Brooklyn-based indie pop artist Sophie Colette has just released her new single "Version," the latest in a series of impressive single releases over the past few years. Bringing her keen sense of fashion and style to the creative songwriting process, "Version" conjures up cinematic sensations of swirling layers of glistening, cool bluish colors that surround the song's gorgeous musical elements. The song's gently pulsing, down-tempo atmosphere at the onset conjures up hints of Tangerine Dream (think "Love on a Real Train") before transitioning to its melodic chorus with Sophie's warm, vulnerable and ethereal vocals, embellished with just the right amount of reverb electric guitar, and stunning vocal hooks and production.
Produced by Ben Rice (The Candles, Elliot & The Ghost, Queue) at Brooklyn's Degraw Sound, the song's underlying intimate lyrical theme tells the story of multiple 'versions' of a partner in a complex past relationship. "I find beauty in the way certain moments in relationships bring out the different facets of one's personality. I just happened to fall for someone who revealed so many versions of himself in one day, almost to a toxic level, that it was difficult to see who I was truly in love with. It was affection one minute, rejection the next, on repeat," Colette says of the tumultuous relationship that inspired her to write "Version."
I first fell in love with Sophie's music after hearing her stunning and charming single "Pattern," and later had the opportunity to take in a full Sophie Colette live performance at last year's annual Degraw Fest at Brooklyn's Littlefield performance venue.
Sophie Colette at Degraw Fest 2018 | Littlefield, Brooklyn, NY | August 4, 2018
To coincide with the launch of "Version," I reconnected with Sophie to talk about the new single, and pose a few questions about the origins of her musical career, inspirations, and approach to the creative songwriting and recording processes.
[STMB]: Congratulations on the release of "Version!" For those who might just be discovering Sophie Colette with the new single, can you tell us a bit about your background and what drew you into the music scene?
[SC]: It's a serendipitous story…although I grew up playing piano alongside a musical family, I would have to say the music scene found me. I was pretty much scouted one night at a reunion dinner in New York City, by the bassist of then indie rock darlings The Party Faithful. I'd moved to NYC to pursue a fashion career, but many chips, guacamole, and Coronas later I found myself agreeing to audition for the band the next day, which turned into a three hour jam session. A week later the lead singer sent me a playlist of their influences and offered me a spot at their next show. I stayed on as their keyboardist and it all went from there. Apparently music had its own plan of luring me back.
[STMB]: Are there any particular artists or musicians (past or present) that have inspired you along the way?
[SC]: I listened to a lot of Sheryl Crow, Mariah Carey, and Nirvana growing up, as a "rebellious" extension of my classical music training. Lately I've been inspired by female artists who celebrate incredible strength through vulnerability - Mitski, Japanese Breakfast, Billie Eilish, and boygenius just to name a few.
[STMB]: Can you describe your creative process - from a songwriting, production, or collaboration perspective?
[SC]: My songwriting process is a beautiful mess! A lot of the initial writing is done on the piano, fingers wandering, lyric scribbling. It usually starts with a feeling, or an experience that I just need to share. Sometimes I'll wake up to a chorus, melodic line, beat, or chord progression and I'll play around with lyrics. Sometimes it's vice versa, with a lyric or concept driving the music. Sometimes I'll have pieces of a song that just simmer for a while until they find their place. There's no clear cut methodology, and I have to remind myself to be open to inspiration whenever it strikes and to channel the moment when I'm in front of my piano and coaxing out the song. You have to let yourself play around, be spontaneous, be honest, and truly feel without thinking or judging right away. It's a challenging and liberating process to work it all out.
When I feel that I have a strong batch of material, I'll make demos and send them over to my producer, along with sonic and visual references, and sometimes a color palette (I tend to associate colors with music). We'll have a listening party to select which have the most potential. And then we massage, sculpt, and refine until it feels right.
For "Version" I sat down with producer Ben Rice and we did a lot of massaging from the demo. The song kept morphing from one sonic context to another, because they all seemed to work. But I really love how it turned out - if the final cut in the studio makes me groove and dance and smile, then I know we've made some magic.
[STMB]: Is there any particular aspect that stands out about the process of releasing a song (e.g., from initial concept to final, produced version)?
[SC]: It's such a raw emotional journey from concept to production. As collaborative as it is to work with a producer, what happens in the studio is actually super personal and introspective, especially when I record vocals. The voice doesn't lie…this is the moment when I'm really sharing myself and being vulnerable and it's like "ok, I'm giving this to you now." With each take you have to emote and bring yourself to that feeling or situation you’ve written about.
You never know what the final version will sound like until it's done. In some way you can't control the life of the song as it grows, and it's really fun to re-contextualize the song in different sonic palettes and instruments. I start on the piano at home and most of the time end up writing a full orchestration in the studio, so that's a huge arc of change that I may not have heard when I first wrote the song. It's crucial to stay open to ideas. Experiment, explore, play.
[STMB]: What's next in the Sophie Colette musical pipeline?
[SC]: I'll be performing at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC on March 30 in support of the release of "Version," and then I'll be back in the studio working on a few new songs. There's more exciting projects coming up so stay tuned at www.sophiecolettemusic.com
Thanks to Sophie for providing all the insightful responses! Until we hear new music from Sophie, listen to "Version" and check out her impressive back catalogue of singles. Head to Sophie's official website for all the latest news, follow her on social medial (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube) and find her music on Spotify, SoundCloud and iTunes.