Name: Simeon Hammond Dallas
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Recent release: Simeon Hammond Dallas's Make It Romantic is out now.
If you enjoyed this interview with Simeon Hammond Dallas and would like to find out more about her work, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I learned classical guitar at school, and started writing songs when I was about sixteen.
My most early influences came from my dad’s record collection, it was full of artists like Rickie Lee Jones, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, The Cranberries, and Billie Holiday. I loved reading the lyrics on the back of the old record sleeves, and it became a tangible experience for me.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
I’m quite narrative heavy, so I like to make music which tells a story you can visualise. For me music is embellished story telling.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
When I started writing it was much more acoustic and folky, and my style has evolved through becoming more interested in blues music and country music, and most recently my interest in lead guitar. I’ve always loved lots of different types of music but struggled finding a box to put myself in, and always felt very reluctant to be put into a box by others, but now I’m much more confident in sitting between and across genres.
This record doesn’t sit neatly in one specific genre but it’s definitely all tied together with my personal voice, quite literally in terms of my singing voice but also through my songwriting and guitar style.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I often joke that I write intersectional feminist bangers. A big part of my music is autobiographical in some way, so it’s hard for my creativity not to heavily feature my experiences as a woman, and my new record in particular focuses on being a Black woman in music.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I use music to communicate, whether it be an idea, a feeling, or a story. So the key idea behind my approach to it is to use it as a way to relate to listeners and allow them to put words to feelings, and allow them to relate to each other too.
At a gig I often have people come up to me and tell me that I’m “singing their life” or something like that. I think it’s important for people to feel seen.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I’m not sure if anyone can have a completely original idea anymore - we’re all inspired by ideas that have come before us.
I don’t think that the difference between music of the future and continuing tradition is that much of a difference when everything takes ideas and continues some tradition, just in maybe a slightly different way
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Nurturing my body, my mind, and my guitar by keeping fit and focused, and getting in my practice!
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
Everyday is different, but generally I like to wake up and head out to a yoga class, then I’ll have something to eat, get any admin done, guitar practise, and gig prep.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
I wrote my newest EP, Make It Romantic, over lockdown. It came from being able to take a moment to reflect on the spaces I inhabited in the music industry and vocalise my feelings on that instead of having to use all my energy to survive in them.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I’m quite a personal writer so I prefer to at least start the writing process alone.
When it comes to recording and performing I’m much more open to collaboration - everyone has their own specialisms and it helps create the best version of a song.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I often hear people after a show tell me that they relate to my lyrics. I just sing about my own human experiences and they inevitably touch others when you can communicate something about a shared experience that we all have.
It can be comforting or challenging to see your story portrayed outside of yourself
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
I think music helps everyone understand the world a little bit better, as does all good art. When you connect with others’ experiences through art it may not necessarily help you understand these big themes in a logical way or gain the answer to the meaning of life, but it can help you navigate the world.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Music is sound, which is science. I kind of see everything being interlinked. They’re both old as time and work in tandem, but especially as I’ve been taking on more of a lead guitar role in my music I’m finding the technology of using amplifiers and pedals really interesting.
As science has evolved so has music and different ways of creating and listening to it.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Expressing myself through music allows me to communicate narrative and storytelling, but I think more importantly when someone is passionate about something they’re able to use it more effectively.
I don’t drink coffee, but when a barista is passionate about their coffee I’m sure it tastes better.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our eardrums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
There are certain combinations of notes and chords that evoke emotion in us. We can manipulate chord structure to make a listener feel uplifted or sad or hopeful.
A classic example is in the very emotive song, Hallelujah, which vocalises this along with the chord structure; “it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift”.