In anticipation of the concert, we wanted to get to know Marcella Simien, lead vocalist of Marcella and Her Lovers, a little better.
Here, Marcella talks about the band’s unique sound and how she met her “Lovers.” She talks influences, dreams, and what inspires her. Finally, she tells us about the night she touched the soft hand of one of America’s greatest singer-songwriters.
What type of band are you?
We make Swamp-Soul music. Swamp-soul is a fusion of Louisiana zydeco and Memphis soul.
Tell us the brief history of your band.
I moved to Memphis to attend Memphis College of Art. I began playing at punk house parties and clubs around town, just me and my accordion. Everything, meeting the guys and putting the band together, all kind of grew from my solo performances and hanging around town, at places like the Buccaneer and DKDC.
Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Musical: Nina Simone, MF DOOM, Chrissie Hynde, my father Terrence, and my mother Cynthia. Non musicial: Jean-Michel Basquiat, my grandfather Matt and uncle Greg; two mystic and one of a kind storytellers.
What are your dreams and goals?
I’d love to work with MF DOOM…and, maybe, to do a gig in space.
Who writes the songs? What are they about?
I write a lot with my partner, Rory Mills Sullivan. ‘But sometimes I’ll just sit at the piano and something will come out. The songs generally are about love: the lack of it, the want for it, the want for less of it or more of it, and how funny it is to sometimes feel all of those feelings at once. And chocolate. Some of the songs are about chocolate.
Describe your show, visually and musically.
I try to capture the breathless excitement of the first moment the highwire walker steps out onto the wire, or the magician begins the illusion that will be her finale. I hardly ever know what will happen with my shows because it’s impossible to say how I will feel in the moment. At their best, my shows are me swinging and laughing, no sweat with the moment and whatever happens in it.
Tell us a story about a day in your life.
I was about 15 and was in New Orleans with my family and a friend of mine, Tracy. We had dinner with Bob Dylan.
Now, I’d been listening to Bob Dylan with my dad and by myself ever since I was a tot. Biograph was the soundtrack to countless Walkman-houred drives north. Anyways, my father Terrence is close with a guy called George Receli, who plays drums in Dylan’s band. George invited us to this dinner. We didn’t know it was going to happen until about an hour before we were due there.
In a flash we got the call, flew into the car, and before you know it, there we were – all seated around this massive, Viking-esque table. Dylan sat a few seats down. He was in a gray hoodie with the hood up, smoking. So there we were, me and Tracy and my dad, completely not believing what was happening. Everybody there was pretty quiet, like we were in a museum. Then we started laughing. I mean, there we were having dinner with Bob Dylan! Somebody nearer to Dylan heard us and wanted to know what was funny. We played it off, but man…It was surreal. The rest of the evening was very low key and collected. At the very end, I was led over to Dylan. I got to shake his hand. His were the softest hands I’d ever felt. Afterward, I went into the bathroom and cried.
What inspires you to do what you do?
When there’s no else there, when you feel lonely, even then, we will still have music. That music will always be there. That is a tremendous and wonderful gift. I received it early on, and have made it my life’s work to give it back to as many people as I can.
Tell us about your next shows. What’s coming up?
I’ll be in New Orleans for a solo show at the Ogden Museum on July 9, then in Oxford for a show with my band the Lovers at Proud Larry’s on July 11. Then the Lovers and I will be a Lafayette’s Music Room in Memphis on July 15. Keep an eye on all of our dates here.
Where can we find you online?
We have Facebook (www.facebook.com/marcellaandherlovers)
And Instagram (www.instagram.com/marcellaandherlovers)
And at our website (www.marcellaandherlovers.com)
We hope you enjoyed getting a peak into the mind of Marcella Simien. Check out Marcella and Her Lovers latest music video, for their song, We Rewind.
Again, you can see Marcella and Her Lovers perform with Mark Edgar Stuart this Friday, July 3rd at 7pm at Studio688, 688 Cox Street in Midtown Memphis.
See you then!
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