HLN Meets the Musician: Sophia
We caught up with the singer-songwriter, whose debut EP is all about her Hometown of Hexham.
Hexham-born singer-songwriter Sophia is just like us – she celebrates important achievements with pasta, her festive season starts with a healthy dose of Love Actually, and she loves Taylor Swift.
In fact, Speak Now is the one album Sophia could listen to on repeat forever.
But we can only imagine (not being the most musically gifted ourselves), that listening to a lyrical genius like Tay so often would make it pretty much impossible not to feel as though you were imitating with your own music. Besides, how would you even create a brand of Swift-esque folk-pop, complete with those distinctive country vibes, that still sounds authentic coming from the North East of England?
And yet, somehow Sophia manages to. (And no, she’s not even remotely in danger of being labelled a Taylor Swift knock-off anytime soon). Sophia’s blend of gentle, uber-melodic pop is entirely unique; held together by a structure of lyricism that’s reminiscent of Swift, but which is delivered with soft, almost saccharine vocals gently wrapped in an electronic ether that subtly channels ‘80s classics, The Weeknd’s modernity and flashes of futurism.
Sweeping crescendos will satisfy the emotional hunger of die-hard pop fans, while attitude-laden apathy simultaneously sets a cooler, empowering tone – perhaps best demonstrated in ‘Said You Loved Me’: ‘I don’t “think” it, I just know this trend, and then I find out you’ve got a girlfriend. Think it’s time for block and unfriend.’
All in all, Sophia’s debut EP is the perfect blend of what we, as normal women right here in the North East, go through every day: post-break up antagonism and lovelorn dreams; childhood nostalgia and wistful imaginings; self-doubt, self-worth and self-realisation.
That’s why we figured we’d get together for a chat – and just so happened to have some sensationally empowering artwork by SJ Fuerst as our backdrop at Hancock Gallery. Perks of the job, eh?
How would you describe your style of music?
I would say my musical style is mainly pop, but with elements of lots of different genres surrounding that too – folk, chilled, melodic, that kind of vibe.
Who would you say are some of your biggest musical influences?
Growing up, I listened to a lot of girl bands, to be honest. I was obsessed with the Sugababes and Girls Aloud, I really wanted to be in a girl band! But I’d definitely say Taylor Swift as well, her honesty in all of her songs is amazing. I loved Corinne Bailey Rae growing up, too.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
Probably with my sister, we always used to put on shows at our Grandma and Grandad’s house. We used to make tickets, get people to come in the sitting room and put on these performances. It’s always been a big part of our family.
Who or what inspires you?
Everyone around me. Seeing people who have achieved so much, who are doing really well and living out their dreams – I think that’s really inspiring. It spurs you on to go for it yourself. Why not?
How would you describe the North East’s music scene?
I think the North East’s music scene is amazing. It’s really supportive. Everyone champions each other; it doesn’t feel hostile or competitive. Everyone just wants everyone else to do well. It’s a nice space to be in.
Can you tell us about the song you’ve performed exclusively for High Life North?
‘Hometown’ was actually the first song that I wrote with Eddie Scott, who I perform it with too. And it was also the first song that really made us decide that we were going to make an EP.
It’s all about when you’re growing up and you’ve just grown apart from the people who you’ve spent your life with up until that point. It’s a bit confusing: people move away, get boyfriends, go to uni, and when you all come back things aren’t the same. It’s no-one’s fault, but it’s just about the feelings that come with that.
You’ve just released your first EP, also called Hometown. What was that process like?
It’s been really good. It’s been hard – I definitely underestimated how much work six songs would be! But I’ve learned a lot about myself throughout, and I’ve learned to stick to my guns a little more. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s already made me excited for my next project – what I might do differently, the sounds I’ve liked from this EP that I want to carry through, that kind of thing. I’d definitely like to release more music in 2022.
What advice would you give other women in the North East who may want to pursue a career in music?
I would say, just go for it. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. There’s only one you, so there’s no point getting down about not being like anyone else. Go for it and don’t let anyone make a fool of you. Just be you.
What’s your ultimate career goal?
I’d absolutely love to go on tour. Even as support for another artist, to be able to travel around the UK, play more shows, meet more people and get my music heard.
Where’s your dream gig?
I’d love to do a gig in Nashville.
Who was your first gig?
It was actually The Hoosiers at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. And I wore a Hoosier top that I made myself, which said: ‘I love The Hoosiers!’
What was the first album you bought?
I think it was one of Katie Melua’s, because I remember I used to listen to it in the car with my Dad.
What songs or artists got you through the pandemic?
Definitely both of Taylor Swift’s albums, Folklore and Evermore.
If you could go back in time to one musical decade, which would it be and why?
I think it would be the ‘80s, for The Cure’s heyday. I love their vibe.
What’s your musical pet hate?
When people aren’t very nice and try and take you for a fool.
Who would you most like to duet with?
This is a bit of a random one, but I’d actually love to duet with Rex Orange County. I think he’s brilliant.
Which album could you listen to on repeat forever?
Speak Now by Taylor Swift.
Which song would you love to record a cover of?
‘Just Like Heaven’ by The Cure.
And one song you really wish you’d written yourself?
That’s a really hard one! Off the top of my head… Anything by Novo Amor!
Who’s another local artist we should really look out for?
Elizabeth Liddle. She’s lovely and really talented.