Now Reading: Music, Midterms, and Hope: an Interview with Simon XO


Music, Midterms, and Hope: an Interview with Simon XO

November 15, 201814 min read

Simon XO is a musician looking to spread messages of love, change, and defiance. In an interview with him we discuss his latest single “My Love”, his background, and why these midterms matter so much.

Firstly, where do you live in the country right now, and who you will be voting for?

I live in Los Angeles, and I’ll be voting for Dianne Feinstein. I actually did early voting a couple weeks ago.

Do you feel like millennials are taking voting more seriously this year?

I think millennials are voting a lot more this year. All of my friends who I had to argue with in past elections about how it matters if they vote, are all of the ones trying to organize, and canvas, and are posting about it and trying to get their friends to vote. So I think it’s a very different environment.

Why do you think these midterms are so important?

I think it’s important because the more ways we can put a check on the President the better. I think that that’s very clear at this point that Congress isn’t really doing their job, so we need to put people in office that are going to do their job and keep him in line, and keep him from doing things that are unconstitutional.

In “My Love” you sing about wishing to be heard. What do you think it will take for the President to hear these new generations?

Oh I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think he is going to [hear others], and I think we need to put people in office who are going to, and I think that’s again; why these midterms are so important. Then, in two years when we have the option to take him out of office, we need to get someone who will hear us.

President Trump said that he is a “nationalist”. That term is associated with isolationist and “every-man-for-himself” behavior. How do you think this could impact the messages of love yourself and others are trying to spread, globally?

Well I think it’s just the opposite [of love]. You know, I get where the sentiment that he’s pulling on comes from in a world that’s obviously getting more global, and people’s jobs are being kind of shifted away, and I can see why there’s a tendency to kind of stick with what you know and stick with the people you’re surrounded by, and say ‘that’s my team, and everyone else is not my team’. But that said, I just don’t believe in that and I think that he’s psyching people up to stand their ground in their own corner, and not listen to anyone else, and I think that’s the opposite of what the world needs. I think the world needs people to listen to each other, because we’re not going anywhere, and we’re all people, and all that kind of thing.

Via Simon XO’s team

This is a very sensitive topic, but there have been many hate crimes over the past few weeks committed by white nationalists. In your song you sing about our country being held hostage by the President, so you think that any people have been willing hostages? What do you think the white house is doing to encourage it?

I think that the role of the President is very symbolic in a lot of ways, and I think that it’s unheard of for a President to not fully condemn white nationalist behavior or racist behavior. People can argue about whether certain parties or certain politicians’ policies are like this, but I think he’s one of the first presidents to really turn a blind eye to these things. So I think for someone with a lot of hate, and for someone looking for a reason to commit an act of violence, that’s all the go-ahead that they’ll need. So I think even the signaling that he has done has incited all of this.

Many communities feel so hated and fearful right now, how do you think love can solve this?

Well I think that where it all comes from, really, is that I think that America has always been a symbol for that [love]. Obviously there’s a lot of history that is not great, and we’ve been developing over time, and there have been some really horrible things here. But in true theory the idea is that whoever you are, you can come here and you can pursue the American dream. I think that’s a way more loving idea than really what any other country has been founded on, and I think as long as we hold on to that idea, the better we’re going to be as a country. And like I said, by going any opposite direction, by sticking in your corner and not trusting anyone else, or hating other people. That’s the opposite of believing in each other as Americans, no matter where you come from.

What does love mean to you?

To me it means acceptance. This may sound cliche, but for me it means loving each other based on who they are, not what they are. I think that’s what America should and can, in the past has stood for. In that song that’s what it means to me. That’s the ideals of our country, it’s that we love each other. That we love each other no matter what background we have. We gotta fight for it. We gotta fight to hold that truth center to everything else, to all the fear that we have to all that anxiety…We have to remember that we’re all here because we believe that no matter what religion, or country, or ancestry you come from; you have a right as a person to achieve whatever you want here

Many people claim that they want politics out of subjects like sports and music. Do you think that music should be politicized?

Yes, I am the wrong person to ask that because I absolutely think that politics should be in music. My favorite musicians ever since I was a kid, have been people who were willing to say things that other people weren’t, like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Kendrick Lamar. All of these people are musicians that I look up to more than anyone else, because they were speaking their truth and their truth involves the whole country.

How do you feel like the Trump administration has impacted the music world, your music especially?

Music isn’t really making that much of a response to the Trump administration as it could, and as music has in the past. A lot of it has to do with the way the music industry has changed, and that people have shorter attention spans, so people are more desperate for fans’ attention, so they don’t really have time and space to make more political claims. But the way it’s affected my music is that I see this as an opportunity to state what I believe in, and I hope that more musicians do the same thing. I think it’s really important, and that there could be more happening.

You sing a lot about heartbreak, what makes you willing to get up and continue to look into the world with a loving attitude?

 Hope. I think that there’s a lot of reasons to hope, and I think that’s the reason so many people are speaking out against this administration, and so many women coming forward about their sexual harassment and sexual assault, and the fact that over three million people voted for the other candidate, are all reasons to hope. I think these are really tough times for all countries, as you can see in the way that elections like we had in 2016 are happening all over the world, because it’s a time of looking to your corner because you’re scared about the way that the world is globalizing. But that doesn’t mean people have completely lost the hope that we can be what we want as a country. So yeah, I think there are a lot of reasons to hope, and to keep going forward.

What was your situation like growing up in San Diego? Did you live in a family and area that supported political resistance and discussion?

I absolutely did, in every way. The schools that I went to were very encouraging, there were people from different political spectrums and we would have discussions in class about it. My family was very open minded, I have family members in my greater family that are Trump supporters or have been Republicans for a long time, and it’s all been healthy discussion. It also helps that my dad was the world’s biggest Neil Young fan, so I was listening to these political protest songs when I was two years old. I grew up in a place where we were given opportunity to speak our minds and talk about what you feel is going on in the word.

When did you write “My Love”? Was there a specific instance that sparked this need to write it?

Not really, I wrote it in February-ish of this year. The songs really stir in me for a long time before they come out, so “My Love” being a metaphor for what this country stands for was really with me for a long time. Even when I first wrote the chorus to the song, it took a long time to write the verses, so there was not really a specific moment.

If you had one final thing you’d like people to take from “My Love”, what would it be? 

I think the biggest thing I would want people to take away is that there’s more people that want the country to fight for love and not for hate, and that we gotta stick together. We gotta keep pushing forward, and vote for representatives that represent us, back into office. We gotta keep pushing for the American dream, so that everyone can strive to be the best they can be. That’s absolutely what I’d want people to take away from that song.

Listen to “My Love” now!

All images courtesy Simon Xo’s management

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Helen Ehrlich

Helen Ehrlich is a writer who enjoys politics, music, all things literary, activism and charity work. She lives in the United States, where she attends school. Email her at: [email protected]