The Misadventures of Alina Simone
Singer sheds light on new book and partying in Siberia
Singer-songwriter Alina Simone has led an adventurous life as musician and traveler and has documented her stories in her first book, You Must Go And Win. Born in Kharkov, Ukraine, Simone grew up in the suburbs of Massachusetts and attended art school in Boston before relocating to Austin, Texas where she began her career as female troubadour. After releasing a string of albums (her latest being Make Your Own Danger) and extensive touring, Simone has settled down in Brooklyn where she currently lives with her husband and new born daughter.
SanDiego.com had a chance to talk with Simone about the rigors of touring on the indie rock circuit and how her adventurous spirit helped shape the stories on You Must Go And Win.
When did you start writing You Must Go And Win?
Alina Simone: I want to say that it was the beginning of 2009. I hope that’s right. It took me a year and a half to write it, but then it’s been percolating. It’s been through edits.
Was there a long notes process between you and the publisher?
AS: No there wasn’t a long notes process. I think the process with any book is it goes through copy editing and it just takes a long time. Because I had never written anything before, ever, not just a book but an article or anything. My editor required me to hand in every chapter of the book to him as I finished it. So even though I had this big deadline for the book it’s not like my editor let me go away for a year and a half and just write it. I was in constant touch with him and if there was anything wrong with a given chapter he would give me notes on it. But then at the end it still had to be fact checked and copy edited, and it goes through several passes where you check the copy and then you check the edits, and then you got back to them with the changes you don’t want made and it just goes on and on and on. That’s what happens.
How did you land this book deal?
AS: An editor heard my music on Pandora. So I hadn't written anything and he just kind of wrote to me and asked if I’d write a book. In a way I worked really closely with him because the book was his idea, but I certainly wrote it myself. We kind of came up with the concept together, like just that it would be non fiction essays and not something else.
What is the chronological lineage of your life?
AS: I went from Massachusetts to Austin, Texas to Hoboken, New Jersey to North Carolina and then to Brooklyn. And in between I went to Siberia a lot. I went there many times over the course of ten years.
Was traveling to Siberia as often you did expensive?
AS: Yes, but I never paid for it once, it was always for work. I think I tired to make that clear, it was jobs sending me there. I worked in international development, so I never paid to go to Russia or Ukraine. I speak Russian so I would just get these various jobs that would send me there because I wanted to go there, because I thought it would be really cool.
Would you describe yourself as a free spirit?
AS: Sure, yeah I guess so. I’m free, I’m a spirit. I purposely went out of my way to have adventures and go to exotic out-of-the way places because you’re fucking out there already, you know what I mean? Like if you’re in Siberia why play it safe? What’s the point; go live life, talk to weird people and drive to weird places. Live it up.
Some of the stories depict you in some really shady situations. Like when you missed your bus and were stranded in the woods and two drunks gave you a ride home.
AS: That wasn’t the most brilliant plan to get stranded in this little village and then hitch a ride home. They turned out to be totally fine and kind of enjoyed the fact that I was so clueless, it’s like if someone came to New York from Russia and they didn’t know anything, but were up for anything. They drove me out to a gypsy village that was like the biggest drug dealing village in the region and they took me out to the highway strip where the prostitutes solicit truckers. There was some illegal Korean restaurant in the city; but this is like a Siberian city so it’s really quite weird. I felt like I was seeing real things that locals see and understanding more of what it’s like to live there and to have fun and not just go to the museums.
Do you think this book caters more to the indie rock and CMJ crowd?
AS: I hope that people enjoy it, who aren’t just into indie rock. I tried not to make it just a tour diary that would only appeal to people who are in those worlds. I don’t know if I succeeded. I think there’s going to be a fair cross section of people who have never heard of Pitchfork and that kind of thing. To people in the indie world, that’s everything. I don’t think that Pitchfork has the ability to make or break you anymore, but at one point they really did; they had immense power, almost too much. That’s not going to be real meaningful to people who are outside of that world. ‘Who cares, it’s some bloggy zine thing!’
You’ve got a book out and just released a new album, but you also recently had a baby. Do you have any tour plans in the foreseeable future?
AS: No. I decided, and I don’t know if I’m right, but I feel like touring does not work for me as well as other things. I really wasn’t planning to tour, because what I decided was if I took that time and instead made awesome funny videos or write some articles for the New York Times, which is what I’m doing right now; basically if I just used my brain instead of my car then it might work out better for me. So far being here in New York and sort of being able to respond to any opportunity that comes through that requires me to actually make something and not just play a show has been working better for me.
You Must Go And Win is in bookstores now.