Sophie Hanlon: The creative force
Sophie Hanlon is a growing force of nature in the local Sydney music scene., as well as being with our favourite ever jewellery designer Sofia Fitzpatrick. After a brief hiatus following the release of her successful debut EP ‘AuthenTrickery’ in 2010, Sophie is back on top of her game creating awesome pop tunes with a rock ‘n’ roll edge and just enough soul in her lyrics for you to fall in love with her quirky Northern English personality after one listen. We’re pleased to announce she’s even cooler in real life, and through chatting about how weird it is to move to Sydney and how much we’d love to direct music videos, we managed to angle in a few actual questions; which are here for your enjoyment.
Let’s start cliché, tell us a bit about growing up?
I grew up in North of England and was born in Manchester; a lot of my family are from that Greater Manchester area. I lived in Haworth, and I don’t know if you know that area but it’s a small village where the Bronte sisters (Charlotte and Emily) are from. So that was quite idyllic really, I was near the moors and we used to walk there a lot, it was very inspiring. They had 1940’s themed weekends and Spitfires and Lancaster bombers would fly overhead and we’d dress up which was wonderful. I moved to Sydney when I was about 15 and began gigging in the city. I’ve always done music, I’ve always written songs, and my Dad was a huge influence in that way.
You’ve released an EP before but this is your first full album, tell us a bit about the process for creating ‘Freak The Future’?
It’s been a very difficult past two years because my Dad passed away. So the album is kind of really influenced by what happened there; he was a massive influence on everything I’ve done, he was a poet and played guitar himself and he’s the one who really got me into what I do. He’s the reason why I am who I am. Writing the album, I’d been away from the scene for a while just writing lyrics and composing and recording and working with David (Skeet) who produced the record. So it’s been a therapeutic time and it’s allowed me a way to express myself in ways that I probably couldn’t normally.
How do you find Sydney as a culture for creating music?
From a live scene perspective, I feel like Sydney could be a leading by example, but we need another dozen venues around the inner city…rooms that hold between 60 and 150 people. I found it especially difficult to find a smallish, intimate room with a great sound when I was organising my launch,
Don’t get me wrong there’s a lot of great places, like Oxford Art Factory and The Soda Factory and I have noticed a couple of new gigs popping up in the East.
Another really positive thing about Sydney is the level of musicianship is very high. I noticed that compared to London even musicians here can definitely hold their own.
But I do feel like a lot of my musician friends and local muso’s find it a little bit frustrating. And I suppose a big aspect of that is purely the population factor. There are so many more people in the U.K and America than in Sydney and Australia, so obviously the scene is going to be smaller and more minute, but there’s been some great acts out of Australia in general, Tame Impala out of Perth, The Temper Trap, Cloud Control and Gotye, who obviously majorly put Australia on the map. There’s definitely a positive future, there’s definitely a need and a desire for great new artists in Sydney but I don’t know if we’ve yet developed the best way of portraying or developing that.
Can that be a bit daunting for you? Are you ever put off or scared by the fact you want to enter such a competitive and creative industry?
Yeah, I mean it’s the beginning stages. I mean it’s always going to be daunting isn’t it? But also extremely exciting, I’ve just come back from my hometown and I played some shows in Manchester and in London and that was a good thing to do just to get feedback about the songs, because nobody had really heard them. Luckily they went down really well and we had some really positive feedback and made connection so I’m definitely going back in the New Year and will be performing in LA in February.
How did you meet your producer David Skeet?
I met him about 2 years ago through a mutual friend, Tim Powles, who is also a producer and plays drums in The Church. It’s actually quite a funny story the first time I met David; I’d borrowed my Mum’s car and his studio is just off Oxford Street on a one way street, and I’d learnt driving around Sydney the only way to get round was by breaking the rules (laughs). I’d never met him before and he sounded really posh on the phone so I was hoping he wasn’t going to be some preppy wanker, which was originally what I thought and said as much to Tim… But I ended up embarrassing myself and ‘kangaroo hopping’ the car the wrong way down this one-way street and I passed this geezer with ‘salt and pepper’ hair and I remembered praying to myself ‘Please don’t let that be him.’ But of course it was, so the beginning stages of the relationship were really funny actually, we got on really well. We’re a sort of musical Harold and Maude if you know that film…although Skeet isn’t ancient like Maude just seasoned…I was a bit dubious about meeting him and all that, but we have so much musically and culturally in common, we’re alike.
What is David’s involvement in your creative process?
He’s been producing the record but there are also some co-writes, we have been co-writing a lot more recently. That’s been really fun actually because I’ve found writing songs up until this point has been a real personal thing, so it’s been a really new experience co-writing with someone else. It’s really interesting because he’s got this really English vibe and he’s closer to my Dad’s age than mine and from the same sort of background culturally, although he is a stinking southerner so that isn’t strictly true but naturally we have very similar influences and rivalries embedded in what we do. It’s not like we pick up a guitar and try to sound like The Jam or something but I think naturally it comes out.
This is again going to sound quite cliché but in a time where so many people are trying to make it in the music industry, what do you feel sets you apart from other emerging artists?
I think what’s unique is simply that it’s my voice, and my songs spring from my ideas and my thoughts and my concepts and my experiences. I am the only one who can do what I do, you know? In terms of songs and inspirations and things I like music to have a message, not preaching to people and telling them what to think or what to feel but I like music with some sort of substance. But there’s also this aspect to it where it’s like ‘It’s only rock n roll’ and you can make a song about practically anything. I respect artists like Sinead O’Connor and Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Tim Hardin and of course John Lennon, I really draw from them.
So what are you working on now in the lead up to the album release?
I’m releasing the single ‘Chemical Girlfriend’ at the end of December, which is the first single off the upcoming album, and we’re working on a music video for it. Music videos are really exciting because obviously when I make a song I know what it means because I wrote it, so in some ways I’m constrained by it’s meaning. So it’s always really exciting to hear a director’s perspective on it. Earlier this year, I worked with a filmmaker Johnny Welch, We did a film clip for ‘Break the Machine’ which is on the album. We were a little way off finishing the record but had been thinking about making a clip.
We asked Johnny to pick a track and he chose this one. I love Johnny’s unique take on what the music suggests to him. He came up with this really abstract idea, because he is abstract (laughs) he’s really inspired by David Lynch, surrealism and he really managed to capture a sense of that. So working with him was a lot of fun. I’m now working with Sam Bright who is another talented, new director with a great eye for detail. I find working with him very inspiring. I am excited to start filming in the next few weeks.
Sophie’s new single ‘Chemical Girlfriend’ will be out at the end of December (and I’m telling you now, fucking listen to it, I’ve had it on repeat for like 6 days now), and she will be performing songs off her new album ‘Chemical Girlfriend’ at The Standard on December 13th when she opens for The Models.
Like her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sophiehanlonsmusic
Watch ‘Chemical Girlfriend’: http://sophiehanlon.com/video/
Sophie will be playing at The Standard, Dec 13.
Further tour dates: http://sophiehanlon.com/category/gigs
By Grace O’Neill