What makes collaboration in music work? Look no further than Simone Sandahl and Leo Dolan, known as Simone & Leo.
The two have grown up together as friends and collaborators. An Americana music and performance class brought them together, so fans can apparently thank their high school teacher Mr. Reno Holler. When watching them perform, it’s instantly clear why they’ve worked together for so long. Not only do they have a fierce respect and admiration for one another, but they also just have fun. They are a duo with true dynamism on stage that reflects how much joy they find in blending their musical styles of folk and soul.
Dolan brings guitar chops and a folk sensibility to the pair. Playing guitar since the age of seven, in bands ranging from “pop-rap to progressive metal,” his “real passion is acoustic guitar and folk storytelling,” he says. While Sandahl grew up balancing piano lessons and Taekwondo, and finds inspiration in soul and R&B. She credits her passion for the arts to her mom as well as being “inspired by the various musicians [she] was so blessed to have as teachers and mentors.”
So what’s the writing process like for this good-natured twosome? They laugh that idea right off. For them, collaboration isn’t a process. It’s playing off of each other’s strengths and letting the pieces fall together naturally.
“Eclipse” started as an iPhone recording of Sandahl singing along to a simple bassline. “Writing beautifully fluid chord progressions are pretty much second nature to Leo at this point,” she notes, “so he quickly finished the melody while I finished the lyrics.”
Though, they do each point out that working with the other challenges and stretches them as artists. Dolan notes that Sandahl “brings me out of my comfort zone in my guitar playing and harmonies,” while she says that it’s been a “good challenge” working on combining elements of Dolan’s folk with her take on soul and R&B. Afterall, it is in the blending of each musician’s unique style that they’ve come to discover their identity as a pair.
Whatever the secret sauce may be, their catchy melodies and grooving electric guitar licks quite simply work. What results in “Eclipse” is an organic, soulful pop tune that pairs Sandahl’s sultry vocals with Dolan’s smooth tenor and laid-back rhythm. However simple the song may feel, their musical prowess shines all the way through. In the flirtatious chorus, their harmonies lock together effortlessly, simultaneously building the momentum of the song while lyrically teasing, “Me and you, we don’t have to rush, ‘cause honey I got time for the both of us.”
It’s a short little ditty that you may rush through, but after listening once, you’ll realize that you’ve got time as well—to listen again and again.