Nashville-based singer/songwriter and worship leader Shaylee Simeone launches her single debut 'Dearly Loved' on July 26th. LTTM spoke with Shaylee to learn more about this talented new artist and get her views on the art of writing songs for the church.
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?
HI! I moved to Nashville after graduating from Baylor in 2011. I had no earthly idea what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted it to involve music. I heard Nashville had a lot of that, so I up and moved, barely knowing anybody. I had been writing and singing since high school, but had never even heard of "co-writing" or that you could make a career out of writing music. I pretty much thought the options were Taylor Swift or bust ha! And Lord knows I didn't have that in me. But I was so excited to dive deeper into what it meant to work in music and how different that could look for everybody. I fell in love with the writing process and got involved in writing for Sync and TV/film. I still do that and love it, but have recently fallen in love with writing worship specifically. It is so incredibly life-giving and I feel like I am finally living out my purpose! God has been totally redirecting me these past two years and I can't wait to see what he does next.
On a personal life note: I married my dentist (he was my friend before he was my dentist, but it sounds funnier to put it that way haha) Ryan O'Neill in 2014. We have two German Shepherds and two kitties and love our crazy life!
Tell us about your new single 'Dearly Loved', what it's about and how it was inspired?
Dearly Loved was inspired by a fear that I have, and by the promise that God makes in response to that fear. I struggle with the fear of abandonment. Whether it's physical or emotional, I'm afraid of being disconnected from and finding myself alone and without meaningful connection. It rears it's head in every close relationship I've had, so that obviously includes my relationship with the Lord. But he is so kind to remind me of his character often, and that is the beauty and the difference of our love story with him. It is unlike any human relationship we will ever have, because whether by death or by circumstance, every relationship on earth ends at some point. It is simply the mortality of the human condition. But God's love lasts way beyond that, and that can be hard to wrap our finite minds around. So, this song acts as a lullaby to sway me back into believing and trusting that God is a Father who will never leave me. He will never forsake me. I can fall apart and He isn't going anywhere. He is a safe place to land. And that is enough.
You've commented that you endeavor to write music that is "singable for a normal group of humans" - what would you say are the core ingredients in making a song that is congregationally friendly?
That was one of the biggest and hardest transitions for me into writing worship. I love pop, so I am drawn to an interesting, weird melody. And I still am, but it changed everything when I started thinking about your average church member who doesn't happen to have a background in music or singing and just wants to connect with the Lord on a Sunday. I think it's possible for artists to remain creative and true to themselves while still considering the church members in their writing process. Is the melody easy to catch on to? Is it in a range that is decently accessible to people, or are you having a few too many Christina Aguilera moments down a path that no one can follow? LOL. Are you writing words that are emotive and relatable, but also solidly planted in scripture? It's a hard balance to find, but it's worth it when you do. And I think it's one of those things you continue chasing and learning as a writer for the whole of your ministry.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
That's easy. Brooke Fraser. I think she is so insanely creative, she knows how to say things in such a pure yet interesting way. Her melodies stay with you forever, and she is super grounded in scripture. I would love to just sit and learn from her.
Do you think artists should be more honest in their music?
Definitely. Always. Forever. Music is art, which to me is a reflection of what's inside our messy souls. What's the point of creating art that isn't honest? That just boils down to us not being honest with ourselves, and that's damaging. God sees all the mess of our innermost being, and he also created us to live in community. So it seems to me that music should be something that opens doors to vulnerability and honest conversations. What a beautiful, scary, wonderful thing!
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
I've been writing pop/singer/songwriter style for several years now, so I am heavily influenced by that. I grew up being force-fed the Beatles by my dad, so I find a lot of inspiration in their music as well. What I hope to be is a merging of congregational, accessible worship with interesting and creative pop influences.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
I want to write songs that bless the Church as a whole. I want to help people connect with the Lord through music. There were so many songs that taught me how to worship in college when I was a decently new believer, and they were so vital and life-giving. If my music could be that for someone, I would feel "successful" and honored and purposeful. God fashioned me to be a worship leader and gave me a passion for writing music, so whatever that ends up looking like is beautiful.
What is your favorite album of all time?
OH NO. What a hard question!! I'm the most indecisive human on this planet so I don't know if I can accurately answer this. Because I probably have a favorite album in each genre of music, how about I do it this way: A worship album that really influenced me, taught me how to worship and helped connect me with a God that I was just beginning to understand was Phil Wickham's self-titled first album. Man. So good. "I Will Wait for You There" still wrecks me.
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
Again, this changes every day, because I usually wear a song out and then get super sick of it lol. But if I was stuck on an island I'd probably be all kinds of scared and hungry and sunburned and wouldn't have a Bible, so I would choose "Like Incense/Sometimes By Step" by Hillsong Worship aka Brooke Fraser. Those verses are some of my favorite all time worship lyrics. I could never get tired of her voice, and then I would be reminded of scripture and how God is good despite the fact that I have to learn how to spear fish to survive soon.
What does the next year hold for you?
Man, who knows. I'm definitely the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type. I will continue to release singles this year and eventually put out a worship EP, hopefully in 2020. I will continue to write, lead in my local church, and keep learning about what is to lead God's people in worship.
Can't wait! Thanks for caring and asking these questions, can't wait for you to hear Dearly Loved! Hope it blesses you as much as it has me.