You probably know Hannah Simone best as Cece, best friend to Zooey Deschanel’s Jess on New Girl — but Simone got her first on-camera exposure as a host on Canada’s MuchMusic.
“The great thing about a job like that is you’re talking to people about their passion and about what they love, so I don’t think I ever had an interview that I didn’t really enjoy,” said Simone of her experience on the Canadian music network.
Not surprisingly, she has carried a lot of great Canadian artists around with her on her iPod, though there’s also room for Cat Stevens and a novelty cover of a Snoop Dogg song.
Leonard Cohen, “Bird On A Wire”
“I just spent the weekend with my family, and our whole conversation seemed to revolve around Leonard Cohen. I’m crazy about him, and I have been for a long time. I’ve bought every album he’s ever had and every book of his poetry. I went to Coachella once, and it was only to go see Leonard Cohen. I got in the car and sat through all the crazy traffic in L.A. to get there—instead of a two hour drive it takes like six hours. Then I watched his set and turned around and left. I just so wanted to see him perform in the desert.
The other time I saw him was when I was in Toronto, and a friend surprised me with tickets. I went on my own and sat by myself. It was like being at church. Everybody sat pin-drop silent. I love the song ‘Bird on a Wire’ — It’s an amazing lyric: ‘Like a drunk in a midnight choir.’ He’s so incredible, and a Canadian to boot.”
Tegan and Sara, The Con
“They’re Canadian too! The Con is just 14 songs and every song is just a minute or two minutes long. I went to that concert too, on a really cold winter’s night in Toronto, and they played the entire album forwards and backwards. I think the story is the story of that album can be told forwards and backwards. It’s a completely different experience—it’s almost like listening to one huge song. I think I interviewed them a couple of times, and they were always just the coolest girls.”
The Weeknd, “Wicked Games”
“Another Canadian! I swear I’m not doing this on purpose. But the Weeknd’s the dopeness, man. I remember the first time my friend Colin Lewis, who used to be a judge with me on a show on MuchMusic called disBAND, told me, ‘I think I just found your next favorite artist to adore.’ He sent me the Weeknd, and he was completely spot on.The Weeknd is literally on every playlist I have.
I think ‘Wicked Games’ is one of the best songs out there. It’s sexy and dirty, but it’s an honest dirty. That’s what makes it sort of uncomfortable, because he’s really going there and saying the thing. It doesn’t feel gratuitous. It’s that layered approach to songwriting, both in the lyrics and the melody. I used to study music theory in high school, so when I listen to songs I really like I try to break down the chords and figure out how they made me feel like that. They always laughed at me at MuchMusic, because we’d get sent all these CDs every week, and the first thing I would do is take out the inside sleeve and read the lyrics.
But I really wanted to know what they were trying to say, and then if I hadn’t heard of the band, I would try to guess what kind of music they made to then tell that story. It can completely change the message of what you would think if you just read it like a poem or a short story. It’s a little different, but it’s what I did.”
Jon Batiste and Stay Human, “The St. James Infirmary Blues”
“I went to an unplugged session a couple weeks ago in L.A., and I got to see Jon Batiste & Stay Human. They were incredible, and they did a cover of ‘The St. James Infirmary Blues’ that was so amazing. Every artists takes free rein with certain lyrics, and the words that he chose to put in the song, it was that church-like feeling. Everybody froze and everybody was listening.
He’s such a physical performer, and he was up and down, and the guy playing tambourine was just stomping everywhere. It became like a live theater performance of this song. It was incredible—one of the best performances I’ve seen in so long, and in such an intimate setting. I had never heard of him before, but now I won’t stop talking about him. It was for a series of sessions called Nobu Unplugged that a friend of mine is putting on, in a private room in Nobu in L.A. There must have been only 50 people there. He invited all of us to sit on the floor with the band. It was cool—like an old school jam session.”
Cat Stevens, “Sad Lisa”
“We grew up all over the place—Saudia Arabia, Cypress, India. When we were in Saudi, there was no music, no TV, no cinema, it was a completely different world. So all the music we had was what our parents had brought over. I’m really grateful for it, really, because that’s why at six years old I’m sitting there singing along to Cat Stevens. It’s all we knew, because we only had four tapes—so you better like Cat Stevens, because that’s the only thing you’ve got.
We had Cat Stevens, Beatles, Moody Blues, all that kind of music. So that’s where my aesthetic lives. When people tell really good stories in songs, I really like it. Whether you’re a painter or a photographer, or any medium I’ve ever been involved in my whole life, it’s always been about the story.”
The Gourds, “Gin and Juice”
“When I lived in London, I worked three jobs and had such long work days. I would try to rally to go out to the pub after a long day. I was living with my two Canadian roommates, and we had no money, and we’d put on this cover of Snoop Dogg’s ‘Gin and Juice.’ It’s so great. It’s like a honkytonk version, and it would make us all laugh, and we’d all sing along because everybody knows the words to that song.
We went out to the pub last night, and we actually started singing it on our way over to the pub. It was like time traveling. I can’t tell you another song by this band, but I definitely remember that.”