How Sophie Tweed Simmons got involved with body positivity
Sophie Simmons is making a name for herself in the world of music and fashion.
Daughter of rocker Gene Simmons and model Shannon Tweed, Sophie initially wanted to go in a completely different direction from her parents and decided to study science in school and try out the athletic world. However, she kept being pulled back into music and modeling.
Now, the 24-year-old has has multiple successful modeling campaigns, and has released a single on Spotify recently as well.
We had the chance to sit down with Sophie and chat about her ambitions, song writing process and more! Check out the full interview below.
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How did you fall into the music and modeling worlds?
I avoided the industry for a long time because I didn’t want the comparisons between my parents and myself, but then it was something I was naturally good at — probably the only thing I was naturally good at. I wasn’t naturally athletic, and I forced myself to play sports, and I forced myself to get into science and I went to school for computer engineering, and I just hated everything I was doing. Then when I got back into songwriting I fell in love with it. I felt so stupid for not doing this the whole time. I could have already written all these songs that were in my head, but I had just been recording them on my phone and not doing anything with them. I was in love with music, then fell out of love with it, and then back in again– probably because my parents have always kept music in the house. I grew up with it.
When did you first start songwriting, even if it was just for yourself?
When I was 4 years old I wrote my first song, and it was called ‘I like to Jump Rope’. I took piano for 9 years — my parents forced us to learn every instrument we could — and when I learned piano I didn’t like playing other people’s music I just wanted to play what I wanted to play. That was my first foray into song writing, and then I stopped and I went to middle school and high school and focused more on science. Then after high school I took a trip to Nashville, and literally every single person in Nashville plays an instrument. They all play and they all say they aren’t very good, but they’re all geniuses and they play 5 different things. I started jamming with my friends there, and it turned into us recording jam sessions, and then we had a song, and then we did more songs. I was there for a month and came home with 8 songs and realized that I’m a songwriter.
How did ‘X Factor’ kind of fit into this timeline?
So when I fell back in love with songwriting, my parents were like “Oh you’re so amazing at it! We love you no matter what you do” — and that’s what your parents are supposed to say, but I wanted someone else to tell me that I was good at what I wanted to pursue. I felt like a competition show like that would be the best place, because they’re so brutal. They’ll just say: no we don’t like you, you shouldn’t do this. I needed that person to say: I see something in you, you should move on. I didn’t even need to do the rest of the competition, I just needed that initial audition to confirm that this is something I would work towards. When Simon said that he felt I had a tone he wanted to listen to I decided that it was time to get back into the studio.
What does your creative process look like now? Where do you get inspiration from? What do your songs look like from start to finish?
I usually sing in my car, because I live in LA and there’s so much traffic, and you sit in your car for like 4 hours a day. I have this is a new phone that I just got, but it already has 204 voice messages of me just singing into my phone. Some of them are complete songs, like if there are titles on them they’re probably complete, and there’s some that are just unnamed that are just riffs that I have stuck in my head or lyrics that I like. I just record everything, and I write everything down. I don’t like typing things down. I have 50 notebooks just full of stuff. I’ll come into with a riff and a line I thought of that I haven’t used yet, and then we’ll put those together and build a song around that. We’ll find a reference track that we like — a song that’s already out — and say pick elements out that we like, but combine those sounds with my melody, and this lyric, and build something around that.
What musical influences guide your sound now?
I grew up listening to classics like Etta James and Tracy Chapman, who’s not really classic — but she is to me. I like really strong, influential female singers that have more of a jazz background, and I try to combine that with the alternative pop that I’m doing. You just get richer melodies from it, because a lot of pop melodies are staccato and very pointed, and they say exactly what they mean. I’m all about being transparent, but the mystery those old jazz singers has is nice, and that’s what I’m trying to bring to my music now.
What’s it been like for you blending different genres to creating a unique sound?
It’s been hard, because not a lot of people get it. I’ll decide that certain moments are going to be electric, and then others are going to be piano, and also getting people to put on the computer what I hear in my head has been very difficult. But it’s a learning process, and the more you work with the same people over and over the more they understand you. It’s like building a relationship — you find who you have the best relationships with, and you keep working with those people, but a lot of them are like first dates. You go, and you’re like, man this is not gonna work out, but I’ve got to finish this date. So, you finish the song and you’re thankful, but don’t ever write again. It’s rare, but it happens. Usually people are so talented it works out, and you write again, but then there’s always one or two people that just don’t get the message. A lot of times I’ll write a song for me, but someone else will hear it and they’ll take it and make it how they would sing it. That’s always the struggle as a songwriter when you hear something that you know is meant to be played one way, and they take it and make it their own. It’s like letting go of a child.
You said you have about 200 voice memos how many are actually coming to life?
A lot of them come to life. And that’s just one phone of mine. I have 3 or 4 phones that I travel with that are all full of voice notes, and I go back through them constantly to see what I haven’t used yet. I try to keep a record of the ones I’ve used so I don’t repeat myself, but on this phone maybe like 5 or 6 of them have turned into full songs and they rest will wait until I need them.
What’s it been like to go back to those little moments or fragments of your life in your recordings?
It’s strange, because sometimes I’ll go back and see interesting titles, and I’ll click on it and not really be sure what I was thinking that day — it could have been good, or it could have been terrible. It’s kind of a toss up, but I’ll sing into my phone a few different times over a course of a month and go back and realize that I keep singing one thing, and that I should probably use because it keeps coming back to me. It’s neat, because they all dated, and I can see when it originated and look back in my notebooks, and I date everything so I can see when it came to life. Hopefully I will turn that into an installation of the audio, the pages, and the song.
You talked about comparisons between you and your father so what’s it been like establishing your own music career and own musical identity while having that Simmons name?
It’s weirdly been good. I used to have a different name for songwriting and for performing and people know either way, so it doesn’t really matter. I’d rather have my name because its my name. I used to say my name was Alexandra Wall which is my middle name and my mom’s maiden name, and it didn’t make a difference, because people always knew. You can’t hide who are, or where you came from, and I’m grateful that my parents introduced me to music at such a young age because now I’m proficient enough to write my own music, and I think that’s what all artists should be doing and not enough do.
What is your biggest take away from working on this new album?
To just let yourself make mistakes where you go with an idea, and you run with it, and you’re really committed to it, and then at the end it just wasn’t that great of an idea. Allowing yourself to get that out of your system and make those mistakes is super important, because it won’t come back to haunt you with other songs, and you won’t keep bringing up that idea that you didn’t fully see through to the end. It’s kind of almost a lesson in commitment songwriting, because it’s so easy to start a song and not finish it. I always try to finish every song all the way through even if i’m not totally sold on the idea.
How did you get involved in your role as a body positivity activist?
I just think growing up not a size 0 or 2 put me in that position especially being in this industry. It’s hard to be not a sample size.When you go to events, and you want to borrow an outfit and everything is not in your size, that’s difficult. When you have a mom that’s a supermodel — that’s difficult if you look different. I’m lucky that my parents had a really open dialogue with me about loving myself, because if I didn’t have that then I probably would have ended up like millions of other teenage girls just hating my body, but because my parents taught me to love myself I can now use it as a platform.
You’re very vocal about your opinions on social media. What has it been like for you to expose those ideas to those people who might not necessarily hear them often?
I think a lot of people don’t have the courage to have those conversations, and then girls are seeing these images that are photoshopped and retouched. A lot of people aren’t honest about it, like if I FaceTune out a pimple, I say that I FaceTuned this image, just so girls have a realistic view on what women look like. There’s no such thing as perfect, but I feel like we all try. That’s something girls need to know — that everyone tries, and it’s okay and no one is perfect. I went to a really liberal arts school and I had really liberal parents that taught me about gender roles, and body positivity and things that people think are too adult for kids to talk about, but really that’s the age you should be talking about them.
How do you think that your presence on social platforms has impacted your career now?
Its definitely led to a lot of great things. A lot of people I song write for found me through Twitter, and a lot of people I’ve modeled for have found me on Instagram. It’s just so strange to me because I was taught growing up to never talk to people on the internet that you don’t know. So I grew up with AIM chat rooms and people would talk to strangers, and I was very against that. Now I’m meeting people on Twitter, which I’m not recommending you do because it’s scary, but if they have a verified check mark they’re probably alright. I met the DJ group Yellow Claw, and I’ve just fallen in love with their music, and them vice versa, and we’ve been writing a lot together. It’s been really cool, because they’re such a different genre. They’re so in that EDM world, and I’m in that organic space. It’s really cool to see them take an organic song and put so much power behind it.
What’s the one piece of advice you wished you received before you started in the music industry?
I wished someone would have told me that ‘ sound different than you think’. Because the first time I heard myself recorded when I was like 12 I quit singing for years, because it’s such a shock when you hear yourself played back for the first time. You refuse to believe it’s you because theres so much production that goes into songs to make you sound like you — like autotune and reverb and echoes. There are all of these filters you can put yourself through to make you sound like you want to sound, kind of like photoshopping. It was kind of interesting to see that mirror up to my voice and hearing myself, and not liking it and having to deal with that. I became so ware of how I talk and I didn’t sing for years, and my mom of course ultimately snaps me out of everything cause she’s my mom and that’s what they do, but she told me I was an idiot for not singing, because I’m good at it and I work your butt off. She said if you don’t sing I’m going to ground you. Good call mom!