Hannah Simone was once a VJ for Canada’s MuchMusic, but now the 32-year-old actress gets her music fix listening to her costar Zooey Deschanel’s iPod during downtime on the set of Fox’s New Girl, on which she plays Cecily “CeCe” Meyers. The actress, raised partly in Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, and India, spoke with SPIN about celebrity karaoke encounters, Metallica’s ballads, and Color Me Badd.
What was your first concert?
The first concert that my parents took me to was in this canyon in Saudi Arabia called Buttermilk Canyon. You sleep under the stars in the desert and ex-pats — German, Swiss, Canadian, American — would play classical music that filled the whole canyon. Everyone would get together with their kids and camp out, and you would just sleep out there and listen to it all night.
What was the last concert you attended?
Al Green at the Greek Theater. He was like, “I don’t know if this is the rickety-rack, clickety-clack on the radio right now, but I’m going to play you what I grew up listening to.” And then he did a musical history of Sam Cooke and Bill Withers and sang verses from his favorite soul songs. After handing out roses to all the women in the audience, he brought his security guard onstage, who proposed to Al Green’s daughter, who’s one of his backup singers.
What was the first album you bought with your own money?
I’m pretty sure it was Michael Jackson’s Bad. It was funny because it was in Saudi Arabia, so they took a big black Sharpie and blacked out any skin that was showing on the cover. I bought his first album too and there wasn’t much on the cover of that either.
Whose music has helped you over a breakup?
When you’re going through a breakup, you should just let yourself feel everything so you can get over it as opposed to pretending everything’s okay and dragging it out. So if you’re actually sitting in the crappiness of it, and you really want to feel the full extent of badness, listen to the Swell Season. They make you feel the full range of emotions.
Do the men that you’ve dated influence your listening habits?
I dated someone in the ’90s who was really into Metallica, and I remember thinking at the time, “That just sounds so heavy and hard.” But they have great ballads! Great ballads. The thing about dating someone who listens to a totally different genre than you is they can help you find things to appreciate in that genre.
Is there a song or artist you once loved that you’re embarrassed of now?
I’m not embarrassed about anything. I like Color Me Badd. The great thing about my best friends and me is that when any old-school ’90s song comes on, we dance around and are silly to it. Music more than anything can help you time-travel a little bit, and I enjoy that feeling.
What was the last thing that you listened to last night and the first thing you listened to when you woke up this morning?
At night, in the house, when I’m sending a bunch of e-mails or something like that, I listen to the big-band swing channel that you can have on TV. This morning, I was listening to Leonard Cohen because someone asked me on set the other day, “Oh, do you know Leonard Cohen?” and I said, “Do I know Leonard Cohen? I was raised on his music!”
If you could curate a festival, who would be on the bill?
I’d want the Weeknd, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens. Even if he comes as Yusuf Islam, that’s fine, I’ll take him if I can get him. If I could travel back in time, I’d bring back the entire Wu-Tang Clan.
Which of your coworkers has the best taste in music?
Zooey, for sure. Every morning, I go into the hair and makeup trailer, and Zooey has her iPod playing some of the most gorgeous music to start your day. I’m not sure what my coworkers listen to because they walk around listening to their headphones. The boys on the show like to sing made-up songs to make us laugh, but they don’t always make a lot of sense.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
I’m obsessed with karaoke, but I don’t like to sing, I just like to go and watch amateur singers. The song that makes me the happiest when someone sings it is Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time.” A friend of mine and I would go to this dirty little bar in Toronto that has karaoke every Tuesday night, and one night, we noticed that the only other person in there was Derek Jeter. And so my girlfriend sang that entire song to Derek Jeter and he bought her a drink.