Alexander Simone discusses incorporating the legacy of Nina Simone into his music, his latest single and music video, his band WHODAT? Live Crew, and what’s next

For New Jersey musician Alexander Simone, his musical legacy runs deep. The grandson of legendary musician and civil rights activist Nina Simone, and the son of singer, producer, and actress Lisa Simone, Alexander always felt the pull towards music. He was raised in New Jersey by his paternal grandmother, a pastor in the church, who always encouraged his musical path, which began in the church. That foundation gave him a sense of discipline and allowed him to be the full, well-rounded musician and band leader he is today. Alexander started composing his own music and sound at the age of 14 and started ghostwriting for a family member with industry connections at 15, which helped him to learn to go with his gut. He learned to embrace all experiences as opportunities to grow as an artist and pursues music for passion rather than money, with the thought that all opportunities and chances to perform can lead to higher paying gigs and greater opportunities. A chance encounter at a conference when Alexander was 16 led him to meet his mom, who was performing in Aida on Broadway at the time, and credits music for helping to bring family together.


Incorporating Nina’s message that an artist has a responsibility to reflect the sign of the times in their music, Alexander aims to use his music to uplift, encourage and reflect the signs of the times and feels that even if an artist can’t reflect what’s going on in the world through their music, they can always reflect what’s going on in their life and how that can help others who may connect with the message and become more interested in following you as an artist.  Having grown up in Asbury Park, NJ, he has nothing but love for his music community and finding his place within it over the years. The band he plays with, WHODAT? Live Crew, was formed through the many musicians he has met and befriended over the years and since 2018, the band has maintained the same line up of musicians. Alexander is continually producing great music, whether solo or with his band. He and his band recently released the track “Even Now” with the message that even with the many things aiming to drive us apart as humans, there are even more things that bring us together. “It’s really a song about, with a message of, faith and hope that in spite of anything you are going through, whether it be health-wise, physical, mental, whatever, you might feel alone but God is with you.” He also released his latest solo track “Man Down”, about feeling the weight of daily struggles during the Covid shutdowns and contemplating the pressure of it all, as well as coming out on the other side as Covid began to subside. He also released an accompanying music video for “Man Down”. “I just wanted to really paint the picture of all the things that we fall into when we feel depressed. We fall into drugs, we fall into liquor, we fall into a rut. We don’t want to get up from our bed. It just feels like, we’re just thinking and our mind is just going and going and going and we’re just sitting. We’re sitting but our mind is going. So, I just wanted to present that feeling and I feel like we executed it and it didn’t take much to execute that. Usually, when people feel depressed and when they feel down, they’re not doin’ nothin’. They’re not getting anything done. They’re just sitting in one place and are dwelling on the moment but aren’t living in the moment. So, I felt that was the idea behind “Man Down”.” With plans to release 2 full-length LP’s by the end of the year, one solo and one with his band, as well as doing live WHODAT? performances and working on a collaboration with Black Sheep “Dres”, Alexander Simone has plenty of exciting things for us all to look forward to! Make sure to connect with Alexander Simone via the following links to stay up-to-date on all upcoming news and live dates!




You moved to New Jersey and got grounded in music as a youth, learning to play piano by ear in church, and were pushed to learn music by your paternal grandmother who was a pastor in the church. What can you tell me about your childhood and growing up with that religious foundation from a young age?


Awww man! With that foundation, it kept me on my toes. My grandmother always wanted to make sure that the church had a musician and that the church was never without a choir director, or whatever. She believed in raising us up in house and now I’m a product of that. Everything that was instilled in me at a younger age, at an early age, I use now. That’s pretty much the effect that my early religious upbringing has brought me to, from directing a choir all the way down to directing a band, so it was very influential.


Your mother is Lisa Simone, a singer, producer, and actress, and your maternal grandmother was Nina Simone, so with such a musical lineage in your family, did you always feel drawn to music or did it hit you a bit later in childhood?


I was always drawn to music and always had a natch for wanting to hear and explore new sounds and new vibes. Early on, I was a sponge, outside of what the legacy brought to me. I don’t know if that drew me to music even more than my legacy being what it was, because I didn’t really learn too much about my legacy and what I had to bring to it until a later age. But early on, I was like a sponge, with Motown and Donny Hathaway and just different bands growing up. I loved just the experience and lost myself in music. It was also just so therapeutic for me.


With regards to being a sponge and listening to and learning about so many different kinds of music, you have talked about how around that time you came to the realization that music was your calling in life. What was that moment like for you and just forging your musical path and sound as an artist?


I can’t really pinpoint when that moment was, because music has always been around me, but basically music led me to my mom. My mom gave me away when I was 6 weeks old to my grandmother on my father’s side. When I turned 16 I was playing for some conference or whatever, and long story short, there was a guy there who just so happened to be managing my mom on Broadway-she was doing Aida at the time-and they were asking about the young man on the stage and they were telling him a little bit about me. They just so happened to tell him that my grandmother was Nina and he was like “Wow. I was just with her daughter yesterday.” Long story short, that connected the dots!


Wow! That sounds like a really incredible moment and that you were in the right place at the right time!


Yes! Not only was it the right place at the right time, but I also chalk it up to the skill level at that time, because had I not amazed this guy, he would have cared less who was on the stage playing. It was just a testament of where I was and where I was going. That moment is instilled in me, because that was big. That was when I met my mom and so it just shows what music has done for me. Outside of how it makes me feel and how my music touches people, it just shows that music is what brought family together.


In what ways did directing choirs in church lay the foundation for you to become a full, well-rounded musician and a musical director?


It laid the foundation because I always had to be one step ahead of the rest. I had to always be a little bit sharper, a little bit tighter. And just doing it at an early age…they say you a master once you put a certain amount of hours into something, so still doing it at this age, I’d say I’ve mastered it. It gives me a sense of confidence. A lot of times, people be like, you know, “Why aren’t you nervous?”. And it’s like, because I’ve practiced and prepared for this for a long time, so why be nervous for something that I’m prepared for? I think that’s what it’s done for me. It’s given me a strong sense of confidence and wisdom and has enabled me to be in rooms and continue to stay in rooms, where that craft is now dying out. If you look at this generation now, a lot of kids ain’t really drawn to musicianship and bands and stuff like that, because that’s not what they hear on the radio. When we was a little bit younger, you know, the bands was prevalent, like James Brown and Michael Jackson had a band. Like, everybody had bands. Now, it’s just more digital. I believe that from me being in that class and that school, I offer something to this generation that’s dying out.


What can you tell me about composing your own music and sound starting at the age of 14 and ghostwriting for a family member with industry connections at the age of 15? What lessons did you learn early on that have helped you over the years or that taught you what not to do in the industry?


It helped me to go with my gut. Seeing that I had that connection at an early age-my uncle is really connected in the industry-I didn’t really have to have nobody over my shoulder, like “Do this and do that!”. My uncle really believed in me and whatever I brought to him, that’s what he was presenting. It helped me to hone and sharpen what I was doing. Yeah, but that’s pretty much what it is. I follow my gut. I’m not really worried about the dollar because I do this for the love, so I will probably make a different decision than the next man who’s probably making his decision based on “how much money can I make from this opportunity?”. It’s taught me to embrace every opportunity, as well, because sometimes the $1,000 gig won’t lead nowhere but with the $200 gig, you might get $200 to get in there, but once you get in there, you’ll meet the $1,000 or millions, billions, trillions, you know what I’m saying? It just taught me to embrace ALL experiences and to look at every stage and opportunity as the same and as something to be grateful for and look forward to.


You travel the world with your music and have used your music to uplift, encourage, and reflect the times while writing and producing records of all genres. What can you tell me about the message you hope to spread as an artist and connecting with people through music?


One message that I would definitely stress…it’s not my message, but it something I heard my grandmother (Nina Simone) say that I live by as an artist and a writer…is that an artist’s duty is to reflect the signs of the times. I always incorporate that into anything I’m doing. Even with my project I just dropped called “Man Down”. At the time I was in a lower place and was going through things emotionally, so I wrote that down and I put it out. Even if you’re not reflecting the signs of what’s going on in the world, you should still be reflecting what’s going on in your life. Just that reflection alone is something that somebody else can relate to, and the more somebody can relate to your music, the better the chance there is of them wanting to hear more from you and follow you and your journey.


You have talked about how you strive to uphold elements of Nina Simone’s legacy with a modern soul aesthetic and that people who listen to your music realize that you are your own unique version of her. In what ways do you feel that you incorporate her legacy into your music while also maintaining your own identity as an artist?


With her, I incorporate the love for this, the passion, the spirit. We touch on the spirit realm a lot through our music because we believe our music is touching the soul. I believe in just living in the moment and making sure that when me and the band are on stage, that we’re not just performing, but are giving the people an experience. That we’re giving the people a roller coaster. And at the same time, we’re touching your soul.


You are a solo artist and also perform with your band, WHODAT? Live Crew. What can you tell me about the band you play with and how you all came to play together?


Oh man! WHODAT? is a league of extraordinary musicians! Throughout the years of me doing this, I’ve maintained friendships and found extra musicians who were on the same path as me, doing the same things. Through the years we’ve been playing with each other. I’m talking, like, probably 10-12 years. All the musicians you’ve seen were off and on. But it was more so during the pandemic, where I put on a jam show just to give…you know, musicians weren’t performing and out doing a lot of shows because everybody was shut down. So, I threw a weekly jam session every Tuesday, just so musicians could have a place to come and network and have fun. All the musicians that came out just kept coming and people started asking if we do shows and all that. I’ve always had the name WHODAT? because, being a musician myself, with musicians we like to stay employed. Sometimes, you’ll have a band, but, like, my lead guitar player may play for another band real quick to make a couple of extra dollars. Sometimes people are not free or sometimes I may end up traveling to another state to where I can’t bring somebody with me. It might not be in the budget. So once I get to that state, I needed to find me a lead guitar player. So it’s like , WHODAT?. You always knew you was going to see somebody that was dope, but you never knew who it was. So that’s where WHODAT? came from. But actually, since 2018, it’s been the same members!


You and your band recently released the track “Even Now”, that’s kind-of about standing together even though there are always factors that aim to divide. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind that song and message of it?


“Even Now” was one of them spontaneous grooves. I was actually on my way to a live recording and I got a phone call about me having Lyme disease. I was going through something weird and my body was feeling weird at the time. I found out I had Lyme disease and I was a little discouraged, but at the same time I was one my way to do this live recording and had to get my spirits up so I could lead my band and we could have a good show. The lyrics just came to me, and even now God is with me and I don’t really got nothin’ to worry about. It’s really a song about, with a message of, faith and hope that in spite of anything you are going through, whether it be health-wise, physical, mental, whatever, you might feel alone but God is with you.



You recently released your latest single “Man Down” about feeling the weight of daily struggles and contemplating the pressure of it all. What can you tell me about the ways in which the pandemic and coming out on the other side as it began to subside inspired the track? What helped you to regain motivation and pick yourself back up after?


Well, just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. You know what I mean? That alone was motivation, just realizing “Ok. We’re not going to be stuck in this forever.” Because for a while, I’ve got to be honest, it looked like this would be the new normal. So, just seeing things opening back up. Musicians were always the low man on the totem pole. Nobody cared about getting back to doing shows. People just wanted to get outside first. So, just seeing venues open back up, that was motivation in itself. I just dropped “Man Down”, but I wrote “Man Down” during the pandemic. That’s how I was feelin’. And the pandemic is still somewhat going on but we’re somewhat back to little bit of normal but we’re not normal right now. So, I was like let me put this music out because I can still relate to it at this moment. Not that I feel this way at this moment, but I’m still able to, if somebody asks what was my inspiration, I’m still able to connect and represent that feeling I was having at the time. I was overwhelmed by bills. Musicians weren’t making any money, so how can I live and what desire do I have to go out and do shows if we can’t gain anything out of it and people can’t come out and hear our music. It was just a crazy time. It was like, before this moment completely passes away, let me release this music.


What was the concept behind you music video for “Man Down” and the film making process behind the video? What inspired you to have the contrast of black and white footage vs color?


More so just to show a past rather than a present, you know what I’m saying? You know, when you think of black and white, you think of older shows like I Love Lucy. You don’t think of the present. You think of the present in color. You know the Marvel series Wanda Vision, and how they did it in black and white and then it ended up in color. Me and my director TwiZz, he directs most of my videos. I give him an idea and he helps to bring it to life. I just wanted to really paint the picture of all the things that we fall into when we feel depressed. We fall into drugs, we fall into liquor, we fall into a rut. We don’t want to get up from our bed. It just feels like, we’re just thinking and our mind is just going and going and going and we’re just sitting. We’re sitting but our mind is going. So, I just wanted to present that feeling and I feel like executed it and it didn’t take much to execute that. Usually, when people feel depressed and when they feel down, they’re not doin’ nothin’. They’re not getting anything done. They’re just sitting in one place and are dwelling on the moment but aren’t living in the moment. So, I felt that was the idea behind “Man Down”. In the video, you got one scene where you see different versions of me sitting in the chair and coming out in different angles. You’ve got the side of me that’s drinking, the side of me that’s smoking, the side of me that’s stressing, the side of me that’s happy, the side of me that’s sad. People go through all of these emotions in a matter of seconds. I just wanted to reflect that.



What can you tell me about the Asbury Park, NJ music community and finding your place within it over the years, as well as what it was like to perform with Eddie Vedder at last year’s Sea.Hear.Now Festival?


Awww, man! The music community is really up and coming. We’ve got a lot of underground artists around here and I’m proud to say I’m a part of this gang. They’re learning to embrace us artists who are coming up and the unique sound that they have here. The Eddie Vedder thing, that’s just a testament of us just putting our head down and working out here, because he called somebody and said he wanted a soulful sound to go with one of the songs for a Bruce Springsteen tribute he was doing. They thought of me and gave me a call and that’s just a testament to what we’re doing around here and how we’re viewed in this city. There’s nobody around here touching the soul like WHODAT? Live Crew. Dope musicians. Dope musicians. Fire musicians that I stand behind. I can name a bunch. When I’m talking about really touching your soul, like how James Brown and them used to touch your soul, but at the same time kept you moving. Ain’t nobody doing that like WHO is. I’m the grandson of Nina, you know what I’m saying? So there’s a standard we’ve got to set. A certain vibe that we bring out.


You talked early about living by Nina Simone’s quote that an artist has a responsibility to reflect the sign of the times in their music. Do ever view your music as a form of activism, with the ever-changing times we live in and everything that is happening in the world?


I do. There’s times for that. There are definitely times for that. Like, I wouldn’t say “Man Down” would be a song like that, but I would say with “Even Now” and “Fight The Fight”, there is a form of activism. Because at the same time, I’m trying to get people to wake up and see, wake up and experience, wake up and feel, wake up and embrace. There’s always a message, also, in everything we put out. So yeah, I would definitely say there is a form of activism, because at the same time, I have to be true to myself and my upbringing and beliefs. That’s the only way that I really feel that we can get people to embrace how we feel, is through the music. So, I definitely would say it is a form of activism. I want people to hear my music and be like “Oh. I never thought about it that way. Or, oh. He’s right. Let’s just keep moving. Let’s keep fightin’.” Definitely a form of activism.  Look who I came from!


Recently, you said you were able to do something you we really proud of by being able to give back and lend time to the youth and the next generation. What can you tell me about that experience and the ways in which the youth are giving you hope for the future?


It was dope because it’s something I’d never seen myself being able to really do on the scale that I’m doing it, being that I have a past. I was locked up when I was younger. I went the wrong way, went the wrong route. In looking at myself now, being able to testify and not preach, but being able to encourage and lead the youth away from a route that they shouldn’t go, just through my experiences, is major. A lot of times, a lot of kids don’t have that. They don’t have that to look up to or to see. They don’t have that person telling them, like “Nah! Don’t do it that way. Or maybe you should do it that other way.” A lot of kids don’t have that now. It felt good. Just even going back to the love for musicianship. In this new generation, the musicians are dying, because they don’t have the desire to really want to play because they don’t see the big people playing no more. They don’t see the James Browns. They don’t see the Michael Jacksons. They see the Chris Browns. They’re dancing. They’re not playing instruments. I’m coming from another generation, from another realm, like “Yo. You got this side to a story too.” That’s the thing. They don’t even have that option to explore because they don’t even see it. So, they don’t even know it’s cool. So, when somebody like me comes around and shows them somebody like, “Yo. Look at him doing this thing” and they be like “Oh. That’s dope. Oh, Prince playing guitar”. And I’m still preaching about Motown and bringing that old flavor. You know, autotune is killing the game right now. You got a lot of singers out here that when you hear them live, they don’t sound like the studio. It’s just a testament of perfecting your craft and getting in front of your mirror at home and doing it over and over again and really polish it. I’m still of that class, so being of that class, that’s why it’s good for somebody like me to around the kids, because it’s just giving them more options. I have a lot of wisdom I can give. I made a lot of mistakes growing up and I don’t regret them because they made me the man that I am and put in the situations I’m in. It’s a beautiful thing, when you can get to a place where you can embrace your mistakes and they can help somebody else to be better. There ain’t no better feeling than that!


What’s next for you? What do you have coming up, solo or with your band?


We got a lot coming up and a lot cookin’ right now. We have a full LP coming before the end of the year. I’m dropping a full LP before the end of the year. I have collaborations in the pot right now. One big collaboration is Dilla and Dres…Black Sheep “Dres” and J Dilla Beats…I helped produce and write a couple of songs for that project, as well.   Of course, WHODAT? is performing everywhere. Just stay tapped in with the social media…with the @alexandersimoneofficial (IG) and the website…and you’ll be able to keep up with all of that.


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