Singer-songwriter Ximone is in the midst of one of her best years. In 2018, she was a contestant on The Voice and by the following summer, the Florida native found herself opening shows for GRAMMY-nominated stars like H.E.R. and Ella Mai.
This past summer she notched yet another accomplishment. Bumble Bizz, the professional networking function of the popular dating app, Bumble, recognized Ximone as a winner in its Empowered by Bumble Bizz talent incubator program. Launched in Summer 2019, the program was built to address a grave lack of gender parity in popular music by connecting emerging women artists with some of the most successful women in music for mentorship sessions.
As one of this year’s finalists, Ximone was able to meet critically acclaimed singer-songwriter and host of Billboard’s 2019 Women in Music awards, Hayley Kiyoko, at Lollapalooza. Ahead of her set, Hayley shared pointers on how to move through the music industry as a woman in heavily male-dominated spaces.
Here, Ximone tells Billboard about her meeting with Hayley Kiyoko and her journey towards realizing the depth of her own talent.
What’s your earliest memory of falling in love with music?
I didn’t start singing until high school. My school had a talent show and I wanted to be like a character in High School Musical. I would practice by singing around the house and eventually I realized, “You know what? I can actually sing!” I ended up winning the talent show; that’s when other people started to realize it and when I started to believe in it.
You started off with a desire to learn how to play piano and ended up mastering five instruments. Where did that motivation come from?
I just sort of picked stuff up along the way [Ximone plays the piano, cello, drums, ukulele, and bass]. It’s fun to be able to express myself in a bunch of different ways and it’s how I keep things fresh in the songwriting process.
You’re at the beginning of your career but what would you say has been your most significant lesson learned to date?
An early lesson was knowing my worth and commanding that instead of settling for things that were beneath that standard. I went to school for music. I’ve worked with studios. I’ve been a ghostwriter and a songwriter. I learned that people will think you’re naive if you don’t say “You know, I got this.”
What would you say has been your biggest challenge thus far?
My biggest challenge has been getting caught up in numbers [of fans or followers] instead of focusing on the people who think I’m crazy talented. It means a lot for someone to take time out of their day to listen to something I recorded or to recognize me for something I did and I’m learning to value that more. I’m learning it’s just a matter of nurturing the connections with people that rock with you and eventually the numbers will come.
Meeting Hayley Kiyoko at Lollapalooza kicked off a genuine connection. Can you speak on the significance of building relationships in an industry that can be very fickle?
I learned early that the industry is not as tight-knit as I’d hoped, which made my meeting with her feel more significant. One of the first things she told me was that she wanted to meet with me because I “had something to say instead of just a nice voice.” That resonated with me because I really take the time to share things about myself in my music. She also told me a lot about her start and I got to see myself in her shoes as a woman of color in the industry. What she said was pretty genuine and I felt like she was really looking out for me.
She’s also known for her openness about her LGBTQ+ identity and hoping to uplift and inspire young queer folks. If you could one day mentor and inspire any group, who’d it be and why?
I honestly feel that I want to be the voice of what I am: a bisexual black woman. I want to represent the people in both of those groups that have felt like they were swept under the rug. Maybe it’s the Scorpio in me, but whenever I see people going through anything I try and reach out to them. I love to encourage women, especially, because I don’t think we get enough recognition in anything that we do. Being black too…our voices need to be heard. If I could combine Hayley and Lizzo? That’s me. Those are the people I want to speak to. Telling the hard-working girls to believe in themselves, to better themselves, to keep pushing and that they’ll keep finding confidence along the way.
Describe Bumble Bizz’s impact on your career. How has the program helped you?
It’s kind of surreal sometimes to think of a company like Bumble recognizing someone like me, a regular person. That was my first time at a music festival, and it was very reflective for me. I was watching people perform like, “That could be me.” I’m sure that everyone on that stage dreamed of being up there before they got in that spot. I feel like I’m seeing the value in my talent so much more. I look back at that fifth grader playing cello because I never thought I would get this far by myself. I was on The Voice last year and then I had the opportunity to open up for Ella Mai and H.E.R. last summer – all these things are accumulating. I have to stop telling myself that I’m not worthy because clearly, something’s brewing. Something’s almost ready.