A lot of people make music as a hobby, picking up an instrument in high school, college, or early adulthood, jamming in the living room or garage with their buddies as time permits. Then there are those who were born into it. They’re the kids who grow from parroting pop songs heard from the backseat of their moms’ cars to hunkering over acoustic guitars in their bedrooms as teenagers, eventually turning the act of making music into a lifelong pursuit.
Simone Nicole is of the latter variety. Sitting down at a Starbucks before a Sunday night gig at Magnolia Motor Lounge, she described a musical journey that started when she was a toddler.
“I’ve been singing since before I could talk,” she said.
Her mom, along to watch her show that evening, nodded with a smile. Of course, lots of babies babble musically and take to singing songs as they learn to talk, but Nicole’s love of music went deeper. When she was in middle school, she took up drums.
“My dad bought a drum set for Christmas one year, and he basically said whoever is the best out of the family got to go to lessons, and that turned out to be me,” she said.
About four years later, after she had turned 16, Nicole took up the guitar. And a couple years after that, she took herself to Europe, moving to her mother’s native country, Switzerland.
After a year, she returned to the States and lived in Southlake for six months before her second move, when her musical aspirations took her to Nashville for a couple of years. As anyone who’s headed to Music City with a guitar and dreams can attest, breaking into the Nashville songwriter scene is a tough game played on a crowded and competitive field. Nicole doesn’t harbor the usual cynicism of a musician who’s lived in and returned from Nashville. She’s honest about her experience.
“Everyone up there seems to be more well known, and if you’re not known, it’s tough to get in,” she said. “And everyone else is trying to do what you’re doing.”
She did find a little success, however, getting to write with one of her inspirations, Matthew Perryman Jones.
She now lives in Haslet and divides her time between doing professional photography and writing and performing her songs. In recent months, she’s been doing a lot more shows than shoots –– this week alone, she’ll be playing around Fort Worth three times. Though she started her first band in 2004 and got serious about being a songwriter in 2007, it was her 2011 EP Hanging on a Cloud that brought her some local attention, leading to a few gigs at Dallas venues like the Kessler Theater and House of Blues. In the years between then and now, she has focused on her craft, releasing a self-titled album last October. Nicole thinks her songwriting has matured considerably from her first release to her new one.
“The first one was an acoustic band, and the writing style was kind of similar to a young Taylor Swift,” she said laughing a little. “The new stuff is with a full band. It’s a lot more … I don’t want to say haunting, but there’s more ambience to it.”
Though she describes her songs as melancholy, there’s plenty of sunshine in her voice to make her musings on heartbreak, depression, anxiety, and being alone easy on the ears.
She also returned to Switzerland last year to play some shows.
“I was there for two weeks, and I booked myself four gigs, including a SoFar Sounds show,” she said, referring to the international booking group that sets up secret gigs in intimate settings.
For now, she is happy to play wherever she can, and she’s always working on new songs.
“I would like to be on the licensing and publishing side of things,” she said. “Maybe help write music for a movie.”
In a way, she’s already doing that, as her lifelong love of music is already kind of picturesque. You might say each song is part of her life’s movie’s score.
10pm Wed, Jan 31 w/ Skyler Payne at Filthy McNasty’s Saloon, 114 W Exchange Av. 817-386-0170. No cover.