The Sophie Barker Interview
The Seagull Has Landed
THE SOPHIE BARKER INTERVIEW:
Can you remember the moment when you first wanted to be a musician, and when you first realized you had that voice?
I had always been part of school musicals. The earliest was a performance of Oscar Wildes ‘The Happy Prince’ but it wasn’t until I was thirteen that I decided to have singing lessons as a bit of fun and then was told by my singing teacher that I had a voice.
I took Grade 5 as my first exam and did very well and from then on the decision was to whether I became an opera singer or not.
I did not choose the path of opera as I felt it would limit my options as a singer and from then on serendipity took it’s course and I started to write songs when I was about 15.
Who are your main influences for your singing style or other singers you looked up to??
I grew up listening to Diana Ross and Barbara Streisand.
In fact I created a band with my sister and a friend called The 3 Centigrades when I was 9 years old, where we sang lots of songs of Diana Ross and did a little concert in front of my mother and two others. Charging them 30p as a fee of which we gave away to charity 10p and the rest we spent on sweets!
The charitable aspect inside me was already inherent then as well, as I also have a foundation RCCF which supports musical projects for children internationally.
I used to mimic Barbara Streisand's voice from her album ‘Guilty’ which was one of my mums favourites, while knocking a tennis ball against the wall in my bedroom, (as I also wanted to play at Junior Wimbledon).
So by listening and singing to Babs I developed a strong voice. I would say she was my earliest coach. What an amazing Voice! What an amazing coach!
Other very strong influences were Fleetwood Mac, all the Motown crew. Lots of Gloria Gaynor and Randy Crawford. I also listened to Rachmaninoff and Mozart, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, JJ Cale and Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. David Bowie and Cat Stevens......the list could on and on and on.
I was very lucky that when I met Alex Pilkington and Mark Tucker who produced Seagull, that they instinctively sensed all my influences without me having to tell them that’s when I knew they were the right people for me, as they have such a sensitivity and profound musical appreciation to my writing that it just happened.
It’s strange as so many people have been saying of Seagull that it is reminiscent of the songs that I wrote with ZERO 7, but they forget that if I were to have made this album 10 years ago this is how it would have sounded. It‘s not me taking a sound from someone else this is my ever growing sound and songs that come from me.
It just happened to take a little longer than expected.
Can you remember your first live performance?
I was a student in Oxford and I played at the Jericho Tavern with a band called The Laughing boys. I was their backing vocalist!
Do you still keep in touch with the Zero 7 boys and Sia Furler??
Yes I do.
Less in the last few years, but got a lovely text from Sia the other day and hope to catch up with her in LA in the next year.
We all had an incredible experience and they are all amazing people and I feel privileged to have had the early ZER0 7 experience.
Your new album ‘Seagull’ has had very positive reviews.
How happy are you with it?
The release of Seagull has been a dream come true and at the same time a very long awaited one for me. So I am very pleased that it is being received well, and with all the amazing albums out there.
I hope that Seagull, will by word of mouth, be heard by many and become a natural part of one's collection!
Are you looking forward to performing the album live on your UK tour in the autumn?
It has been the most incredible experience going out Solo and not as part of someone else’s unit. At times terrifying putting yourself out there on the line when there are no gimmicks or visuals to hide behind, just you and your band.. and I LOVE it.
When I start singing there is nothing more in the world that gives me that high.
I am so excited about the autumn tour and can’t wait to get out into the big wide world!
What has been your career highlights so far?
So far finishing the album and I recently had a gig at the JAZZ CAFÉ myself and the band. Apparently the most packed gig they had had in 5 years and it was a magical evening.
I am looking forward to all the others.
You do a lot of children’s charity work. Please tell us more about that.
I have set up a foundation, as I mentioned earlier, with my good friend Kevin Kerrigan called RCCF, which is a foundation that will help record music from children around the world which then will become a part of The Rainbow Colllections. We then look at how we can give back to the community and from these albums. So we put on events to raise money for that particular cause.
It is only the beginning but KK and I have recorded an album called ‘Earth Africa’ and the children that helped us with this, needed a new school. So we have raised money for a new school in Laikipia Kenya, which is going to be part of an educative complex.
That will house pre-nursery, nursery, womens centre, sports facilities and secondary school. We already have the bore hole and water supply. It is called The Land of Hope and will take a few years to develop.
In the meantime I visit the children and we do feeding days and take clothes out and make sure that while this project will take time to finish, we are constantly supporting them until the new school is finished.
You can check our website for all the things we have been doing:
This project is very close to my heart and an ongoing one. I have realised over the years that if you are given a gift, it is for sharing and all the fame and success in the world can’t bring you this.
Maybe that’s why I have kept a low profile until now as my measure of success is whether I am constantly working and creating as a singer and songwriter. My career in music pans over 20 years and it is only now that I feel the time is right to open the curtains to a wider audience.
You also made the children’s lullaby album compilation ‘The Rainbow Collection’.
What was the inspiration behind that?
When I was working with ZERO 7 I had some strange experiences from people listening to my voice. I had people write to me on my website about how my voice calmed them down and then I met this man who told me that when his pregnant wife’s unborn child heard me sing ‘In the waiting line’, he/she was instantly mellowed.
So I came up with the idea of re-recording all the beautiful lullabies, that back then, were all so appallingly represented. So KK and I started to record Lullaby and The Rainbow Collections idea evolved.
We now have a box set that includes ‘Toybox’ and ‘Snowflake’.
‘Earth Africa’ hasn’t been released yet even though I have given many albums out to my friends children and they love it. I am just waiting until we can expand the international music collection as part of the ever growing Rainbow Collections, before we tap into a whole new experience of children’s music.
First single ever bought?
It was The Cure ’Love Cats’.
First album ever bought?
I think it was Frankie Goes to Hollywood on vinyl. I loved ‘The Power of love’, incredibly vampyrish.
I also loved Nick Kershaw and Howard Jones.
A lot of music and musical taste came from my dad, my Yaya (Greek grandmother) and my mother who loved her disco soul....Donna Summer, Gladys and Gloria.
Last albums bought?
Hollie Cook and Bedouin Soundclash.
I heard them on Don Letts radio 6 show Culture Clash when he played ‘Bluebell’.
Are you a vinyl, CD, iTunes or mp3 woman?
Vinyl, CD then MP3.
I have just written on my latest Blog about my love of vinyl.
Desert Island Discs – What 5 albums would you take?
This is very tricky one. Can I make my own playlists- 5 of them???
1. Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
2. Best of Motown album
........Then I can get Stevie, Marvin and Diana.
3. Michael Jackson - Off The Wall
4. Jeff Buckley - Grace
5. David Bowie - Hunky Dory
Who would be in your fantasy band?
Stewart Copeland - Drums (The Police)
Aston Barret - Bass player (The Wailers)
Linsdsay Buckingham - Guitar (Fleetwood Mac)
Mozart - Piano/Keys (you did say fantasy)
Roberta Flack - Backing vocals
Stevie Wonder - Man I would like to do a duet with him and he plays loads of instruments.
Write songs with - Peter Gabriel and Damon Albarn
First gig attended?
All About Eve at The Royal Albert Hall
I loved playing ‘Marthas Harbour’. Julianne Regan has the most beautiful voice. I would like to do a cover of the above song.
Best gig played?
JAZZ CAFÉ – as Sophie Barker
HAMMERSMITH APOLLO - in Zero 7
Favourite gig venue?
Favourite tour cuisine?
Lots of Salads and fresh fruits, avocados, tomatoes and peppery lettuce.
Fine French cheese and delicious Italian cured meats.
The most delicious sashimi from Japan! That would be my ideal….
However until you are really famous you don’t get much of a rider.
Lots of water, a few beers, crisps, dips and a main meal from the venues menu!
Favourite tour drinks?
After lots of water during the gig- to follow a glass of Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne (I would have had to sell a lot of tickets). Then a few shots of the venues finest Tequila!
What state do you think the music business will be in, in ten years time?
This is an interesting one as who knows where the whole of humanity is going to be.
Well if we are all still on the electricity grid then lots of music will be still being made, being played and hopefully paid for through the internet and digital revolution. I think the industry will resort to where we were before there was one. It will be run through micro channels funded more by the people.
Independent labels will rise again with a fresh and fair look at how artists can realistically make a living from music in order to make music.
Artists will also have to look pragmatically at where they stand.
There won't be such magnificent album sales or recording contracts.
Artists will have to be really good at what they do and make great music. It will steer away from being famous for nothing but maybe more respectfully recognised for a great contribution towards the environment we live in. We know that life is changing enormously and we will adapt to this and music is one of the most profound and peaceful ways of communication.
There will be a new wave format and who knows, there could be even be some interplanatory music communication!!!
However there are still millions that are just making music and instruments with pieces of wood and old bits of metal and playing together around a fire, who just do it because it fills the heart with joy and takes us out of ourselves for a few moments and lets us connect with all and one.
Heroes in Life:
Mozart, Herman Hesse, David Bowie, Van Gogh.
My Grand Mothers and my step-grandfather.