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Memphis Artist Marcella Simien to Perform at Paducah's Lowertown Arts & Music Festival

The Lowertown Arts & Music Festival will be held on Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11, in Paducah's historic Lowertown Arts District. This year's lineup includes Memphis-based artist Marcella Simien, who blends the classic soul sound Memphis is famous for with Creole elements from south Louisiana, where she grew up. Morning Edition host Daniel Hurt speaks with Simien ahead of her performance.

"I got some incredible first-hand knowledge from my parents," Simien begins. Simien's father is two-time Grammy award-winning Zydeco artist Terrance Simien. "My mom was his manager and booking agent, so I just watched them build his whole career over time, and it was amazing. I watched from a young age what it means to build your career in music and [to work] in the arts."

Simien says she's proud to operate in the gray area that exists between the 1% of pop mega-stars playing to millions of people and underground artists just starting out. "It's a really cool place to be," she says. Along with performing with her father and traveling the world touring with him at a young age, she also spent a lot of time in the homes of music legends like blues artist Taj Mahal.

“Taj is a good friend of my dad's. He sang me happy birthday on my 17th birthday on this legendary rhythm and blues cruise, and they keep in touch. It's been amazing to be surrounded by legends and see what it looks like to be at that level, and they're all so humble. And they're just true artists. They are true to themselves. And that definitely rubbed off on me throughout my life,” Simien said.

Simien's influences come not only from her time traveling with her father but also from the New Orleans-style funk and blues she was surrounded by growing up. When she went to college in Memphis, she was exposed to even more musical avenues. "When I graduated high school, I went to the Memphis College of Art and heard all the different genres of music," Simien explains. "It wasn't just the world-renowned Stax and soul music, which is some of the greatest music in the world. But there was Sun Studios with the rock and rockabilly and country and all these merging genres, but also the underground rock and punk scene here. I got a well-rounded taste of everything throughout my 20s living here, and all of it has influenced my sound."

Simien's new album, due to be released this fall, is her first full-length album that she produced with her husband. "We are building a performance art piece to go with it," Simien says. Be on the lookout for that. It'll be my first full-length album that is more of a solo project, where I recorded all the instruments myself, played every part, and sang every song. It was a really special experience."

Marcella Simien says she is excited about her first trip to Paducah and hopes folks will enjoy the show. “It's gonna be so much fun. We can't wait. This is our first time going to Paducah. And we cannot wait to connect with you guys and share the love and the sounds. We've got some incredible musicians with me. We're gonna have some horn players. It's gonna be a mix of Memphis soul, Louisiana Creole, some rock, some blues, and a little funk.”

The Lowertown Arts & Music Festival presents Marcella Simien and her eclectic band on the evening of Saturday, May 11. For more information on the artist and her upcoming release, visit Simien's website. For more information on the Lowertown Arts & Music Festival, visit its website.

Hurt is a Livingston County native and has been a political consultant for a little over a decade. He currently hosts a local talk show “River City Presents”, produced by Paducah2, which features live musical performances, academic discussion, and community spotlights.
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