Singer Nicole Simone, twenty-something, noirish provocateur, has always felt like an old soul.  Though she doesn’t live far from the glitzy Hollywood Hills, she admits she’s always felt more connected to the music and films of years past. “I have always loved the haunting quality of Chopin’s compositions and the soul in singers like Billy Holiday. I love anything that is timeless and can mean just as much in the modern day as it did when it was first originated,” she says.  Her self-titled EP, a mix of stunning torch songs and stark, cinematic tunes sung to ukelele, trumpet and piano, is a debut not to be missed.

Simone started her vocal training at around nine years old and still continues with lessons to this day.  Perhaps that’s one reason that her voice has such a unique, multi-faceted range, effortlessly sliding from childlike to worldly, and stylistically, from jazz to experimental minimalism, in a breath.

Her musical tastes are just as varied. “I always loved singing old standards, even as a kid,” she says. “I always thought that I would record an album of standards and had this romantic idea of becoming a jazz singer until I started discovering different musicians. I was so inspired by Hank Williams and the old blues guys like Howlin’ Wolf and Mississippi Fred McDowell- that was a new kind of soulful to me.” Simone adds, “Then when I started listening to musicians like Tom Waits and Nick Cave, I felt for the first time that I could really incorporate all of my inspirations into something unique and my own. I bought an old piano, an accordion and an autoharp, none of which I knew how to play, and started messing around with them and soon songs began to emerge. The process was very organic, it was as if I had been accumulating a sound for years before I created it.”

Her eclectic inspirations extend to her taste in film and art, as well as to her concepts for her own videos.  Simone says, “I’m as drawn to French New Wave as I am to film noir and silent films of the 20’s. Also, Rene Magritte and the Surrealist painters made a big impression on me as a child and their work means even more to me now. It’s endlessly inspiring.”  The video for her single, “Melt”, pays homage to one of her favorite films, Paris, Texas.  “I came up with the story line, co-directed, found and chose every location we used, styled the costumes and edited the video. Music videos are the most fun because they incorporate all of my passions,” Simone says.

Though Simone recently made her first NYC appearances this month (playing with a band which included Kelly Pratt, who plays trumpet for Beirut, Arcade Fire and Citizens Band), she’ll be back in September to play a few shows in the city and around Brooklyn.  She says, “It was wonderful to have all the support from the folks in New York and the band I played with was incredible… I can’t wait to come back!”–Madeline Virbasius