It took one night in Marko Simmonds’ home studio—a small, carpeted office with a desk, armchair and keyboard, on bus route 52 in Fairview—for the North Preston-raised R&B producer to write his new single, “She’s The Greatest”, and another year to produce and record the track. It’s a catchy, repetitive earworm with relatable lyrics and huge mainstream radio potential.
And, like Simmonds, it’s asking for fame.
The single is the first off his new album, Songbook Volume I, slated for a spring release. One listen and it’s clear what he’s going for—Simmonds is Halifax’s answer to R. Kelly.
The comparison excites the singer. “I have every album he’s ever made,” he says, clicking through his iTunes collection.
But that label is too narrow. Simmonds draws inspiration from John Legend and Ne-Yo as well. He wants to write love songs you can dance to. His single featuring A'drian Scott, “She’s The Greatest” (available now), is about all independent women. “Little lady just as sweet as apple pie / I should have recognized way back when you walked by / your cinnamon skin, I never knew then, girl you’ll be mine tonight … she’s the greatest, the greatest, the greatest, the gray-tessst.”
His lyrics may lack polish, but Simmonds is just the opposite. The singer is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, a school that has produced winners of more than 250 Grammys and Latin Grammys collectively, earning it the title of one of the top music schools in North America. Now 30, the musician knew when he was a child that he wanted a career in music. Raised in a musical family (his uncle, Roland Simmonds, played blues guitar with doo-wop group The Ink Spots) and bottle fed on gospel, jazz and Michael Jackson, Simmonds found an early love in R&B. He began singing at 12, and practiced piano from age four to 17, picking up drums and African percussion along the way.
And can he sing. Without hesitation Simmonds croons a few lines of a song on his upcoming album. His voice is smooth and he hits each note with ease. He pauses for rap solos in between verses. Halifax hip-hop artist J-Bru, who has toured with D12 and Classified, is featured on this and other tracks, and A’drian Scott, the 2009 African Nova Scotian Music Association Best Up-and-Coming Artist of the Year, raps the bridge on Simmonds’ single.
The producer is eager to name-drop his fellow artists. The R&B scene in Halifax is puny, so there’s a lot of overlap with the larger hip-hop scene. Simmonds wants to help it grow, one track at a time.