SWAMP SOUL SONGSTRESS
MARCELLA RENÉ SIMIEN
Wielding the torch of a veritable Creole dynasty, being born into one of the first...
Creole families to settle in St. Landry Parish, Marcella René Simien planted the seeds of her South Louisiana heritage deep into the bluffs of Memphis, TN—no small victory for a young woman just now rounding out her mid-20’s. Simien is a natural in the truest sense.
Daughter of two-time GRAMMY™ award winning Zydeco luminary Terrance
Simien, she was practically born onstage, and grew up thoroughly immersed in sound and performance. Taj Mahal might sing her happy birthday (as he did for
her 17 th ), or Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo might drop by the house for some gumbo.
Despite her almost fairytale-like upbringing, Simien makes it her mission to forge her own pathways in the music business. A graduate of the prestigious Memphis College of Art, Simien boldly follows her heart in her role of bandleader. Her music is a dueling hybrid of classic Memphis soul and the freewheeling swagger of New Orleans funk woven together with the sighing laughter of her ancestors: that Creole accordion. Assembling her group from the cream of the crop of Memphis musicians, Simien’s soulful voice smolders like a night star, fondly reminding us of a mysterious past while at once exciting us with the romance of an uncertain future.
As outspoken and courageous as she is sensual and feminine, Simien holds a wisdom far beyond her years. With each honeyed undertone, every saintly holler, with each twinkle of the keys, and every pump of the squeezebox, she reinvents the mold and soldiers against boundaries, yet she never fails to respect tradition.
As Willie Mitchell’s son, the Memphis legend Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell puts it,
“[Simien is] one of the most soulful artists I've heard since the glory days of
Memphis soul music. Her sound and stage presence are constant reminders that
soul music is still alive and well.”
Nearing the ripe young age of 27, Simien already boasts a lengthy list of musical accomplishments and recognitions. From a viral interview feature (over 1.5 million views on Facebook) sponsored by IKEA and Southern Living to being one of only 500 artists in America nominated for a $50,000 USA Artists Fellowship, Simien’s acclamation rises and is stunning to behold. In 2016, Marcella & Her Lovers were featured on the nationally syndicated radio program Beale Street Caravan, and Simien was high-lighted by the Memphis Flyer in their “20 Under 30” cover issue. Twice she has been a featured performer on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise alongside greats such as Marcia Ball, Allen Toussaint, and Irma Thomas. Additionally, she sang lead vocals on a track off her father’s album Dockside Sessions, which won a GRAMMY™ for Best Regional Roots Album of the Year (2014).
Simien’s first full-length album “Got You Found” with Marcella & Her Lovers, engineered and co-produced at American Recording Studio by Pete Matthews and Toby Vest, is forthcoming in 2017.
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!
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.
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.
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:
Hired Expert Panelist on a Rhodes College Institute for Regional Studies “Working Musicians in Memphis” panel discussion, 2014; 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 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
Bio by: Kim Vodicka & Rory Mills Sullivan