SWAMP SOUL SONGSTRESS
MARCELLA RENÉ SIMIEN
"Simien is in the core of Memphis tradition- different roots influences in idiosyncratic and unexpected ways. She is one of the most interesting artists to emerge on the Memphis scene in years.” -Chris Herrington, GoMemphis, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Born into one of the first Creole families to settle St. Landry Parish in culturally rich Louisiana, with a Dad who is an accomplished two time GRAMMY award winning artist, she grew up inspired by of some of the most influential artists in music. Hailing from Lafayette, Louisiana, Simien grew up onstage with her father.
It was normal for her to have Taj Mahal sing her happy birthday on her 17th or David Hidalgo be in the kitchen of her childhood home having late night gumbo with her dad, or be on tour with him when the band opened for Dave Matthews Band. At a young age she displayed natural talent for music and performance, but instead she chose her own path and expanded her artistic experience. In 2009 she moved to Memphis to attend and graduate from the prestigious Memphis College of Art where she studied drawing and art history. In no time she was back onstage, delighting audiences with a sound born from fusing elements of her Creole heritage with the angelic grind of Memphis soul.
Her visual art is as fearless and sensual as her performance and music. Musically though, she followed the lead of two of the most fearless female singers; Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse. She continues their tradition of pushing the boundaries of contemporary music as strong, outspoken women who led their own groups which is still not the standard, but Simien was not intimidated by this responsibility and she remains a determined and ambitious soul singer with a strong roots music sensibility. One detects in Simien’s music subtle yet devastating touches of the Memphis and Muscle Shoals sounds infused with the fingerprint of her Creole ancestors—that now laughing, now sighing Zydeco accordion and exhortations in shouted Creole French. Throughout, Simien’s voice, an instrument fierce and galloping with dignified pleading, floats above the music’s cradled melee like a night star, fondly reminding us of a mysterious past while at once exciting us with the romance of the uncertain future.
Artistically confident, composed and courageous well beyond her 26 years,
Simien has been lauded by Boo Mitchell as “one of the most soulful artist I've heard since the glory days of Memphis soul music. Her sound and stage presence is a constant reminder that soul music is still alive and well.”
Simien was most recently featured in a one-on-one interview “Meet Me In Memphis” produced by Southern Living & IKEA USA that has reached over 1.5 million views on Facebook. Watch it here
The band is now preparing to launch a 60-day IndieGoGo campaign in February 2017 to help fund their first full-length album! Donate here.
Marcella & Her Lovers will be performing at Orpheum Memphis' Halloran Centre on March 4th. This will be the first time Marcella & Her Lovers ensemble has opened for Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience. Buy tickets here.
Marcella was nominated by the esteemed USA Artists organization out of only 500 artists in the United States for a $50,000 fellowship award in March of 2016.
Also in January of 2016, Marcella & Her Lovers had an entire performance at Bar DKDC recorded and featured on the internationally syndicated radio show Beale Street Caravan. Listen here
In January of 2016, Marcella was featured on the Memphis Flyer’s 20 under 30 cover issue as one of 20 young Memphians who are shaping the city's future.
In 2015 Marcella & Her Lovers were selected by the Memphis Hall of Fame as 10 Must Hear Memphis Originals. memphismusichalloffame.com
Marcella has been a featured performer on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise in 2015 & 2017 in the piano lounge. She just returned from the Blues Cruise, and was on a lineup that included Taj Mahal, Irma Thomas, and The Lowrider Band and many more.
Ryan Harris, of Oxford American's Local Live series in Little Rock, AR called Marcella & Her Lovers' 2015 performance one of the "top 5 of the year."
Arkansas Educational Television Network filmed their entire performance which aired numerous times in 2016 and will continue to air occasionally, AETN presents "On The Front Row" Marcella & Her Lovers performance on Oxford American's Local Live series at South on Main in Little Rock, Arkansas
In 2015 Bill Bentley (L.A. Weekly, Warner Bros. Records, Vanguard Records). reviewed Marcella and Her Lovers debut EP release on themortonreport.com
Bentley said "Marcella Simien heard it all as a youngster, no doubt, and once she double-downed with the Memphis sound, she found a totally striking new attack on Southern soul."
In addition to her extensive work with her own group, Marcella and Her Lovers, Simien was featured on her father’s most recent album “Dockside Sessions”, which won a GRAMMY™ in January of 2014 for Best Regional Roots Album of the Year. Marcella was recognized by the Recording Academy as a featured vocalist on GRAMMY™ award winning recording ‘Dockside Sessions' by Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience. Marcella was the sole vocalist on the song "Ava Magnolia" written by George G. Receli (Bob Dylan, Keith Richards) "Uncle George" who also produced 'Dockside Sessions.'
In 2014 Marcella was featured on the cover of the Susan Schadt's cookbook Memphis: Sweet, Spicy and a little Greasy. Marcella also appeared in Samantha Crespo's book 100 things to do in Memphis Before You Die
She has recorded with hip hop artist Cities Aviv, and was featured on the album “Digital Lows”(click album title to read the Pitchfork review from 2011). One of her contributions to the Cities project, the track “Black Box”, was featured on theindieplaylists.com (summer of 2011) compilation in the company of Arcade Fire, Mayer Hawthorne, Modest Mouse, Coldplay, and many others. Here's an article by Brooklyn Vegan about the album.
Marcella sparked the interest of Jonathan Poneman (Sub Pop) at the GrammyGPS event in October of 2011 at Earnestine & Hazel’s in Memphis, where he and his wife stayed for Marcella’s entire set, requested to meet Marcella and invited her to submit (and/or email) music to him.
Over the past few years, Marcella and the band have appeared in/with:
GRAMMY GPS artist showcase, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Memphis commissioned work, Lucero Family Picnic, Levitt Shell, Memphis, TN; Double Decker Festival Oxford,MS; Auto Zone corporate event at Memphis Cook Convention Center, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Legendary Blues Cruise ft. Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Marcia Ball, etc. Private and public events presented by Arts Memphis, Odgen Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA; Levitt AMP, Lafayette, LA; Cleveland, MS and New Albany, MS; Folk Alliance International, Memphis, TN; Playhouse on the Square, Memphis, TN; Ole Miss Sarah Isom Center for Gender Studies, Oxford, MS; Thacker Mountain Radio, Oxford, MS; Save The Greensward for historical Overton Park, Memphis, TN; Old U.S. Mint, New Orleans, LA; Festival International, Lafayette, LA
Marcella’s Arts Education Work:
Professional Panelist for GRAMMY Pro/GRAMMY U “Breaking into the Business: Speed Networking” event. GRAMMY U 2016; GRAMMY futureNOW, @ STAX Music Academy, The Recording Academy Memphis Chapter, 2015 Hired Expert Panelist on a Rhodes College Institute for Regional Studies “Working Musicians in Memphis” panel discussion, 2014; The Mike Curb Institute of Music, Rhodes College 2014 where Marcella & Her Lovers performed on the Rhodes student produced Audubon Sessions ; Mississippi Valley Blues Society, Blues in the Schools week long residency w/ Terrance Simien, informances presented at 10 schools, and 3 public events, 2013; Roadmap for Success, Recording Academy Memphis Chapter, 2012
Marcella and the band are currently writing their first full length album to be released by the end of 2017.
Rory Mills Sullivan