SIMONE TAYLOR (September 2009) | Interview By:
Dubcnn had the pleasant opportunity to talk with Arigo Recordings’ artist
Simone Taylor, who has worked with super-producers Justin Gray (Rhianna),
David Jones (Babyface), Brian Cox (Destiny’s Child), and Chuckey Charles
(Usher) to name a few. Her new single, “I Belong To You” is a strong
testament to what she brings to music: an intriguing new perspective, with
an uplifting, empowering voice. Simone Taylor exclusively sat down with
Dubcnn to discuss the experience of recording her debut single with Justin
Gray, what it’s like working with so many talented and accomplished
producers, growing up in Oakland, California, and much, much more!
As ever, you can read this exclusive interview below and we urge you to leave
feedback on our forums or email them to
Interview was done in August 2009
By: Chad Kiser
Dubcnn Exclusive - Simone Taylor
A Woman’s Touch
(The Special Dubcnn Series)
By: Chad Kiser
Dubcnn: You worked with multi-platinum producer Justin Gray (Rihanna) for
the "I Belong To You" single, how did that collaboration come about?
I was working with an up and coming Bay Area producer who happened to be a
friend of my husband’s who runs the label that I’m on. The two of them were
working in the studio with some Bay Area hip-hop artists and I just sort of
said that I wanted to do this song about uplifting people, which talks about
being more responsible with the things that we put out there in terms of
promoting positive energy. I wrote the song in all of 10 minutes and it was
a really horrible song called “Deep in our Hearts,” but it was what I was
feeling at the time. I have a friend who at the time was in charge of the
entire major artist recording in Canada. If you were on Interscope,
Universal or some other major label, and you were on tour in Canada, your
label would contact her company and they would set up a studio to record at
and give you the VIP treatment.
She heard the song and wanted to send it to Justin Gray because he’s a
well-known, award-winning producer from Toronto, and they’re also friends. I
told her it’s a horrible song and if she was going to send it to anyone, to
please give them a disclaimer that I am a much better writer than this. So
she sent it to him and Justin [Gray] emailed her and said that he wanted to
work with me. He thought I sang great and he saw my picture on MySpace. He
thought I was a cool artist to work with. She sort of hooked up our
relationship and I flew to Toronto and recorded for about two weeks with him
and it was probably one of the best recording experiences that I’ve ever
Share with us that experience of recording your debut single?
It was so chill and so awesome. He [Gray] works within a huge group of
amazing producers that totally blew me away. At the time, Justin was just
coming off recording with Joss Stone. He was working on songs with the Pussy
Cat Dolls and The Spice Girls. For the first few days I was like why am I
here? I am so not worthy (laughs).
It got to the point where a month before I was making this really crappy
song to here in this major recording studio in Toronto in the snow. I had
never been in snow like that before. I had seen it, walked through it a
little, but never played in the snow and fallen on my butt in the snow…
several times (laughs)! I was just totally in awe. It doesn’t snow in the
bay, so I wasn’t ready for a real ‘winter wonderland’ at all! That
experience in itself was life-changing and made me realize this is really
where I want to be and what I want to be doing. Justin [Gray] is a really
talented musician and producer. So professional!
Was “I Belong To You” written for anyone specifically?
(Laughs) Yes! It was written for anyone who has (or is) experiencing trials
and tribulations in life. Life can be real challenging at times and there
will always be moments where you want to throw in the towel, so this song
was intended to get folks through those moments. On a more personal level, I
wrote ‘I Belong to You’ as if I were having a conversation with my husband,
so it will always hold a beautiful spot in my heart.
Working with so many well-known music producers like the aforementioned
Justin Gray, as well as David Jones, Chuckey Charles, and Brian Cox - - what
does that do for your confidence?
Oh I got confidence out the building! (Laughs) No seriously, it makes me
feel really blessed to have worked with such great talent so early in my
career. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am today. I’ve still got so much
more growing to do, and so many more talented people to work with. I feel I
deserve to be a force to be reckoned with, so in some ways my confidence may
not be out the building, but it’s definitely out of the average person’s
Having worked with those kind of iconic producers, what other producers or
artists are you looking forward to collaborating with?
As far as producers go, I’d love to work with Dr. Dre. He’s so ‘in the
pocket’ it’s not even funny! Definitely a big fan… I’d also love to work
with Raphael Saadiq (Joss Stone, D’Angelo), Sir Jynx (N.W.A., Dr. Dre),
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson, Chante Moore), Andre 3000 (OutKast,
Gwen Stefani), The Neptunes (Jay-Z, Kelis, Beyonce), Josh Lopez (Estelle),
the list goes on and on…
Artists… definitely would love to collab with Prince. I am a HUGE fan! I
love me some PRINCE! Janelle Monae, Alicia Keyes, Beyonce, Lauryn Hill,
Jay-Z, Bjork, Maxwell, just to name a few.
Tell me about Arigo Recordings and how you got down with them..
Well, Arigo Recordings is a boutique indie label I am part-owner of in the
Bay. My hubbie is CEO of the label and also one of the founders of it along
with a few other notable Bay Area folks. My husband once said, “…there’s got
to be a point at which someone says, ‘Enough is enough!’ and that’s where
great music begins.” The label was started out of frustration with the
industry and the lack of real heart and soul being put into music today. We
are all tired of seeing lackluster performances and paying for over-priced
tickets to see artists who just care about collecting their next paycheck.
That’s why you see so many albums still sitting on record shelves. It’s not
right, and we all know it. Ultimately, it was a no-brainer to have my big
ass voice on the label’s roster. Not to mention the CEO and I go way back
Tell me about your experience growing up in Oakland.
It was real cool! Oakland has its good parts and its bad, just like any
other city. It was even the 3rd most dangerous city in America for a number
of years during the 90’s. For instance Keyshia Cole is from East Oakland,
whereas I’m from North Oakland. Both are parts of Oakland, but in a number
of ways very different. Typical neighborhood stuff though that you see all
over the world… but I love Oakland. I love the people, I love the culture,
and I love the camaraderie we have.
I was definitely privileged to a lot of different things other young
African-American girls weren’t. I am blessed to grow up the way I did. Both
of my parents are educated, I went to great schools, always felt love in my
household, and never needed for anything. I didn’t grow up with a silver
spoon or anything, but I can say I had a great childhood. That’s the thing
about the Bay, there’s a lot of diversity here, so you can have multiple
experiences all in one big ‘melting pot.’
Going back to the beginning, how did you even get started in the music
I started playing classical music when I was six. I remember as early as
four or five my dad and I would be driving around town and he would put on
old Motown stuff, Bach, Billie Holiday, and Donny Hathaway cause my dad was
a huge fan. He would make me pick out the instruments that were playing on
the tracks. At a young age, I was learning the fundamentals of music and
what a horn section sounds like, or what the Jazz Scale sounds like. He had
me learning string arrangements and the whole nine, man! My dad is a bit of
a music freak and is a big jazz enthusiast. He was trying to sort of mold I
guess a miniature him musically, at a young age (laughs). That sort of
sparked my initial interest in music. And then once I started playing it, it
was a done deal for me. I’m a perfectionist, so as a kid and teenager I
spent most of my days practicing music in my room. Music superseded
everything… hanging out, playing games with friends, sometimes even homework
[not recommended for kids!] (laughs). When I got into high school, I knew I
could sing, but I didn’t want anyone to really know because even back then I
had a BIG voice, and didn’t know the strength of it. I didn’t start showing
off my skills until I filled in for a back-up singer who flaked on a studio
session I was at in San Francisco while in college. The rest is history.
Who were some of your early influences coming up?
Tina Turner 100%. She’s amazing and such an icon! I’ve watched countless
hours of her performing with Ike back in the day. Listening to the way she
projects her voice, watching her sing on pitch and dance in heels at the
same time… gives me goose bumps. She is dope, hands down!
I also grew up listening to Donny Hathaway, Patti LaBelle, Janet Jackson,
Mavis Staples, and as I mentioned earlier Prince. They’re all early
influences for me in one way or another.
How would you describe your music, sound and sonic personality?
I’m an ‘ol School entertainer and an all around ol’ soul. I sing about my
life as a woman… the ups and the downs I face. I sing about my man, I sing
about love, hate, partying, everything. I sing from the heart and my soul
comes out in my voice. That’s why folks say I have such a ‘warm’ voice. I
can’t help it, and I wouldn’t change it.
Being from Oakland, have you ever worked with Too $hort or E-40?
I’ve never worked with either one of those guys, although 40 and I have some
mutual friends. It’s a real small music community in the Bay, so everyone
knows everyone. I’d love to work with them in some capacity… they’re
definitely Bay Area heroes. If we can throw Hammer in the mix, it’s a wrap
What project or projects are you working on now, any major collaborations?
I’m in ‘kill mode’ working on my debut album. It’s called “Under the Knife.”
It’s kind of a play on words, [you’ll figure it out when it drops]. I won’t
give you too much detail about it but it’s a concept album. It is gonna be a
dope album that has an updated throwback feel to it. You’ll be able to bump
it in your car, but also unwind to it. I’m morphing into the whole
conceptual attitude right now. I’m a big researcher and have to know what
I’m talking about before I begin a project. Everything from fashion, to
hair, to make-up, to sound and arrangements, etc. is going to be a major
part of this concept. It’s going to be wild, for sho’! There may be some
major collabs on the album, but I’m not going to ruin the surprise for your
Speaking of fashion, are there any labels you are digging right now?
I love almost anything Jean Paul Gaultier does. His clothes make me feel
very strong and sexy like a comic book heroine. I also love DSquared, The
Blondes, McQueen, Kevan Hall, and of course Louis Vuitton. I’m in love with
everything that Ted Rossi comes out with! Basically anything that makes me
What fashion must-haves do you splurge on?
Handbags and lingerie. I love the fact that a great handbag can change your
look from school teacher, to sex kitten, and vice versa. With the right
handbag and shoes anyone can be a show-stopper! As far as underwear goes, I
wear what makes me feel great and sexy. Being comfortable in my own skin is
very important to me, so what I put against my skin is important too. I hate
uncomfortable bras or underwear that don’t fit properly. I’d rather not wear
anything if I’m going to spend all day adjusting the ‘girls.’ So if I have
to spend extra on great fitting bras and panties, best believe I will.
Many artists today have a variety of means to establish their brand (i.e.
clothing lines, shoe lines, colognes/ perfumes, books, etc.). Which branding
opportunities would you most likely see yourself doing in the future?
I’d love to have my own handbag and shoe line in the future. I think bags
and shoes are universal and can be worn by anyone. They’re great because you
don’t need to be a specific size to buy a bag or fit into a pair of shoes.
Bags and shoes are always at the top of my list when I need a little retail
Getting back to your music, what are some of the big things you've
accomplished so far, musically?
Finding my voice as an artist. I think it’s truly a luxury these days to be
able to make the type of music you love and are inspired by. Some artists go
their whole career looking high and low for their voice, and never find it.
I found it early, and consider that a major accomplishment in the industry.
I’ve also had the opportunity to work with a number of talented people who
are heavy-weights in the ‘game’ and still manage to make honest music. I’m
sure the career accolades are just around the corner for me.
How are you prepared to reach the mainstream audience in today's market with
the majority of both the industry and the consumers carefully watching their
money spent during these times of recession?
My strategy for reaching a mainstream audience is to give consumers and the
industry what they’re missing… Great Music and Entertainment. It’s about
supply and demand right now. There’s a short supply of great music out
there. However, there’s a strong demand for music that’s inspiring and
fresh, and yet there is a void to be filled. People still want to be
entertained, and since everyone is holding onto their pocket-books so
tightly, the bar is set pretty high and you have to be something great for
people to buy your music. This economic climate can only strengthen us, in
my opinion. It really forces artists like me to make the best possible music
we can come up with and grind until it’s perfect. This is what separates the
mediocre from the sensational, for real. It’s how Motown was created… its
how Michael Jackson became such an unstoppable force… it’s what helped the
Beatles change the way we make music. My grandmother used to tell me that
‘if you’re GREAT, the world can’t help but to hear you.’
You come across as being very confident. Are you truly this confident when
it comes to your music?
Yes and No. Yes, I’m confident in my ability to write great songs, sing well
on tracks, and put on a fantastic show. However at the end of the day it’s
really up to the consumers and fans to be the judge of whether my efforts
are good or not. Don’t get it twisted… I’m an artist and I’m sensitive. I
can only put myself out there and hope for the best.
Where can readers catch up with you at?
Dubcnn readers can follow me on
twitter or check me out on
MySpace. You can also check out the Arigo
Recordings family at our
The music industry is so competitive, what separates you from all the other
female singers out there?
The music industry may be very competitive, however what separates me from
most is I’m an actual musician, and not just a singer. Living, breathing,
eating, and drinking my music is what makes me stand out in the rows of R &
Do you have any lasting words for our readers?
Yes I do. Please support your local public school art and music programs.
These programs help keep our kids in school and off the streets, inspire
them to achieve greatness, and helps instill a sense of accomplishment in
their lives. Also, don’t forget to download my hit single, I Belong to You,
on iTunes. Thank you for supporting my music, and be on the lookout for my
debut album, Under the Knife, dropping Spring 2010.