On the 3rd of June, Simi dropped her third studio album, ‘To Be Honest.’ The album took three years to make, but the stories behind it go further, a testament to her career, love, and experiences.
While the title of this new project might seem contradictory, as Simi has been one of the most vocal artists in Afrobeats, whether on Twitter or in her music, honesty has always been associated with Simi. Switching from gospel to a secular act, Simi’s first songs were honest expressions of love by a woman, something somewhat uncommon in Afrobeats. But her new LP, ‘To Be Honest,’ is a different kind of honesty, not just in the sonic experiments she takes but in the stories she tells and the experiences that inspired them.
The album was announced on the third of May with a handwritten note she shared on her Instagram explaining the process behind the album’s conception. Talking to MoreBranches, Simi further explains her thoughts behind the album’s conception, why she chose it, how it’s different and what the songs on the project mean to her.
How’re you feeling now that it’s out?
Simi: I’m very excited. I wanted it to be something from me, not like A&Red heavily by other people. So this is written and A&Red by me, so I’m really excited it’s out there.
What was it like working through this album for you?
Simi: The thing is, the album has been through water and fire several times. Several times I felt like this album was finally ready, but then I would just go and listen and be like, no, I’m not happy yet. So I’d just go take out some songs, add a few more and be like, no, I’m still not happy, and take it out again, you know. I just kept fine-tuning it because I felt like I wanted to feel a certain way when I heard the songs, and until I felt what I wanted to feel, I wasn’t satisfied.
Wasn’t that highly stressful for you?
Yeah, it was. But I don’t think anything worthwhile is easy, except I’m not just trying to do a random project. I’m trying to do something that lasts, something that transcends me, and honestly, it’s going to be difficult, but I’m fine with that.
What feeling did you want to get out of the project?
I don’t think it’s something I could put a name to; I just wanted to feel it was right because I’m a very intuitive person, and I follow my instinct most of the time. I wanted to listen to the song and feel like I finally have it, not like I’m having doubts that this might not be it or this is not the way it is. I wanted to feel like it was perfect to me.
What brought about the album, and how did it start?
About three years ago, I was thinking that I wanted to do a project where I was speaking my mind and saying how I felt without editing myself or thinking about what people would say. This was the project I wanted to make for myself. I mean for other people but specifically for me. It was just about finding how I wanted to present that idea, if I wanted to do it and how I wanted to go sonically. I wanted to incorporate new sounds but also have elements of my original sound. I think it was just finding a way to put all my ideas and how I wanted to feel together and putting them inside a project.
How’s this different from your project? Your previous projects have this honesty to them, like in a way you’re creating music not just for other people but also expressing your feelings. So how’s this different?
I think I’ve always been really candid in my songs, but I never really go in-depth. I mean, it’s not like if I’m talking about love, I’m honest about it, but I never really used to talk about everything; it was mostly about general things. The most personal song I’ve written was Charlie cause that was very personal to me, but most of the songs I’ve written before are more generic, maybe about love or other things, but this one I feel was more centered to me.
What would you say is the most personal song on this project for you?
The most personal is ‘Story Story,’ I guess. ‘Story Story’ is a walk through my journey in music. I’ve finally really given my perspective cause sometimes you go online and see stories about what people think I’ve been through or how I got to where I got to, so I’m giving people my own side of the story, like this is really how it was for me.
What song is your favorite or are you most excited about?
I don’t have a favorite song. All of them do different things for me. It’s just the same way I felt when I was writing them. They all catered to different things for me, depending on how I’m feeling. If I’m in a mood and mad at someone, I’d probably say, ‘No Joy.’ If I’m feeling nostalgic, maybe ‘Story Story.’
We’ve covered what ‘Story Story’ means for you, but what do other songs on the album cater to for you?
‘Born Again’ is about how I’m trying to be a better person, how I’m evolving as a human being, the things I’m taking, and the things I’m not taking. It’s just talking about redeeming the human self. ‘Naked Wire’ is one of the very few love songs on the album; it’s just sensual. I write a lot of love songs, but I’ve not written anything really sensual before, and I felt it would be nice to give people something to love themselves too. ‘Loyo’ was inspired by my experience with an ex-friend, where I felt like she let me down. I felt like this was an opportunity to put that energy somewhere.
‘Balance’ was originally supposed to be the first single off the album, but there were lots of things, water under the bridge now, and we had to revamp the song. I’m really glad because I love how it turned out, and having AG on the song just kind of brought more life to it. I even prefer his verse to my verse; it brought life to the song, in my opinion. I’m pretty excited about that, and it’s one of the biggest songs on my album so far. ‘Logba Logba’ is vibes. It’s also a love song, but it’s very playful, and it’s just enjoying, kind of teasing my partner. Kind of like playing with my partner romantically; it’s just vibes. It’s one of the first few songs I wrote on the album, and Blaize produced it.
‘Easy’ is interesting because it is on the album because of Deja. I almost removed the song a couple of times, but then she kept singing it randomly, and she did it a couple of times, that I was like, you know what, there must be a reason. The funny thing is before that happened, something was throwing me off in the song, so I went to mix the song again. I edited some of the songs on the beat and decided to fill it more than I did. ‘Easy’ is very similar to ‘Balance’ in the content of the song. It talks about how you can’t predict anything, you don’t really know what’s going on, and with life, you don’t know how things are going to turn out. But in spite of that, just enjoy your life and take it easy, one day at a time.
‘No Joy’ I wrote when I was very angry. Something had happened on social media, I think, and I was like, you know what, this is an opportunity to tell the haters fuck you all. I was angry when I wrote the song. I know my voice sounds very chill, but I was in a very annoying space when I wrote the song. I’m glad I wrote the song cause sometimes you go on social media, and it’s like you’re just talking. I was able to put it in a song, so now I don’t have to repeat myself; I just copy the link and give it to anybody that deserves it.
‘Temper’ is just me telling people that I’m that girl! I know that on a very big level, I’m underrated cause I know what I’m capable of. So I’m giving myself my flowers on this track and stating for the record that I know all the things I am and all the things I can do. I don’t brag much, but I felt like why not give them, so I gave them.
‘Nobody’ was the last song I wrote on the album. ‘Nobody’ talks about how I don’t settle; I’m not a settler. I literally don’t manage anybody. I don’t, it’s either you’re for me, or you’re not. I don’t do half-baked love. And that’s how I am in real life. I’m all the way; we’re either in this or not. The last song, ‘Love For Me,’ is a gospel song. It’s just thanking God for my journey, I thought it would be a great album closer, and it’s just talking about how grateful I am to God for what he’s done for me, the journey I’m on, and how much he’s there for me. So yeah, that’s like a summary of everything.
You mentioned how Deja influenced ‘Easy’. How else has being a mother shaped your artistry, how you approach life, and how you approach music?
If anything, I think it has tweaked my work habit and work ethic. I work a lot, but now my priorities are different. I have to manage my time better. Now I do more work in less time because I don’t have that much time to stretch things out. It has made me sharper cause I have to be, but it’s also made me in your face. I’m more intentional about things now, not just as an artist but also as a person.