Frankie Simone is Portland’s rising pop diva, and she’s on a mission to make you love yourself. I met with Simone on the rooftop of the apartment building where she lives in northeast Portland, and there she spoke to me about her unintentional journey toward becoming a solo artist, what led to the creation of her debut EP, LOVE//WARRIOR, and how she stays grounded in the present.
Frankie Simone didn’t set out to become a solo pop artist.
“I kind of stumbled upon making [the LOVE//WARRIOR EP]; it wasn’t my intention to create this. I was just writing and then I met one of my now-closest friends, Graham Barton, who ended up co-producing it with me, and he engineered the whole thing. We spent a year together recording, took our time, and didn’t really have any expectations of what would come of it,” said Simone. It wasn’t until eight months into recording with Barton that Simone even realized she had a body of work, let alone one that she wanted to release.
“I think I’ve always known that this is what I wanted to do–to be a full-time artist–I’ve always known that deep-down, but I wasn’t set out to do this until I realized we had an album’s-worth of songs,” she said. It was then that she realized, “This is totally what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Simone has been singing since she was four years old.
In high school and college, she sang back-up in friends’ bands–some folk, some indie. By the time she connected with Barton, Simone not only had years of vocal experience, but had also amassed years of potential songwriting content in the form of voice memos and notebooks full of poetry she’d written. These would later become lyrics for her solo project.
As Simone worked her way through putting her writings to music, she met another Portland maker who became a fast friend, and one with whom she would collaborate.
“I started making more connections–another great friend of mine, Josh Brine, is a videographer here in town. We just became really good friends first, and now he’s done three of my music videos,” said Simone. “All of it feels very community-based.”
For Simone and her wife, Portland was love at first sight.
Simone grew up in Southern California and moved to the Bay Area for school, where she attended the University of California at Santa Cruz and met her now-wife, dancer and performance artist, Che Che Luna. Several years later, the couple joined artistic forces and set out on a collaborative path that ultimately led them to Portland, Oregon.
“We created a full-length show where I did all the music–it was super experimental–and [Che Che] danced and did all the choreography,” Simone said. They took the show on the road and toured from Los Angeles to Canada, stopping in Portland for the longest of all the tour dates. “We totally fell in love [with Portland],” Simone said, and soon the two left the Bay Area for the Pacific Northwest.
Simone finds herself supported by fellow Portland creatives and collaborators, and at-home within the queer community.
“One thing that stands out [about Portland] is the queer community here, and that there are so many beautiful queer people everywhere you go,” said Simone. “There’s a large percentage of female-identified queer people,” she said, seemingly more than in previous places she’s lived, including the stereotypically queer male-dominated Bay Area.
“Portland is–okay, it’s not very diverse–but it’s very welcoming and people are generally pretty nice. I feel a community vibe from Portland,” said Simone. Integrating first into the local queer community, Simone later found herself making connections with local creatives who became collaborators for her forthcoming debut EP, LOVE//WARRIOR.
For Simone, making music is a catalyst for individual and collective healing.
“I started doing this for myself–to heal myself,” said Simone. “When I think about the words I’m saying in my songs, it’s all about self-empowerment and self-love.” Simone talked about how we enter the world as babies, “perfect and unashamed,” and how we change. “Then life happens. Life circumstance, experiences, trauma–all of these make us who we are, and there’s this need for a collective healing,” she said. “In a microsense, it’s like I’m healing myself [with my music], and with that, I’m hoping to heal as many people as are able to connect with my music.”
Who is she hoping to heal? “Definitely the LGBT community,” she said. “They are my family. I am them; they are me. There’s no doubt that if you identify as queer, you have probably experienced some level of hate or discrimination,” said Simone.
“I’m really pushing this collective healing,” said Simone. “Ultimately, in this life–in my mind–it’s about finding that self-love. Every single person has their shit. Every single person is on a journey–is on a path to wherever they’re headed–and I feel if we can all arrive at this place of being, ‘Oh! This is who I am, and I love myself!’ then that’s fucking life.”
Simone carries crystals in her pockets as a personal reminder to live in the moment.
“Crystals have become a really important way for me to be able to come into the present,” said Simone. “It’s a very tangible item; I can hold it in my hands. Energetically, there’s a lot there–if you choose to subscribe to that.”
Simone emphasized the grounding effect of these totems within her artistic process. “Each crystal is of the earth. Any time I have one with me, it brings me back into the present moment and that’s something I’m always trying to do, every day in my life,” she said. “And with my art, I get so far ahead of myself. I can be really self-deprecating and hard on myself in that way, so this is one tiny way that I can be right here, right now…right where I’m meant to be.”
Simone has a lot to offer Portland in the coming month.
On Thursday, May 31st, Simone performs at Holocene in support of her debut EP release, LOVE//WARRIOR, which drops June 1st and is followed by a music video release for the title track later in the month.
What will the release show at Holocene be like? “A party. A celebration of life… A ton of badass women making rad shit happen,” said Simone. “It’s a lot of dancing, a lot of skin and glitter, and sexiness… I want people to feel their sexiest, I want people to dress to their nines–whatever that means. I love dressing up and it makes me feel so good. I want other people to feel good! So whatever that means to them,” said Simone. “No pressure. Like, you don’t need to wear a tuxedo, but I know someone who’s wearing a tuxedo.”