“I find in writing songs that I’m often walking that thin line – I’m trying to make a personal, individual experience universal,” muses singer-songwriter Lisa Marie Simmons.
From homebase on the coast of Italy’s beautiful Lake Garda, Simmons collaboratively leads two different ensembles – Hippie Tendencies and NoteSpeak – with keyboardist, arranger, and songwriter Marco Cremaschini, each deeply but differently informed by Simmons’ own struggles and triumphs.
Born in Colorado Springs (CO), Simmons survived several troubled adoptions and foster homes. She found solace in singing and was featured soloist with the Boulder Youth Choir. At nineteen, Simmons moved to New York City to study theater and music at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts while performing on the Manhattan club circuit at night. “Music is my savior,” she has said.
In the 1990s, Simmons explored and performed music in Amsterdam, Costa Rica, St. Marten, and France, where she began to compose her own music and lyrics. She continued her travels through Central and South America, then stepped out in 1999 as a solo artist with her first single (“Feel It”) while continuing to collaborate with various Italian artists and producers.
Simmons and Cremaschini have since divided most of their attention between the neo-folk-soul project Hippie Tendencies and spoken-word-jazz project NoteSpeak. Hippie Tendencies’ cover of “Here’s To You/The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti,” which recants the execution of two Italian immigrants wrongly convicted for murder during a 1920 armed robbery in Massachusetts, was adopted by Amnesty International the theme for their #herestoyou campaign.
NoteSpeak explores creative paths established by such artists as The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, and Brian Jackson, constantly shifting from style to style yet keeping a consistent, deep groove. Simmons' delivery connects Nina Simone to Jill Scott, obliterating the line between vocalist and poetess. “I love the exploration of the spoken, sung and played mingled,” Simmons explains. “In NoteSpeak, we’re giving ourselves the freedom to just tell these stories with as much craft and beauty and compassion as we can muster.”
In 2017, Simmons returned to Boulder for NoteSpeak’s US debut, a free concert performance at the third annual ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. In 2018, she was an invited speaker at the University of Colorado Boulder’s 2018 Conference on World Affairs, and NoteSpeak was nominated in the Spoken Word category for the global 2018 Independent Music Awards. Marco, Lisa and their band debuted NoteSpeak in Europe in November 2019 at the Prague International Jazz Festival hosted by the Reduta Jazz Club and in India on the Jaipur Music Stage in January 2020.
“I am an idealist,” Simmons allows. “It seems so obvious to me that love and the thread that connects each of us is all that matters.”
“Musically and vocally, NoteSpeak consistently changes, shifting from style to style – acoustic jazz solos into hip-hop beats into harmonized gospel vocals into electronic jazz and fusion into free verse rhyming – and yet seems to constantly groove. Simmons’ delivery swims in the deep waters connecting Nina Simone to Jill Scott, completely obliterating the line between vocalist and poetess: Warning like a mother lioness, whippersnapping through urban haunts, and curiously wondering about it all.” - Senior Editor at All About Jazz Chris M. Slawecki
“Lisa Marie Simmons has a powerful magnetizing voice for our time- for all time. Authentic and deeply committed.” - Anne Waldman, author of Trickster Feminism (Penguin Poets)