Interview: Sophie Stewart

Pic courtesy of Sophie Stewart

Sophie Stewart is one of those artists I stumbled across when I was browsing related artists on Spotify a few weeks ago now and when I did her voice blew me away.

I'm blessed to say after contacting her she agreed to do an interview with me and so it's with great pleasure I share this latest interview on my blog.

Debbie: Sophie so I know who you are, do you want to tell the audience who you are and what you're about?

Sophie: I never know whether to call myself a singer/songwriter or a guitarist/singer - primarily I started off as a guitarist, now I'm a singer and songwriter too. I'm from Colchester, Essex and I've spent the last 3 years at Exeter University. I've been gigging for the last 3 1/2 years but I've been writing since I was about 14. I didn't show anyone anything until I was about 18.

Debbie: Who's your influences?

Sophie: I would say I pull from a lot of different genres.. I grew up listening to a lot of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, my dad played them all the time.

Debbie: What's your favourite RHCP album?

Sophie: Stadium Arcadium.... As I said I was a guitarist first and everything I learned about being a guitarist is from that album.

Debbie: I was researching you before this interview and I was listening to, He and I. Your playing on that video is absolutely phenomenal. When you do that video.. has it been recorded in a studio or is it live?

Sophie: Well I call it live, but it's just me recording and playing so it's not in a studio or anything.

Debbie: That's phenomenal because your playing is amazing. I can relate to that song so much... as a trans lesbian who's ex fiance left her for a man! It's just so relatable.

Sophie: The context of that song for me is like.... I don't know where I am in that situation, he doesn't know where he is in that situation and its about being in the middle. I guess that's what it's about. I joked with my friends that that's the only song I will sing about a guy.

Debbie: How do you identify?

Sophie: I usually use the term queer, gay or not straight (we both laugh). People say you can't be queer and gay.. But yeah that's how I identify.

Debbie: It's funny the language we use and how it evolves within the queer community. When I was growing up queer was a derogatory term, whereas now it's more inclusive. It's about my family. Who I am, who I treat to the most.

Sophie: Yeah. I love it as a word, it embraces a lot of different identities and that's really nice. It's also a label that I don't feel confined with, so I'm most comfortable being defined by that.

Debbie: It's funny how we all interpret language, people ask me if I'm gay and I say no I'm a lesbian and they look at me like I'm a right weirdo!

Sophie: If someone calls me a lesbian I don't identify with it. I use gay, I use something that's more open.

Debbie: You don't want to confine yourself by the labels of identify.. Wow that's actually quite deep! Since working at Gaydio (radio station) I've been involved in all this language and terms and it's fascinating.

Sophie: It annoys me when people get annoyed by the number of letters being added to the community labels... I think any label that makes anyone more comfortable in themselves then I'm all for it.

Debbie: I don't have an issue with it. I think it's wonderful. You have people in the mainstream media who make fun of non-binary people and it does my head in. I hate it.

Sophie: Me too.

Debbie: If I asked someone their name and then called them something else on purpose they'd be offended.

Sophie: Yeah exactly. It makes me angry.

Debbie: Some writers I've spoken to... they've explained their songwriting as capturing that thing they're going through at that moment in time. My friend Daisy from Fuzzy Sun (interview link) said that Amy Winehouse out it best. Some people have a photograph and they see it and they go back to a feeling... but I've got a song and when I go back to that song it reminds me of how I felt then and it's a beautiful thing.

Sophie: I completely resonate with that. I'm in the process of putting together an EP. I was speaking to my none music friends about the names. There's something very introspective about song writing. It's about capturing how you felt at that moment in time. When people ask me to describe my music, I really struggle. I sound like me.... I ask them to describe how or who I sound like.

Debbie: I think it's melancholic-ally beautiful.... you hear love songs and you know it's about straight relationships.... so they're less relatable. That song you've got Across the Water resonates to me and a situation I'm in. It's really beautiful for someone who's queer to have that and be able too relate to it. It almost feels like you were going through what I was going through. It's more relatable for someone like me.

Sophie: Using female pronouns I think it's important for people to know the songs are about girls - at the same time I don't want that to be the only thing they're about. They are love songs.... but there is that other dimension to it as they're queer love songs, but that doesn't mean that straight people can't listen to them. I listen to straight music all the time that resonates with me. I'm really glad you said that though.

Debbie: I think love as a queer person becomes a far more important focus and integral part of our identity that a straight person, just because it's so much harder to find love as a queer person. With that in mind, is that how and why most of your writing is towards that subject matter?

Sophie: I don't consciously sit and write queer music... it's like that because that's the perspective I'm coming from. I definitely had songs when I was coming out... I have one called Wasting Time it's about liking someone and holding back. I have another song I'm looking to record about a girl who has a boyfriend. I remember the first time before I played live.. I was worrying about swapping the pronouns around, but I didn't and I'm so glad I didn't. I always do sing it. I sung the song and people liked it... every time I sing the song I do worry, but I always do sing it. Sorry that was a very honest answer!

Debbie: Don't be at all. That's the thing about these interviews, people speak from the heart. As I see it it's a conversation between 2 music lovers so its all good. That's also the thing that I love about music... It's a different perspective dependent on your frame of reference. It's also one of the reasons why I love live music so much, I saw Pip Blom for the third time last year (I did this interview a few weeks ago) - you'll see the passion comes through in the review.

Sophie: I did read your interview with The Battery Farm and I really enjoyed it.

Debbie: Awe thank you. You know it's really weird a woman going to a recording studio with four guys and a lot of people would feel vulnerable... I didn't at all. I saw them a few weeks after and they said that they just felt like they were chatting to a mate about music.

Debbie: So what's the biggest gig you've played?

Sophie: About 40-50 people.... I'm trying to secure more but I'm playing a proper show in Colchester soon. I graduated this year so I'm doing more shows rather than open mic's.

Debbie: What was the last gig you went to?

Sophie: The last gig was last week I saw Litany at The Garage in Highbury in London. She's kinda indie-pop. She's very up and coming, there was about 500 proper at the gig. She's really good

Debbie: Your guitar is an important part of your performance... I watched He & I, and then I watched it again and again with my eyes closed. you focus on the sound it's just beautiful.

Sophie: I'm thinking of putting that one on the EP - I think it's more difficult if it's just you and the guitar though.

Debbie: Look at KT Tunstall though... her earlier stuff look at Black Horse and The Cherry Tree that was her a loop and her guitar.

Sophie: Someone commented on my videos a few weeks ago that I sounded like her and so that's an interesting reference.

Debbie: It used to be a single service counter where you only had one choice. Now it's a buffet where you can eat every cuisine in the world at once. There's so much music to stream, listen to and download. As a musician you have a few seconds to grab someones attention and then you've lost it.

Sophie: You know it's interesting you bring that up... I was wondering how you stumbled across my music?

Debbie: I think one of my mates Jack from JCK commented on one of your tracks or shared it. (looks at interview intro and does a face palm) I listened to it and I was wow and then I listened to the lyrics and I was like oh my word! I did't know you were part of my community and then when I realised you what you were singing I was like no way... I have to reach out to you.

Sophie: (laughs) that's really funny.

Debbie: Who is on your playlist at the moment?

Sophie: I've been very to the album listening to a lot of Julia Jacklin.. she's really good. Almost like everything I want my music to be, without wanting to sound like her. I have so much respect for her as musician and you can tell she's a guitarist. She's very good. I've been listening to Marika Hackman too, again she's amazing. I've got a real thing for a very empowering female artists.... you know that they've written that whole song not just part of it you know?

Debbie: Thank you very much.... I think that's why I like you. You're a female artist who can sing and obviously you can play as well. Like Anna Calvi I absolutely adore that woman. She's an incredible artist.

Sophie: Yeah she's really great. Also a band called Dreamgirl they're really great. The minute you listen to them you feel like you're in a smokey's really atmospheric.

Debbie: I'm going to give you £10, you can buy a current album or 2 for a tenner... What would you buy?

Sophie: 1 album I want to draw attention to and I really really love are called Vista Kicks they had an album out earlier this year called Twenty Something Nightmare. I just absolutely adore it and you know when you get an album every 2 or 3 years you know you will take through your life? This is definitely one of those.

Debbie: That's amazing thank you. My favourite album this year is Yonaka Don't wait until Tomorrow. It's phenomenal.

Sophie: I've not heard of them... Anytime I speak to someone about music I come away with some other bands I want to listen to.

It was an absolute pleasure talking to Sophie. Her new single Weather She Loves Me is out the 30th November you can pre-save using this link

As a taster and so you can see why I was so encapsulated here's a link to the song He & I

Sophie is also on Spotify, Facebook and Twitter


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