Sophie Hanlon is an up and coming solo performer, originally from Manchester and currently based in Sydney. Sophie is about to release her debut album showing off her unique style that infuses everything from indie pop to soul. Tomatrax caught up with Sophie to ask a few questions.
Where did you get the idea to fund the publicity of your upcoming album through Pozible?
It is one thing to write, produce and record songs and film clips. I can just about self-fund the creative aspects of my career but marketing is something that every artist needs if they want to be heard, so I am optimistic enough that through Pozible, people will want to support me and this project and help get this album heard.
You offer some interesting rewards for support, have you had any alternate requests?
I have had somebody call me up and ask me to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in the style of a 1940’s singer…That was interesting. Another has requested that I fly to Brisbane to perform as a surprise for their daughters 21’st birthday party. The party has an Egyptian theme..
What’s it like to be a finalist in the International Song Writing Competition?
I feel very excited to be in the top 1% of finalists, especially as over 19000 entered! It’s a great way to reach out to a broader audience. I have had people contact me saying they discovered my music via the competition so it is a wonderful thing to be part of and a great way to get my music heard by new supporters.
In relation to the International Songwriting Competition you said you wanted to prove you could do it independently, how important is it that you remain an independent artist?
It’s a difficult line to judge. I have realised that as a young artist at the beginning of my career I have to create and perform music that I like first and foremost and for me the art always comes first. Being an Independent artist, at this stage, allows me to have complete creative control, which is important to me.
What’s it like to have your first album recorded?
This album had to be made. It was something I had to do. It belongs to a very difficult but very significant time in my life and this album will always represent and reflect that. I also had a lot of fun recording the album with producer David Skeet. Maybe it’s the fact that we are both English and even though I’m from the North and he’s from the South we come from very similar places musically and our synergy worked well when in the studio.
What made you pick Chemical Girlfriend as the title track of your upcoming album?
The song feels right and there is an energy to it that I believe reflects me as an artist. There is also a certain ambiguity to its meaning. As a songwriter, I like when a song has the ability to be interpreted in a number of different ways with the listener being free to make it mean whatever they want.
What was the inspiration behind a 60’s style video clip for Chemical Girlfriend?
The concept originated from my stylist Amanda Jane. She came up with an idea which revolved around me performing on an old theatre stage. We liked the look and the nonlinear narratives of mid sixties Euro/French films and the concept and characters evolved from there.
Was it hard to pick what songs went onto the album?
No not really. I began working with Skeet with the intention of recording only two tracks. This emerged into an E.P shortly after we began and then into a fully-fledged album. Some songs had been floating around my head for a while before I met David and others emerged during the recording process. All songs I feel are very different but I find that they are coherent with each other. Even though I didn’t set out to write an album, they all fit together very well.
What inspired you to write a song based on William Yeats poem “An Irish airman foresees his death”?
This has always been one of my favourite poems and I have always been fascinated by planes. I definitely got this from my dad. Hanging around my studio at home are model airplanes that I used to help dad glue together when I was a little girl. We grew up in a small village in the North of England called Haworth. Every year they would have 1940’s weekends where Victory day was re-enacted.
Lancaster bombers and Spitfire fighter planes would fly really low straight above our garden and over our house. I remember the roar of the engines so vividly. In the words of my good friend and wonderful poet Chris Kearney, ‘War is slaughter and death and it isn’t romantic’, but those people had to keep going and had to have something to believe in. I wanted to write a song that encompassed that and play with the romantic ideals that kept England alive for all those years.
Into the ether is quite a personal and heartfelt song, was it hard to put something that personal out?
Yes it was. That along with ‘Thy Will Be Done’ were both difficult songs to record and I find them quite challenging to perform as well. We have a recording of my Nannie singing my dad ‘Happy Birthday’ on our answering machine at home. It’s such a beautiful recording and if I close my eyes and tune in to her soft Irish voice it’s almost as if she’s in the room with me. When she died I would hear dad playing this over and over and now I do the same with his messages. There’s something very strange about capturing somebodies voice. Listening back it is as if they are in the moment with you. The haunting beauty of this is what this song is about.
You play a fair few instruments, is there an instrument you’ve wanted to play but are yet to?
I have a shahi Baaja at home that I desperately want to find the time to learn how to play it better. It’s an Indian instrument with type writing buttons as keys. It’s also part harp and has been used as a drone on a few songs on the record. The true shahi Baajaists put my playing to shame!
You’ve said that you’re halfway through album number two, when do you plan to release it?
Yet to be decided. You can’t get me out of the studio though. I know I have a lot to do with Chemical Girlfriend yet but writing is such a big part of what I do I am unable to put it on hold.
How will your second album compare to Chemical Girlfriend?
This is yet to be decided. I am interested in releasing a stripped back acoustic E.P in the not too distant future, which I’ve also started working on. I’m hoping this will have a similar temperature to the final album track ‘Thy will Be Done’, which was recorded live with just one microphone, no overdubs. So that will have very minimal production. For the album, though, I am planning something completely different…Stay tuned.
You’re planning on an international tour following your album’s release, where do you plan on touring?
I plan to play Reeperbahn Festival in Germany in September, which I am very excited about. I also plan on touring around Germany, France and also heading back over to London and my home city of Manchester to play some shows just after the festival.
What else do you have planned in 2014?
For the rest of the year I plan on gearing up for the tour, continuing to take on alternate requests from supporters, release the singles from the album, and perform around Australia.
Check out Sophie Hanlon’s website to find out more!