Sophie Simmons is going from Gene Simmons Family Jewels into the family business.
The 25-year-old daughter of Kiss’ Gene Simmons, who co-starred on the A&E reality show about her family, has actually been making music for a while. A computer science major and volleyball player at Pomona College in California, Simmons joined Rebel for a cover of Sixpence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me” and has released her own covers of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” and Beyonce’s “Ego.” Simmons has also written and recorded with EDM artists such as The Galaxy, Yellow Claw & Cesqeaux and appeared in Shannon & Sophie and A Very Satan Christmas, and in the documentary Straight/Curve.
Simmons’ has just released her first single, an atmospheric ballad called “Black Mirror,” whose video is debuting exclusively below. And the fledgling artist, who also operates Sophie’s Place for victims of child abuse in Vancouver, tells Billboard there’s more coming, including a full-length album most likely this year….
You’re no stranger to making music, are you?
I’ve been writing songs since I was 14, first doing the Nashville circuit ’cause there’s all those amazing songwriters out there and then coming to L.A. and going to Amsterdam and finding my sound as an artist for the past couple of years.
So how did “Black Mirror” come about?
I was watching that show, actually, Black Mirror, and I started to think about how much time we spend looking at screens and how our relationships with other people are really just through technology. I wanted to write a song about how you’re more in a relationship with your phone than you are with people, and I thought it would be interesting to have the love interest of a song be your phone instead of a boy.
The video emphasizes that solitary kind of perspective you write about in the song.
Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of relationships now are kind of one-sided. You’re speaking though texts and you’re making up the deeper meaning in your head when you’re sitting alone in a room and driving yourself crazy when you should just talk face to face and everything would be a lot clearer.
How did you arrive at this as your “sound” on “Black Mirror?”
I think the best way to find your sound is to do lots of co-writes with other people, whether it be top-liners or producers or DJs. I think you start to find out that whenever you come out of a co-write there’s a certain part of the songs that always sounds like you and doesn’t sound like the other people in the room. You kind of zero in on, “Oh, this is MY writing style, MY playing style, MY singing style,” then when you go in to write for yourself you’ve zeroed in on what your sound is and you can convey that to the producers or whoever else you’re working with.
What do you like to write about?
When I’m writing for myself it’s all very much based on my life and experiences, so all the lyrics are deeply personal as opposed to when I write for DJs or other artists. Mine are more about dealing with relationships with loved ones and losing loved ones and with the fact that maybe you’re not the good guy in every story. A big theme in all my songs is they’re pretty equal on a perspective level with the narrator being both good and bad and sometimes it being your fault as well as someone else’s fault. It’s not just like, “Oh, someone else did me wrong.” It’s more self-reflective than that.
You have more music coming, yes?
I do. I have another single coming out in early April with another video that we’re shooting at the end of this month, and then maybe one more single two months after that and then the whole album. I have probably close to 1,200 songs that are finished or produced to a point where they are in the running to be on an album, and we’ve narrowed it down so we have just 10 songs now that we’re super in love with and hopefully by the time that moment comes we’ll have seven or eight that would be good for a first EP or album.
The world knows you from Gene Simmons Family Jewels. What are the pluses and minuses of that?
I grew up on reality television, so there was really no wall with me for songwriting because everybody already knew everything so it’s just another medium for me to share on a personal level how I feel about everything people already know. I think the reason I stayed away from music for so long and was kind of behind the scenes in songwriting and not being an artist is because I didn’t want the comparison with my family and I didn’t want it to be connected to Family Jewels. I think what people don’t understand is Family Jewels started when I was 11; I didn’t have much of a choice of whether I was going to be on it or not. But I’m thankful that I was because it gave me the financial means to pursue music and I don’t have to worry about working at a store until six (p.m.) and then go to the studio from six to midnight. It’s given me a nice cushion to really go for this in a way I hope all artists can, which is dedicating 100 percent of your time to it.
Was going into the “family business” inevitable?
I think everyone in my family was more naturally musically inclined than me. When I was younger I definitely couldn’t sing and it was a lot of hard work and practicing before I got to be any sort of good, and I think my brother can attest to that — me singing non-stop in my room and him banging on the wall for me to stop, but I don’t know how else to get better other than doing it all the time. And I think I’ve gotten to a point now where I’ve found my voice and it’s portraying what I’m feeling on the inside, and that’s a win for me. But it was nice growing up with all that musical influence because it helps me not to be afraid of trying it. The biggest plus about growing up in a family of artists is we were always able to express ourselves.
Was there an epiphany at some point where you looked at that guy with the make-up and fire and blood and everything and realized, “That’s my dad…”?
My parents did a really good job of making as feel normal for as long as possible, so I didn’t really realize that we had anything more special or more recognizable than other families until I was much older. I just knew these are my parents and this is my life and I wanted for nothing and was very thankful for that. Then I had a high school boyfriend I liked very much but realized he was only hanging out with me ’cause we were on a show and it would make him popular if he did. That’s the moment I realized, “Oh, I’m not going to have the same relationships with people that everyone else gets to have. I’m gonna have to be a little more careful…”
Have you involved your father or brother in your music at all?
I usually don’t play music for my family because they’re so amazing and proud that they want to share it with anyone who will listen, and as an artist that’s your worst nightmare, to share something before it’s finished. They’ve lost their privileges of being sent songs because they just show everybody; I send songs to my mom ’cause she’s my best friend and she understands the creative process. But my dad gets so proud; He’s like, “Can I post this on social media?” and we’ve since had to start editing his social media he’s so overzealous in posting every little thing. He’ll post a video and an unreleased song of mine will be playing in the background and I’ll have to go in real quick and take it down. He doesn’t think he’s being an over-sharer, he’s just proud and it’s great. All parents should be like that.
Are you going to be performing live as well — presumably without the fire and make-up and codpieces?
Yeah, definitely. I think we’re doing an acoustic thing for Balcony TV at the beginning of March, more stripped versions of these songs so people can really hear the lyrics and what they’re about before they hear the big, produced-up versions and see the videos. I think the most pushback I get is when I perform live; Everything is sung live but a lot of our instrumentation is electronic-feeling and people are like, “Oh, that’s a track” but they don’t realize we’re playing everything live, it’s just a filter or something they’re hearing. So we like to do an acoustic set to just focus on the songs and the singing before we take it full live with the built-up show.