personal life, so I think that I take a lot of inspiration from storylines from TV shows and movies. Also things that my friends and family go through. I wrote a song called “Trust Fall” on my first EP that was about something that my cousin went through. A lot is also just made up in my mind. I think it's like a mix of imagination and the media. There’s just so much to be inspired by. Honestly, the reason why I love writing so much and care about lyrics so much is because of Taylor Swift and how great she is at storytelling. That’s definitely the reason why I love the storytelling aspect of writing songs, and I definitely don’t think I would care as much about that aspect if I didn’t listen to her. Also with production, I think Jack Antonoff is a magician. I think he’s amazing and I’m always inspired by him and what he does.
HWM: What’s your favorite song that you’ve ever released?
Simone: I’m really proud of my song “Modern Media.” I think that’s my favorite song I’ve ever written. I just love the lyrics and the truthfulness behind it. I try to be honest in my songs, but I honestly don’t think I got to that point until this year. That's the kind of song when I needed to write down exactly what I was feeling. And that's exactly what I did. There wasn't any exaggeration. It was just the honesty of the moment and I’m really proud of that song. As far as production, I have songs coming out next year that I can’t really talk about yet, but those are definitely my favorite I’ve ever recorded and I’m excited to share those.
HWM: What is the most sentimental or vulnerable song you’ve ever released?
Simone: There’s a song off my latest release called “Julia” that I feel like people expect me to say just cause it’s pretty emotional. But for me, there’s a song on my EP To Be Honest called “London,” the final track, and that one probably means the most to me because it’s a lot about my personal mental health struggles and what I was going through at the time. There are a lot of metaphorical lyrics in that song, but I think for me personally, I know what that song is about and it was written in a really hard time in my life. I think what is emotional about that song for me is thinking about the time I was in when I wrote it, and the production captures the feeling of it completely. I went to London on spring break in 2017, and that was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. I felt really free on that vacation, and I think Europe was also a very sentimental place for my family. My mom really connects to that song in a way too, so that’s another thing that connects me to that song.
HWM: Tell us about your most memorable performance. What was it like?
Simone: I think my most memorable one was actually the second one I ever did, where I played an open mic for the first time in New York at the Sidewalk Café (which is closed now). My first open mic ever was in Nashville. When I performed at the Sidewalk Café, I was 11. It was 10 o’clock into the school night and I was going fourth. I just got up on stage and I played my song “For You,” the first song I’d ever written. After I sang the song, the woman running the open mic was like, “Do you have more songs you can play?” I answered, “Yeah,” and then she said, “Do you wanna play a full show here sometime?” Everyone was cheering and I thought, “Oh my god, what is this?” I just didn’t know what was happening. My dad was in the audience and he was so stoked about it. I remember driving home that night laying down on the passenger seat looking up at the open roof and being like, “What is my life right now?”
HWM: How has growing up in New York City influenced your sound or your approach to music?
Simone: I think that it has definitely given me a lot more freedom, growing up surrounded by Broadway. When I was younger, I remember thinking it was so cool that I lived here, and I think growing up with all these interesting and different people was very freeing. It allowed me to do music and to express myself and feel comfortable with it. I also feel very lucky that I grew up in a household that accepted me for my music and encouraged me to do this, which was crazy because I know a lot of people go through experiences when they aren't accepted for what they love. I think I was very lucky to be surrounded by people who wanted to hear my songs and wanted to hear me sing. As far as sound... I definitely think I would have gone more of a country route if I lived in a place like Nashville, but I think with New York and with so many artists here creating a new genre for themselves where it’s just big and bright… I think that was very inspiring, to listen to other artists come out of New York and be inspired by them and what they've created.
HWM: How has quarantine affected your approach to music?
Simone: I think that if I was in a place where I was going to go on tour it would have affected me a lot more, but I was actually very lucky in the place where I could just sit down and be like, “I’m just gonna do the best that I can.” I actually got a lot more time on my hands when quarantine first happened because I didn’t have to go to school. I just started writing and writing and writing, and I just had so much time to do things that I always wanted to do, like learn how to produce. I started promoting myself on places like TikTok, which really helped in the long run. And I think it gave me more time to sit down and think about who I want to be, what I want to share, what I want to write about, who I want to attract with my music. All of that time with thinking, writing lists, making mood boards, and all that stuff was just so eye-opening to me. Obviously, the situation is awful and I wouldn't wish this would ever happen, but for me, having that time alone to really focus on music made me try new things and see what worked and see what didn’t.
HWM: What was the process of making the music video for “Monsters?”
Simone: That was one of my highlights so far just because it was another dream of mine to make a video. It was just surreal. Basically, we had made this song, and my parents were kind of pushing a music video for it. My mom’s best friend from when she was in her twenties, who is a director, said: “Let’s do this, let’s set something up, let’s work on an idea together.” I knew that I wanted to have this girl next door, but also this monster, and have the monster be me in the end. And I think getting my makeup done and having cameras on me was surreal. I love theater, I love acting, I did acting growing up, so being able to incorporate that into something with music was super exciting. It was insane and it was so fun.
HWM: What was your reaction when you went viral on TikTok and when you got verified?
Simone: My parents are pretty in touch with social media, but they didn’t really get it to the full extent until my video was at one million views. I remember going to my dad when it was at 400,000 views and I was like, “Dad, do you see what’s happening?” and he was like, “Whoa, that’s really awesome.” And I just kept refreshing, and then my mom texted me the screenshot of one million views, and I thought, “What is happening?” It just kept growing. What I didn’t expect was how much it translated to other social media, as I gained some followers on Instagram and Spotify as well. It was very exciting and definitely weird when it stopped, because you're in this moment and then it plateaus a little bit and you think, “Aw, this is exciting but it’s not the end, I still need to be working my ass off to do this again and do it ten times bigger.” I think that was very important for me to remember. With verification, I knew that was happening. My team sent me the form and everything, so it wasn’t that big of a surprise.
HWM: Why did you decide to start a podcast?
Simone: That was another quarantine thing that I wanted to do for a while, but never got the chance to. Even with this podcast, it took me a good amount of time to create the first episode. I listen to podcasts like Emma Chamberlain’s, and I love how honest she is on that podcast and how that’s a source for her to connect with her fans. I want to do this, I want people to know me on a deeper level. I also love talking, but there are points where I get socially anxious when it’s in person. I just decided this would be a good way for me to connect to the people that listen to my music.
HWM: If you could go back in time, is there anything you would have done differently?
Simone: I feel like if you asked me this when I was in a really bad mental spot, I’d say “Yes, of course!” There are some times where I’m in a headspace where I regret everything and I just need to start over. But I think when I’m in a more grounded position and I am more emotionally stable, I realize that every single step that I’ve taken has led me to this point and I’m happy that I’m at this point. And I fully stand by living with no regrets because, like I said, everything happens for a reason, and you’re here for a reason. Everything that happens in the past is so important to get to where you are right now. Don’t regret anything, everything happens for a reason. All those Pinterest quotes, basically.
HWM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about music?
Simone: I think that especially with playing shows, I get really nervous before I perform. I think realizing the audience is there to have fun with you and not to critique every single thing you do and make fun of you if you mess up and boo you off the stage… It was definitely one of my parents being like, no one’s there to judge you. Everyone’s there just to have fun and to listen to music. Just be yourself and be able to process what’s around you.
HWM: What’s next for your music? Do you have anything coming up soon?
Simone: I have a good amount of music coming out that I’m excited about. I got to do a two-week session with my producer over the summer, after obviously being very safe. I brought in some songs and we made them together, and I’m planning on a good amount of releases, like I said. I’m really excited to start this new chapter. When the TikTok momentum was up, I thought I needed to release music right then but realized that it takes a lot more time to get ready to release something and have all the right assets and everything. So definitely there will be releases, and I hope that it shows my growth over the last couple of years.
HWM: Is there anything you want to say that we haven’t mentioned yet?
Simone: Oh, there’s so much on my mind all the time. I’m just super excited to release this new music, and I’m just excited for what’s to come.
If you enjoyed reading through Simone's interview, be sure to check out her most recent EP "Sad Songs for Depressed Girls" on all streaming platforms!