“My grandmother [Nina Simone] always said an artist’s duty is to reflect the times. I make sure I utilize that in everything I do,” says Alexander Simone, a need-to-know artist rooted in the Asbury Park, NJ, music scene.
We touched base with Simone to learn about his collaborators in Whodat? Live Crew, what it’s like to be born into musical royalty as the son of Lisa Simone and grandson of Nina, and what some of his favorite hymns and Memphis soul songs are. He went with tunes from Otis Redding, Al Green, Sam and Dave, and Aretha Franklin. “My grandmother played her [Aretha’s] records around the house faithfully growing up. The music by these artists inspired the sounds and grooves I create with my music.”
5 Questions with Alexander Simone by Sam Shansky
1) You’re rooted in the Asbury Park, NJ music scene, which was listed by Rolling Stone as one of the ‘Best Music Scenes Right Now’ in 2020. What’s your take on the current creative community there, and what is it about that community that inspires you most?
My take on the music scene here is that it’s up and coming. For so long, it’s been like an underground Mecca for talent, with a lot of unique styles and acts to embrace. It’s a very inspiring community and I’m happy to be a force within it.
2) You were born into musical royalty, as the son of Lisa Simone and grandson of Nina Simone. Growing up under such masterful musicians and performers, what were some unique facets of your upbringing that helped to shape the man you are today, and what imparted wisdom from your elders do you most often recall?
Learning to love and embrace my craft in every way. My grandmother always said an artist’s duty is to reflect the times. I make sure I utilize that in everything I do.
3) As someone who grew up in the Church, playing piano by ear and eventually directing the choir, are there any hymns or Gospel songs that are especially close to your heart or that you enjoy singing most, and could you explain why?
Wow, so many come to mind, but one of my favorites is “whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul!” simply because when we go through hard times, it’s easy to get discouraged, but it is well, it will be well, and you’ll be ok is how I take it, and that resonates with me.
Bonus: You also grew up on a substantial dose of Soul music. As DittyTV is based in Memphis, we’re curious which Memphis-recorded Soul productions you can’t live without. Are there two or three songs you could identify and describe for us?
Aw man, Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness,” Al Green’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” and “He’s Coming Back” by Sam and Dave. They were a funky, soulful, energetic duo. Man, “I’m A Soul Man,” the way those guitars lock in that groove. Also, Queen Aretha Franklin. My grandmother played her records around the house faithfully growing up. The music by these artists inspired the sounds and grooves I create with my music.
4) Mind sharing on your group WhoDat? and introducing some of the talent involved in that project? What can a new fan expect when attending their first Alexander Simone & Whodat? show?
Whodat? Live Crew is made up of a league of extraordinary musicians/singers that I’ve had the pleasure of building relationships with over time to create a special experience. Jules Drucker (lead guitar), Kevin Stryker (bass), Timothy McLain (piano), Andrew Davis (drums), Kindra Graham, and Bryen Reeves (vocalist). You can expect nonstop FUNK. Not only is the sound good for the ears, but more importantly, it’s good for your soul.
5) You recently released a new music video to support your single, “Man Down.” Could you explain some of what you set out to address when writing that song, and then talk some about the process of producing the music video?
Man, the genesis behind this record was a moment of transparency and raw emotion. “Man Down” was how I felt at one point in time when I was losing inspiration and going through a few life hurdles. As the world went through a pandemic, I used “Man Down” as a moment of truth. Sometimes you gotta face your truth before you can truly change your situation and circumstances. The music video depicts it all. We used black and white visual tones to add depth to the emotion of the song.