Simona Shao Dishes on Latest Single “The Only Thing I’ve Known” (Exclusive)

Up and coming pop singer, Simona Shao is making waves with her latest single “The Only Thing I’ve Known.”

Her smooth R&B sound paired with her meaningful lyrics make her a force to be reckoned with, proven by the millions of streams she’s already garnered since starting to release music in 2017.

After competing in several televised competition shows both here and internationally, Simona began collaborating with different DJs to expand her audience and find her sound. Through this, she continued her passion for electronic music, but also found a love for R&B music.

Now, she’s expanding her musical universe even further by recording and releasing music on her own, outside of collaborations.

Celeb Secrets caught up with Simona to learn more about the woman behind the music, what it was like to compete on television, and what drives her outside of music. Scroll down for the full Q&A and don’t forget to let us know what you think of her latest single “The Only Thing I’ve Known” by leaving a reaction at the bottom of the post or by sending us a tweet at @celebsecrets.

You can connect with Simona by giving her a follow on Instagram at @momoneymoproblams.

Celeb Secrets: Hi Simona, thanks for chatting with us! We’ve heard your new single “The Only Thing I’ve known”, and we’re really vibing with it! Since this is your first time chatting with us, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? 

Simona Shao: “I was born and raised in Los Angeles, in a suburb called Arcadia (shoutout 626!). At the age of 4, I began studying classical piano at home and then later at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in downtown LA. From elementary to high school, I went to an all-girls private school in Pasadena called Westridge, which is known for their arts program. I grew up surrounded by music – playing piano, doing musicals, singing in glee club/acapella groups, and then eventually writing my own music. At age 13, I began posting videos of myself singing original music on Youtube, which caught the attention of several TV show singing competitions. In 2012 and 2013, I competed in two international shows and in 2015, was invited to participate in the Voice of China. I ultimately had to turn down this opportunity because I was about to start my freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, while studying finance at the Wharton School of Business, I also completed a music minor in their music school. I continued to release music by collaborating with electronic producers purely over the internet (with them sending me instrumentals and me sending back vocal demos), as I did not have a piano within reach on campus. My fan-favorite song, “In My Head” with Solstis, an electronic duo based in Seattle, was actually written in my college dorm! Since then, I have been blessed with some unforgettable experiences, like being asked by Dillon Francis to write the theme song for a Comedy Central show he was piloting, recording demos with esteemed producer John Feldmann, and creating some awesome songs in the studio with electronic producers.”

CS: Wow! That’s quite the exciting background! What was your inspiration behind creating this specific song?

SS: “This song was written about the idea of taking something for granted, and then ultimately regretting doing so after seeing that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I’m sure a lot of people have experienced the strange yet innate human urge to mess something up when everything’s going too well. I’ve noticed this about myself at times, and I wanted to explore this idea further this track – and, it doesn’t have a particularly happy ending, because life doesn’t always pan out that way, and that’s okay.”

CS: That’s right! It’s all about perspective and what we learn from it.  What is your favorite lyric in the song and why? 

SS: “My favorite lyric is probably the first few lines of the song: “When the wind is too light, I find a way to make it heavy. When the sky is too bright, the dark’s the only thing that’s pretty.” It perfectly embodies the clashing duality that one experiences when they’re constantly never satisfied with what they have, even when it’s something really great for you and seems perfect in every way. Having to meet these ever-heightening standards is a constant internal battle.”

CS: Totally, it can especially be difficult in an industry as cutthroat as music! What is your creative process like? Do you write lyrics first? Melodies? Does the idea come first?

SS: “I normally always start by finding some beautiful chords on the piano that I like, then I hum out a vocal melody, and then the lyrics come last. The lyrics usually stem from my feelings at the time I write them, so more often than not, I find myself completing a song when I’m in heightened periods of emotion, like sadness, anger, or fear. Interestingly enough, when I’m content with life and generally feeling happy, I don’t always feel inspired to write a song!”

CS: Love it! We heard you competed in an international singing competition when you were younger! Can you tell us more about it? What did you take away from it? 

SS: “Competing in the 2012 International Beijing Water Cube Cup was a huge stepping stone for me in my music career. Prior to participating in this live competition (which was broadcast on international TV), I really had not taken my singing or songwriting seriously. I was also in such an awkward phase (hello bangs and braces), which was definitely not the most confident stage of my life. Competing as of one of the youngest contenders and winning 3rd place out of the hundreds of people who participated really fueled my passion for years to come, as I knew now that I had a future here; and regardless of how I looked at the time, they liked my music and my voice above all. This was a huge boost for my future songwriting, because now I believed in myself. Additionally, performing in the Beijing Olympics Water Cube (where all of the water sports from the 2008 Olympics took place) was incredible, and I loved being connected to my Chinese roots and competing in a show where I was speaking Chinese. Following the Water Cube, I came home to compete in a local Los Angeles TV network’s singing competition where I continued to perform my original music now to an American audience. Without these two experiences, I never would have thought my music could touch the hearts and ears of people around the world.”

Courtesy of the artist

CS: That’s incredible. Congratulations! What is the most fun you’ve ever had writing a song or being creative in general?

SS: “My favorite experience working on music was when I flew to Seattle to see Solstis in person for the first time, after our song “In My Head” was already released for a year and was doing really well on streaming platforms. We recorded both live and acoustic performance videos for the track, and they previewed a new instrumental they wanted me to write vocals for. The song ended up being our next release together, “Higher,” which was also my first song ever released on a label. I also just love working on music in-person with friends and collaborating live, because the creative process then becomes such a fun experience for everyone involved. I’ve had tons of fun as well in LA working in the studio with friends on projects, or late nights at someone’s home studio creating new music.”

CS: It sounds like you’ve always been creatively inclined! What’s your first musical memory?

SS: “When I was younger, my parents basically gave my sister and me a taste of everything art-related -piano, viola, painting, ballet, tap-dancing, opera, musicals, and the list goes on. My sister and I eventually narrowed it to the two things we were best at, which was piano and painting. My sister is an incredible visual artist and she eventually focused all her attention on this, while I focused on singing and songwriting. My first musical memory has to be me just hating piano lessons with a passion and crying at the piano bench when I was younger, because I didn’t want to practice piano anymore – and of course, my parents did not allow me to give it up, in a true Chinese parent fashion. Looking back on it, I’m so glad I didn’t stop (thanks mom)!”

CS: It’s so beautiful that you have such a great support system! What sort of things do you like to do outside of music? What drives you? 

SS: “Outside of music, I work in the finance industry full-time. After graduating from business school, working in banking was the natural next step for me. I’m extremely glad that I’m able to work in LA and stay connected to my entertainment roots. Working in finance is definitely stressful and demanding, and so having music as my creative outlet is necessary. I would love to do music full-time eventually, but for now my job is paying the bills and funding me as an independent artist! Outside of my day job and music, I love cooking at home and eating at all the new and interesting restaurants in LA, attending practically every concert and festival known to mankind, and snuggling with my chihuahua named Mocha that I rescued from Tijuana during the pandemic.”

CS: Awesome! What’s coming next? When can your fans expect the next release?

SS: “I have a release lined up for early 2023 with my friend Adam (also known as Avello). We collaborated on an electronic track for over a year, and I’m super excited that it’s finally done – for the sound, think future-bass meets Odesza. Adam has also been touring heavily around the U.S. so there will be tons of opportunities to hear it live! I also have a few tracks also in the works with a handful of different electronic producers that will remain a secret for now. Overall, I think 2023 will be an electronic-heavy release year for me, but I definitely hope to get another R&B/pop type single out as well, as I really love how ‘The Only Thing I’ve Known’ turned out.”

CS: Have you experienced any challenges in the creative industry? If so, what advice would you give your younger self to help navigate those hurdles?

SS: “I have definitely learned huge lessons this past year – being relatively naive to the inner workings of the entertainment industry until I began to release more music on my own, I was approached by some individuals who wanted to change my whole sound or ultimately did not have my best interests at heart. Although getting into the industry is a super exciting time, it’s important to connect with friends who have been in the industry longer to hear their lessons learned and be cautious of who you partner with. Always listen to your gut if something doesn’t feel right, and take the necessary time to think through important decisions. Just like everything in life, if it’s too easy or feels too good to be true, it’s probably not the right path!”

CS: And finally, we’re Celeb Secrets- can you share a secret of yours that no one knows, or may surprise your listeners?

SS: “This one is a unique one – if you’re not from Pasadena, you might be super confused… but as a senior in high school in 2015, I was selected as one of seven Pasadena Rose Princesses (out of thousands of senior girls who try out in the Pasadena area). The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Royal Court Princesses basically attend 1,000 events before the annual New Years Rose Parade and Rose Bowl as ambassadors to the city – I even got to take a ride through the sky in the Good Year Blimp. It was an amazing experience where I got to sit on a Rose Parade float and walk the field at the Rose Bowl – they even laid a brick with my name on it in the Rose Bowl stadium that is still there today!”


Collective posts from the Celeb Secrets staff.

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