By Roisin Breen

French singer-songwriter and producer Aime Simone stands out among the crowds of other young musicians to emerge in recent years. After a difficult start to his career in the fashion industry, he emerged bruised and untrusting, determined to build a future for himself as an artist where he was able to write his own rulebook. And so was born Say Yes, Say No, a first album recorded in Berlin, released in July 2020, which included his gold-certified single Shining Light (+28M streams and counting). His new album Oh Glory, released today 5th May on all major streaming platforms, is an introspective album, an emotional photograph that captures the incisive moments of his travels between Berlin, Los Angeles, Vienna and Paris. Aime’s journey has been nourished by decisive artistic encounters (notably the American artist Sonja Fix, both his life partner and creative alter ego) but also by his fusional relationship with Berlin, a refuge city known for its artistic plurality, where he lived for several years. Aime Simone manages to make music that is at the same time pop, subtle and DIY, while sharing his creative intimacy through his lyrics and his energy on stage. He sat down in a candid conversation with Crash to talk about the early trauma in his life and the cathartic release of his latest album.

RB Can you just talk a little bit about the album and what you’re wanting to say to the listeners?

AS So it’s an album that took quite a while to create compared to the previous one, it was almost three years in the making. It’s really about transition, the idea of going from a very dream-like place of innocence and true vulnerability to a place where this dream is confronted by reality. About the moment where you have to be strong in the face of adversity and you have to keep being hopeful and optimistic about the future. It’s been an ongoing battle for us and for our vision. This album captures that moment.

RB Okay, so you started making it before you moved back to Paris? Does that tie in with the transition theme?

AS Yes, that’s right. After the first album, I kept writing but we realized that our Berlin era was coming to an end. We have a daughter and she had just turned two, so we started thinking about where she was going to be schooled, and if that would be in Germany. I had to ask myself if I wanted her to learn German before learning French? Do I want her to have a family around her or not? There were those questions about her upbringing and childhood and which memories she will have and what kind of family she will have. For me, one of the best memories of my childhood was having a family around me, having cousins, and having grandparents. And I could not live with the guilt of cutting her from that by choosing to live in Berlin. That was the first reason to move back, to be closer to my family. And in that time we also realized that Berlin didn’t have much more to offer for artists like us. It gave us a beautiful white canvas to experiment and create and find ourselves artistically. In terms of money and opportunities, the fact that I was not German and I did not speak German, it was becoming difficult. Having a kid makes earning money a much more essential thing. You can’t just live with nothing. We decided we had to make music seriously because before that I was making music for almost ten years and although I was trying to be successful I was not really mentally ready for it and I was not pushing myself in the right way. So this is why we also felt like we had to say goodbye to Berlin and thank the city for what it brought us and what it allowed us to become. But it was time to have this vision and those big dreams confronted to the reality of the world. Society, schools, administration, business, the industry and stuff like that.

RB How long were you in Berlin for?

AS I was in Berlin for three years. Sonja was there eight years in total. We met in Vienna before going to Berlin.

RB And how did the city influence you as an artist?

We work together, so all our influences come together. Sonja has been more influenced by Vienna than I was, but Berlin was a huge influence, but I think my experience of Berlin is a bit different than other people’s experience of Berlin. I think I really had my own fantasy about the city, my own way of experiencing it, of navigating it. It was a place that allowed me to experiment with myself, to change, to experiment with my identity, both personally and artistically. I always felt very close to the city. I loved the parks in the middle of the city. Just a simple day in Berlin I always felt so much better than anywhere else in the world. Even if the weather was shit, it didn’t matter. I always felt really good. In the UK you have beautiful parks also, but Berlin, they always feel a bit wilder than anywhere else in Europe. Berlin has had a harsh history and when I arrived I felt that my soul had maybe not gone through the same thing, but gone through harsh things and was hurt in a similar way. I could empathize with the pain. It’s a city that is still seeking reconstruction because it’s very recent and it’s still very present in the mentality. And the trauma is real.

RB It’s definitely something that is still very present even amongst young Germans. I was there recently and I always forget how difficult it is to get back used to Paris after spending time in Berlin.

AS The hardest thing in Paris is to find space and quiet. Everything’s so dynamic and so cramped.

RB It’s very dense.

AS Yes, there’s a claustrophobic feeling everywhere, all the time. But I grew up here, so it’s easier for me to handle that than Sonja who grew up in Minneapolis, which is just incomparable in terms of space. I grew up in the 11th arrondissement, but that was a long time ago and the 11th was really different, but as soon as I could, when I was 18 years old, I started to travel.

RB That was when you moved to the States?

AS Yes, for one year, but it was mostly to work there, but I had to come back every three months because I didn’t have a visa.

RB When you say work, that was for your music?

AS No, it was mostly for fashion. It wasn’t a good experience. I think the fashion industry in itself can be hugely problematic. It can be very toxic and objectifying. As a model I felt I was often treated like the lowest end of the chain, you’re working every day of your life, even on the weekends under super high levels of stress. For me, it was especially hard because I was young. I was very fragile at the time and I was dealing with anorexia and stuff like that. And the industry was not only capitalizing on my disease, but also being very fake about it in the sense that as long as I didn’t seem too anorexic it was okay to hire me, and as soon as it was a bit too much, fire me. And then the next day, hire me again. It’s very hypocritical and it’s really hard when you’re young and you’re looking for community and connection, and those people kind of give you a sense of that because they make you feel like they love you. They make you travel all around the world and when you’re 18 years old, you see it as a family. All the models think that their agency is their family but it’s sad because it’s going to hit a wall at some point. The only good things I took from the experience was that I could travel and I could meet different people and it led me more into music. Which, don’t get me wrong it can also be very harsh in itself, really harsh. But I feel like I’m older now, I’m more mature and because I had that experience with the fashion industry, today I’m not so innocent. And I can’t be fooled the same. It doesn’t necessarily make the career easier. When you’re a bit innocent and more easily manipulated you make a lot of friends and that can take you places, but it’s not real. Or you manage to build things a bit more. « Real » takes longer. But then I think it’s more sustainable and you’ll be happier in the long run.

RB Yeah, I think there’s something very toxic in society and that attitude “say yes to everything, always do more”, as if it’s going to get you somewhere. Yes, of course, work hard, but there are always people at the top that will take advantage of that, that will just keep making you work for nothing because they profit from it.

AS You have to do it for you, for yourself and for the people that matter. But there are truly very few people who should matter to you. Of course, everybody matters. But not in the sense of working and giving years of your life to somebody that from one day to another could just fire you or throw you out because you said something wrong, you got canceled, you’re too skinny or you’re too fat. You can’t rely on it. I had a very traumatic experience with it so I’m very harsh and decisive in terms of what I will or won’t do. And so I guess it makes me what they call a “difficult artist”.

RB Perhaps just slightly more guarded?

AS Yeah. I think I seem very ungrateful because I don’t have this bow down energy and feel eternally grateful to be there, that they allowed me to step on their carpet or something. I don’t give a fuck.

AS Good for you.

RB I just can’t buy it. What truly matters for me is my family, my daughter, my music, my fans, my community. What I think is real, that I’m building and that is sustainable and useful of love and it’s not using anybody’s insecurity or greed or ambition.

RB I imagine having a daughter gives you that sense of wanting to protect yourself and your world for her. Can you both tell me a bit about your collaborative process as artists. 

AS We have basically done everything together since the day we met. It’s very unusual and it’s never happened to me before, but the first hour we met in Vienna we started creating. We started drawing, painting, and writing. I was already making music, so I was like, “Here write something with me.”

SF Basically besides the hello, the first thing he ever said to me was like, can you write lyrics? (Laughs)

AS When we met, I was in a very chaotic place and when things are chaotic, I tend to take refuge in creation and art. That’s what we did and since then we kept doing it and we just started inventing a whole world, characters, goals and we kept doing this over the years and here we are today. It’s always very natural. I am the one who’s on stage singing and stuff like that because Sonya doesn’t want that for now.

SF Also, the whole concept of our project, at least what inspired me the most in the beginning, was about building a world that would allow him to evolve into an artist that was able to live better. Because when we met he was really having a hard time of just surviving.

AS I was in very dark places in my life several times, But when we met I was almost at the worst ever. The fact we managed to get out of that moment and make art out of it is so inspiring. It feels like anything is possible now if you put the right amount of energy and time into it. And if you’ve got the right people around you. But that comes from your own energy, which you spread out. If you’re an asshole, you’re going to be surrounded with assholes. It tends to be like that for real. It’s a daily struggle though, even our relationship, to keep it like this in the society where people are separated, where people have to have different jobs, we always wanted to work together.

RB Do you have a family based here then?

AS Yeah my parents, my brother, my sister. For us it’s kind of a village for now. We know so many people. We have good friends and it feels really good to have that in Paris.

RB It’s good to have a good base around you because Paris can be pretty tough as a foreigner. 

SF Yeah, definitely. Paris is a super aggressive city. The energy is very intense, and I don’t like that so much, but I have not made a big effort to connect with people either. It’s getting better. We have our little life and it’s very functional so it’s starting to get a bit easier. It was such a struggle. The whole transition has been really hard because we were so free in Berlin, we were really not thinking about anything like administrative or whatever.

RB Paris can be brutal. You said that you don’t see yourself staying here forever, but do you think the opportunities in France for you are better than in the States?

AS No, I still think the States has a lot of opportunities for us. I sing in English and Sonja is from the United States, so there’s going to be an era in the US. I don’t know when because I don’t want to go there and be miserable, I want to be prepared to go there. I need to do some things in France and Europe first and then make the move when the time is right. I just feel like we’ve achieved so much here.

RB Okay, so what else is there to achieve, what’s next? 

AS There are different levels of dreams and goals. The most important one, I guess, is to have a life that feels good and that spreads joy and love and where, like SonJa said, my daughter is set, my family is set, my friends are set, and my community is happy. But I also want to push the boundaries of music, what it means to make music today, how music sounds, and what music can become. I want to reinvent, bring a new vibe, new sounds, a new message, a new feeling. If you find a new way of making music, you change the sounds, change the results. If you change the process, you change. Keep the same process, keep the same result. And that’s something we’ve been fighting to protect. Our way of making music is very DIY, very intimate. Just two of us, not ten people in the room, not in big studios, no producer, no mixing engineer. Having to affirm that in the face of big labels that have their money on the table. Of course they want to make their money back so they want to know for sure that the music will work. So we are having to prove to people that this is possible and this is a new way to make music.

RB Well something is working because your songs have been some of the most plays of the year.

AS That was surprising because when I arrived in Paris and I started to talk to labels, the first thing they told me was, you need to sing in French. It’s not really going to work in France if you sing in English, because you’re not going to be able to be played on the radio because there are quotas, the radio has to play like 75 or 80% of French-speaking music. And the rest is all the international hits, like the Worldwide Chart. So for you to sing in English you have like a 1% chance. And they also said to me, “You need to have a producer to flesh out your sound because right now it feels a bit too minimal.”. And I was like, “No, I want it to be minimal. I want to bring out the emotion. I don’t want to put any artificial stuff that is not necessary to sound more professional.” So it took a lot of proving ourselves and a lot of leaps of faith, it’s nice to see it pay off in some ways. Having my songs played on the radio is a huge reward.

RB You’ve got a few festivals coming up. Do you like being on stage? And are you looking forward to that?

AS Yeah, I love it. One of my favorite parts about being a musician is being on stage. I don’t like to go on stage to give a perfect performance, but I love going on stage to feel that freedom, feel that connection with the people, and be the best I can be. And it’s also a challenge and I like that challenge. It’s like a sport, almost, and you can become better and better at it. I just try to prepare for it. I rehearse, try to be in good physical condition. I work on my voice and stuff like that. It’s so concrete, it’s like training. If you want to be a boxer. you go to the gym every day. It’s a bit like a game, and yet, at the end of the day, because it’s music, you put your heart out, you make people feel something, and that’s something real.

Tour dates and ticket info below:

May 12th – The Great Escape – Brighton (UK)
June 4th – We Love Green – Paris (FR)
November 6th – La Cigale – Paris (FR)
November 27th – Circolo Magnolia – Milano (IT)

& many more here


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