Woodstock's Simi Stone Takes to Pastels While Waiting to Drop New Album
The rock 'n roll powerhouse adopts a part-acoustic, part-electronic sound in her latest project, The Rescue.
Image Still from Stone's Still Life Music Video
Music, writing, painting — they’re all forms of expression. And with every form of expression, the more you practice, the more effectively you, well, express whatever it is you're trying to express.
On the other hand, utilizing new or different forms of expression allows you to articulate ideas, thoughts, and emotions you might never have realized were even there, stewing around in your subconscious mind.
Take Simi Stone, for example. As the former frontwoman for gritty rock ‘n roll powerhouse Suffrajett, Woodstock’s electrically-spirited rising star helped solidify the rapidly expanding Afro Punk movement. She’s earned her stripes touring solo cross-country, hitting legendary venues like the House of Blues; jammed with Amy Helm, the daughter of the Band’s Levon Helm, as well as Amy’s step-father, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan; returned from a UK tour as the vitalizing violinist for Canadian indie-rock outfit The New Pornographers; and most recently was invited to perform as a special guest with French flamenco ensemble The Gypsy Kings.
Stone performs White Out Conditions with The New Pornographers on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Boasting musical dexterity on the guitar, piano, and violin, you could say Stone has mastered several forms of expression. Yet, lately she has taken to pastels to express deep, intimate pain, composing instrumentals with producer David Baron to illustrate the subconscious, and crafting her forthcoming, part-electronic, album The Rescue (also alongside Baron, who boasts credits with Michael Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, and Meghan Trainor) to portray love and inner beauty.
It’s clear Stone has much, much more to say. We’ll let her do the talking from here:
Your sound has often been described as “mountain meets Motown.” How would you describe this new record, The Rescue?
I guess it’s mountain meets future. The Rescue is just David Baron and I. He’s a synth master, he’s a very good piano player, and he’s really good with recording.
I’m an acoustic guitar and violin player, so we wanted to do a little mash-up, what I am best at and what he does. At first we started demo-ing these songs, just the two of us on them, I’m playing guitar, violin, and singing and then he would put some beats to it, and he’d just put these amazing sounds and it’s a ball, this half-electronic, half-folky record.
Each song is kind of different in its own way, I’m playing a lot of strings on this record and a lot of deep string arrangements. The only others are a violist and a cellist who play some of the bottom ends on the songs that David orchestrated.
The whole record kind of goes from that, to super-electronic, acoustic guitar with electronic beats and vocals. No complex arrangements, just very orchestral and symphonic. We tried to make it a beautiful-sounding piece, something that people could listen to all the way through.
Do you find yourself trying to stand out from the sounds that are expected from Woodstock?
If there’s an expected sound from Woodstock, it’s organic. I knew doing this record with [Baron] would be stepping out of our comfort zone and what people are used to hearing from me; I felt like it was a good choice in direction, because I really didn’t know where I wanted to go with my next record.
We’re going to put one more single out, probably self-released, called “Beautiful One”.
Also, David and I have a project out, he made a record called Cycles, which I started making with him; it’s an instrumental album. We wrote, composed, and recorded several songs together; there’s a lot of violin and vocals I’m doing. One single is already out, called The Steps, and another one is coming out today [came out in May], called Where We Are.
[Cycles] is like the inner workings of the human mind, kind of like a subconscious dream state. With The Rescue, there was room to experiment, but I think I was still finding my way. I was feeling heartbreak and feeling the devastation of life, and my father’s death, and all these things kind of came to the surface.
I was prime for a new outlet, in a way.
One of the many struggles of an artist, it seems, is finding the best way to express those emotions.
Yea. It came out of me in a very intense way.
I found a place where all the painful grieving could come out, which was with pastels and artwork. I had no idea why I was doing it; I was obsessed.
Do you feel some of your more intense emotions come out through your visual art, more so than your music?
It’s hard to say. For a while a lot of stuff that was in my inner consciousness was coming out in my visual art.
When you’re writing down a song, you have all this objectivity to think about, you have to arrange it and put it into a recording and think about the lyrics. You can’t just lay it out to the world. I found with my drawings that they would just come out, and all of sudden it was done.
It was kind of amazing: I was in a lot of pain, but the colors in the women that ended up coming out in my artwork were actually these beautiful creatures. At first the art was dark, but then it started to take on this other language. It’s still kind of a mystery though, where they come from.
After your album comes out can we expect a solo tour or maybe a tour with your orchestra?
That’s kind of up in the air right now. I mean we would love to do a tour, I’m just seeing what happens.
And to bring it back full circle: If there were one thing you had to say about The Rescue, what would that be?
We wrote it to uplift people. Just be open, and enjoy it.