WORDS BY Isabelle Wattenberg
Mae Simpson is a band leader, singer, and lyricist—but there’s no question that her favorite role is making music on stage, for a live audience.
“It is truly a collective shared moment between audience, music, art, and energy,” she says. “Sometimes the best way to understand what someone’s trying to say is to be in that moment with them. That’s what we’re trying to capture.”
Simpson is the namesake of the vibrant Mae Simpson Band, which embraces and draws from multiple genres. This open-minded approach to making music is emblematic of the seven-member crew’s bond.
“If we know we have something really good then [writing a song] is very quick; it happens in an hour,” she says. “And that’s just how it works with us. We have that kind of chemistry to really write well in the moment.”
Simpson found her voice—which could be compared to the some- times-gritty power-belters Janis Joplin and Brandi Carlile—early on, creating original songs in her childhood. But after moving to Minneapolis in 2012, she began pursuing the art profession- ally. The band released their first EP in 2019, and Simpson credits its steady rise in part to the Twin Cities music scene, where she sees the hard work of emerg- ing bands rewarded, even when they are relatively unknown.
“I think there’s a love and appreci- ation in Minneapolis for starting-out artists,” she says, noting both First Ave and the Dakota “really accept when you’re a young band and help you move along.”
The band’s momentum is only grow- ing: They’ll release a full length album in 2023, and just dropped a new single, Goodbye. Simpson had been kicking around the lyrical hook “Goodbye, good lookin’” for a while. From there the band began building the song, pulling from the sounds of the Jackson 5 to develop its upbeat, unapologetic vibe. The song proposes a positive view of letting things
go. “What inspired it is like shaking things off and saying goodbye to what doesn’t serve you,” Simpson said of the single. “It’s a confidence song about being OK in your skin and moving on.”
The band next headlines a party at the Hook and Ladder on August 27, which means another opportunity for them to deliver the intoxicating onstage energy that audiences expect and love from them.
“I honestly don’t know what happens… It is feeling-based and I think people appreciate that rawness,” Simpson says of the energy of their live performances. “I’ll look over at [guitarist] Jorgen mid-rock- out and we’ll just be smiling away because we just feel that connection, and I truly think the crowd sees that. And once they see that, they understand that everything that we’re doing is real. It’s not a show to put on a show. It’s true emotion. And they connect with that.”
The band is currently preparing for, and planning, a tour to promote their new album next year—they’ve even got a GoFundMe running to raise money for a touring van. In the meantime, you can catch Mae Simpson and the band at their Hook and Ladder release party, with First Ave on the Schell’s stage at the State Fair September 3, and on social media at @ mae_simpson_music.