Interview with our ReverbNation Winner, NYC’s Kortnee Simmons!
Who are you as an artist? What’s your story?
As an artist I consider myself a universal translator. Not for music, because of course, the feeling doesn’t need to be translated; but as for the message, that’s where I feel the phrase is applicable. Often people ask me where the inspiration for my music comes from. I’ve also heard that my music sounds like something only a woman would sing. I do that on purpose. I can sit down with a woman and feel her story, her pain, and understand where she’s coming from; and translate that message in a way a man would better understand. I say and do the things people are afraid to but wish they could.
I started singing and acting when I was extremely young, but my music took on a life of its own. My mother and biological father (phrased as such due to his lack of presence in my life) were both singers, and many people know that my uncles are Russell Simmons, and Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons of RUN DMC. Music has always been present, and in many moments, my only friend. My experiences, feelings, and moments that have shaped me can almost always be found in my music.
How would you describe your music and what artists have inspired you in your style?
I’ve been told many many times that I remind people of John Legend. A group of people at a blues dance I’d performed at in Albany, NY (ALBS) were sitting around pairing musical parents for me and they came up with: John Legend and Musiq Soulchild, Lalah Hathaway and Bilal, and Erykah Badu and D’Angelo. I added India.Arie and God. I’ve been heavily influenced by R&B and Neo-Soul singers including: Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, D’Angelo, Lalah Hathaway, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Ray Charles, and the list goes on and on.
What makes your music worth it to the world? To your fans?
I believe my relatability is what draws people to my music. Not just in my sound, but in the fact that I look like them. Naturally not everyone lol, but I’m not the typical for what you’d expect an R&B singer to be. I’m a nerd that happens to be into anime, tarot, crystals, and sitting on the beach under the moonlight. Maybe that’s the Cancer in me, but it is what it is. I’m a normal guy
What do you feel is the future of the music and the industry in 5 years?
That’s an extremely difficult question to answer; but if I had to take my best crack at it I would say the future of music is probably headed somewhere toward VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) performances. Automated holographic concerts may also be a thing in the near future. I’m hoping not, but you never know. The industry seems to be forward moving in its integration of streaming, on-demand, and the impact on the traditional artist and label models; but it seems to be regressing in terms of what sounds the fans want. I think people are starting to crave “the real” (shameless plug lol).
What surprises you about the music industry from when you first started?
Honestly, I think what surprises me the most is the acceptance. When I look at other artists like me such as SZA, Khalid, Frank Ocean, Miguel, Bruno Mars, etc. and see that they can be successful in an industry that seemed to run by the “mainstream” popular sound, it’s encouraging. When I first started I was making the pop/dance music that was guaranteed to blaze the charts and secure radio play, and though I don’t knock anyone for their taste, it just wasn’t my sound. It’s refreshing to see that people can put out what they want and there is an overwhelming positive reaction to it.
What’s your poison?
My poison? That’s a good question. I think the thing that has a hold on me right now might be sushi. I wasn’t much into it when I was younger but I’ve grown quite a taste for it and it’s always cool to try something new...or just order the same thing haha. Fun fact: one of my local sushi places knows my order and starts preparing at least a California roll and a Shrimp Avocado roll when my number appears on the caller ID.
How is art “your religion”?
I don’t know that I would consider art my religion. I don’t really subscribe to religion because I don’t believe in conforming to a set of rules that tells you how to live, and how you should feel about certain things. I consider myself spiritually free and open-minded. I will say that my art is my life though. I say that because when I have nothing else I can still open my mouth and sing a song.
What are you truly creating with your music that changes the world, changes society?
One of the things we lack is shared understanding and compassion. I think that’s what my music is helping to put out there. My music and positive, and though sometimes it relays messages of heartbreak, anger, frustration, etc. it is still helping someone understand why I feel that way or why someone close to them (or not) may feel the same.
What is the (spiritual, political, social) message of your music?
The message of my music is that we’re not so different at all. We may fuss, we may fight, and at times we may not understand each other; but we’re all human and like you feel I feel. Like you bleed I bleed. So why continue to hurt each other when we can begin to understand and heal each other. Let’s vibe.
Have you been “lucky” or “gifted” in the music industry so far? Tell us more:
I believe there’s a degree of luck to everything but I honestly don’t factor that into much that I do. I believe in intention and hard work. When I did my goal board for 2018, I was going to include a quote that contained the word “luck” but it didn’t sit right with me. So I created my own. “Don’t wait for luck, or for someone to create opportunity for you. Prepare for the opportunity, then fight like hell to create your own.” With that being said, I’ve opened a lot of doors myself and with the support of my family and team I have been blessed to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that have awaited me.
What do you think it really takes to make it in the music industry? Tell us 3 keys:
Innovation, perseverance, and tough skin. The ability to handle rejection is a definite. You hear a lot of no’s before you hear a yes (sometimes).
What is your main inspiration philosophy in life? Favorite quote?
I don’t have a favorite quote but my philosophy is anything is attainable. You just have to work out how to get to it and go for it. Don’t overcomplicate it. If you know that in order to get signed to a record label you need to impress the Head of A&R then map out your steps and do just that. Find out who it is (research), send your BEST (prepare), and follow up (expect). Don’t expect it to work out if you’re not putting your best foot forward though.
If you could start over, what would you do differently in your career?
I would invest and believe in myself at an earlier age. I waited a while to begin taking this seriously. I was taken advantage of by some people but I learned from those experiences.
Where do you see your career going in five years? 10 years? Next year?
I don’t like to think TOO far ahead lol but I do have a plan. As for the upcoming year I plan on making bigger moves than I did this year. I did a lot but I have some major goals I will reach. One of them is to release my first full length album and tour it. The rest you’ll have to wait for and see as it happens.
Legacy: At the end of the day, how do you want your fans to remember you and your music?
In two parts. I want people to look at me and my work and say, “Excellence. Exactly what you expect from the Simmons family. He wasn’t quite like the others, and he stepped way out of the box; but there’s no doubt that he was legendary and a pioneer.”
The second being as someone they connected with so greatly that when I’m done, and in the far future when I pass away people remember me as a friend, and not just a performer.
Connect with Kortnee here:Social Media