“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 her 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 the struggles and triumphs in Simmons’ own life.

Born in Colorado Springs (CO), Simmons survived several troubled adoptions and foster homes. She found solace singing in her church choir and was featured soloist with the Boulder (CO) Youth Choir. At nineteen, Simmons moved to New York City to study theater and music at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and perform in various pop, funk, soul, blues and jazz bands throughout the Manhattan club circuit at night. “Music is my savior, and my past has taught me empathy,” she reflects.

Manhattan served as the launchpad for five years of geographic and musical globetrotting: From 1993 until 1997, 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, and eventually returned to Europe to establish her new artistic home and search for someone to produce her own music.

After dalliances on the dance singles charts in France and Italy, Simmons finally stepped out as a solo artist in 1999 with her first single (“Feel It”) and continued to collaborate with various artists and producers throughout Italy. She released her last single as a solo artist (“I Won’t Be Waiting,” with producer Emanuela Gubinelli) in 2004. Since then, Simmons and Cremaschini have divided most of their attention between the neo-folk, neo-soul project Hippie Tendencies and spoken-word-jazz project NoteSpeak.  Hippie Tendencies has released two full-length albums and their 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 used by Amnesty International for their #herestoyou campaign.

A unique collaboration that intertwines poetical and musical forms to raise awareness of real-life triumphs and struggles around the world, NoteSpeak explores creative paths established by such artists as The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, and Brian Jackson, but venture down contemporary avenues to address current topics of which many remain unaware. Musically and vocally, NoteSpeak constantly 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 consistently 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, whipper-snapping through urban haunts and curiously wondering about it all.

“I love the exploration of the spoken, sung and played mingled. It's been a joy working with new musicians with NoteSpeak. We’re convinced of its relevance as an original observation deriving from our own unique experience (as each of ours is) of the world today; and in particular we are trying to call attention to some phenomena of which many are unaware,” 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.”

She was a speaker and performer at the 70th Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado in April 2018. In November 2019, she presented NoteSpeak (Amore e Tragedie in Musica) in Italy, Austria and Prague. In January 2020, Lisa presented NoteSpeak in India on the Jaipur Music Stage. Ropeadope released her poetic/musical album NoteSpeak (Amori e Tragedie in Musica) in March 2020, which received a four-star review from Downbeat magazine. In October 2021, she flew to Florida to search for her birth father; Angela Tucker and her Emmy Award-winning husband Bryan Tucker filmed a documentary about the search: Lisa & Isell: A Story about Adoption and the Ghost Kingdom, which premiered in June 2022. Angela and Lisa co-wrote an essay advocating for the rights of Black fathers for the Harvard Law Bill of Health digital symposium in May 2022. Lisa is co-host, alongside Dionne Draper, of season one of ‘DAWTA The Podcast’, which covers complex, challenging, and always heart-warming stories of the transracial adoptee experience and the powerful path to self-actualization. Her jazz standards album Lisa Meets Gianni, featuring legendary Italian drummer Gianni Cazzola, was released in June 2022 on Ropeadope. Lisa was invited to perform at the Biennale in Venice in October 2022 for artist Simone Leigh’s Loophole of Retreat. Her poem “Last Supper” was shortlisted for a Creators of Justice Literary Award in November 2022. Her latest album, NoteSpeak 12, was released in February 2023 by Ropeadope and is on Downbeat Magazine’s Best Albums of 2023 list, having garnered five stars. Lisa and her writing partner Marco Cremaschini were invited to be inaugural Artists in Residence at SUNY Oneonta in October and November of 2023 and won a travel grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Italia Music Export in support of their American debut of NoteSpeak 12 allowing them to tour on the East coast in the US in support of the album in November 2023. In 2024, NoteSpeak 12 won Best Spoken Word Album of 2023 from the World Entertainment Awards, and “Transcend” was shortlisted for Best Jazz Song by the International Songwriting Competition. "Can We Agree" and "The Last Supper" won Gold and Silver, respectively, for  Best Spoken Word single in the One Earth Awards, and NoteSpeak 12 is a finalist in 4 categories in the ISSA Awards.

Simmons’ creativity also encompasses composing with and for other artists in different genres, including: Ropeadope’s collaborative Nine-Takes performance series during the pandemic lockdown; rock ‘n’ rollers Plan de Fuga; and American roots music on Lisa Bell’s The Italian Project; and soulstress Cheryl Porter, who performed “Consequence” (co-written by Simmons and Cremaschini) at “Two Countries, One Heart” co-sponsored by the American Initiative for Italian Culture, the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras and the Italian Cultural Institute in Washington.   

“I am an idealist and I truly believe in making the world a brighter place and contributing in an enlightened evolution of humankind. It seems so obvious to me that love and the thread that connects each of us is all that matters,” Simmons explains. “I want to continue to grow in ways that I cannot even imagine today, to champion those without a voice, to celebrate the gloriousness of existence, to give voice to my inner landscape, to reflect the events that surround us while learning from the past and seeking to aid in avoiding the repetition of history's worse errors, to share, to know and be known.”

"Beautiful and Powerful" - Giuseppe Saulo Rai Radio 3 "Battiti" 

“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)

“A serene r&b groove opens ‘Chillax,’ introducing an album that blends poetry and jazz while speaking out against war, ignorance and racism….Across NoteSpeak, the band’s playing remains understated, granting Simmons’ poetry the spotlight. Her words are full of internal rhymes, verbal inflections that move the rhythm in unexpected directions and juxtapositions of imagery that veer from predictable to wildly creative. 4 stars.” – j.Poet Downbeat Magazine May 2020

“All too often with projects such as this, banal lyrics diminish the impact and shorten the shelf-life. Simmons' words, however, are genuinely poetic rather than journalistic and are used sparingly; in short, her input works.” – Chris May, All About Jazz February 17, 2022