Bio : Sophie Auster
Relinquishing inhibition and apprehension fosters creativity in its purest form. By letting go, an artist invariably flourishes. Sophie Auster embodies this phenomenon.
The New York singer and songwriter leverages the freedom to soulfully speak her mind and share truths by way of vivid songwriting cast over swaths of lush acoustic guitars and dense piano chords.
Following her 2013 EP Red Weather, the artist’s most recent full-length Dogs and Men represented a breakthrough in 2015. Between ceaseless touring, 2016 saw her achieve the grand prize at The John Lennon Songwriting Contest, while Cosmopolitan Magazine named her “Singer of the Year” in Spain where she also graced the publication’s cover. Along the way, she penned what would become her third full-length and first release for BMG, Next Time.
The process relied on a willingness to confidently let go…
“I do believe if you really let yourself go from expectations and censorship, interesting things will come out,” she affirms. “It was important for me to feel at ease.”
After spending the better part of 2016 writing, Auster found a creative safe heaven to realize the vision for Next Time. Impressed by his production on Nicole Atkins’ Slow Phaser, she reached out to producer Tore Johansson in Sweden. After a two-song trial, she flew out to the Swedish countryside to work with him. The sessions marked multiple firsts. It would be the first time she recorded abroad and also worked in a home studio. As a result, the environment lives and breathes in the background.
“Tore got the strength of everything I was doing,” she says. “We changed the key and tempos in many of the songs. We transposed much of the material from guitar onto piano. Then, we built arrangements around just vocals and piano. One of the biggest things he did was encourage me to sing in a lower register. It brought the music to life in a better way. We had a really nice working relationship overall. I found someone who was on the same page as me and wanted to bring out what I wanted to bring out. I went into the process with more confidence than I had in years.”
That confidence can be attributed to road-testing much of the material and general wisdom garnered from years of writing and recording music. At the same time, it earmarked a turning point where she “felt like all of the pieces fit together for the first time.”
Emblematic of her growth, the first single “Mexico” plays out like a long lost fifties South-of-the-Border-set film noir. Punctuated by boisterous horns and an irresistible chant, the track illuminates both vocal charisma and a knack for storytelling.
“After a trip to the Yucatan, I came home humming the hook to Mexico. The song is loosely inspired by Jaques Tourner’s 1947 film noir, Out of the Past, starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer. Mitchum’s character goes down to Mexico to find his boss’s girlfriend, who has run off with all his money, and a torrid love affair ensues. My recent trip and this classic film incited what is now the song “Mexico”.
Elsewhere on Next Time, “Black Water” invokes the smoky soul of bluesy jazz standards “influenced by a solitary feeling.” Finally, album closer “Tom C” leaves an intoxicating last word chased by faint guitar and hypnotic crooning, which bottles “this lonely hazy night of being alone in a bar.”
In many ways, the title signals the start of a new chapter for the songstress.
“It’s a fitting name for the album, because it’s about learning from your mistakes and looking to the future to do better,” she remarks. “People say ‘Next time’ so much as a way to promise something down the line. Since I really did things the way I wanted to, this record was my ‘Next Time’.”
In the end, this is time for Sophie to tell her story.
“Any piece of artwork—whether it’s a painting, a play, a movie, or an album—is up for interpretation based on an individual’s own narrative,” she concludes. “I hope listeners can reinterpret this into something meaningful for them. I found who I was in this process. Maybe it can touch others too.”
Next Time will be released through BMG early 2019.