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While I will occasionally lambast social media as being a vapid mental hamster wheel, there are occasional instances where its intrinsic worth manifests… and the results are staggering. It was by the grace of a Facebook ad that I discovered Sophia Duccini, and I was greatly enriched for having done so.
 
As an avid fan of independent songwriters, I was easily and thoroughly ensnared by Sophia’s material from the introduction on. She is the absolute embodiment of the modern indie songstress, penning intimate, vulnerable and introspective material minus the moping melodrama and self-absorption that permeates her contemporaries’ compositions. There is an innate kinetic quality to her songs that instantly sets the body in motion, which is the truest testament of a songs’ infectious efficacy. This is compounded by the timelessness of her tunes. Her style is indicative of most modern independent folk sensibilities and yet not dated by the more contemporary elements. You could see Sophia comfortably sharing a stage with either Joan Baez in the 60’s or Glen Hansard next Friday.
 
Sophia’s 2012 release, the Inherited EP, is a charmingly capricious collection of moods and melodies, with each of its six tracks taking a separate trajectory to display her various sonic sensibilities. From the plaintive yet carefree opener, “Wildflowers,” to the piquant yet pensive closer, “Breathe,” each tune proffers Sophia’s unique and sophisticated insight rendered with a exuberant, poetic eloquence.
 
Serendipity being what it is, Sophia was also recently signed to local label River Jones Music and was subsequently featured in the Phoenix New Times. Concurrently, AmpKicker is proud to provide this insightful interview with the ascendant songstress regarding her origins in music, her inspiration and her place in the indie-folk zeitgeist. Enjoy!
 
For fans of: Eisley, Lisa Hannigan, A Fine Frenzy, The Swell Season, Sara Lov

Firstly, let me take a moment to thank you for taking the time to speak to us! It’s greatly appreciated! Make yourself comfortable and let’s dig in…

 

 

How did you get into music? (This can be professionally or just speaking to what first drew you to performing)

 

I studied classical piano for five and a half years, starting when I was 12 years old. It was during that time that I really developed my love for music. In the summer of 2011 I began to teach myself guitar, and took a five day songwriting class at Cornish College of the Arts. During that week I wrote my first two songs. At the end of the course there was a showcase performance. That was the first time I ever performed and sang in front of an audience. After that week I knew that writing and performing was something I wanted to continue to do in my life.

 

 

What instruments do you play? Do you have a favorite instrument (this can be one you don’t play also— just something you love the sound of, seek out in music you listen to, etc.)?

 

I try to dabble in as many instruments as I can get my hands on. The first instrument I learned to play, and the only one I took lessons for, was piano, which was where I learned all my theory and structure for music. After that I taught myself guitar. Throughout my song writing journey I have picked up the banjo, mandolin, ukulele, and harmonica. I just very recently added to my instrument collection a glockenspiel and a harmonium. I have always loved the sound of harmonium, especially in a folk music setting, so I was very excited to be able to incorporate that into my songs. Picking a favorite of my instruments would be like picking a favorite child, but if I could pick one more instrument to learn it would be the cello. I have always loved the deep rich tones it produces, and the variety of sounds one can get from it.

 

I couldn’t agree more, madam. The cello is absolutely wonderful.
Sophia2

 

You utilize very unique phrasing on certain songs— your cadence on, “Made From Dust,” varies in places, for example. Your verses are subsequently uncommon and help to distinguish you as a writer. Do you have a typical songwriting method (for instance, writing lyrics first, then music), or is your writing process organic for each composition?

 

The process is very organic when writing songs, and I try not to overthink it. A song usually starts with a recent emotional feeling, or some new experience that is on my mind. I write most all of my songs on guitar. Being so untrained in guitar theory, I often mess around with different chords until I find something nice, and then start to sing whatever words pop into my head (not always logical sentences or phrases) and find a melody that works with the chords. It really does vary from song to song. The main thing to songwriting for me is to let the song come naturally.

 

 

Do you tend to write autobiographically? I ask because a song like, “Bruise,” contains a delicate intimacy while it, like all good songs, simultaneously allows you to expiate emotionally. (If it’s not, there’s some excellent characterization going on in the voice you utilize as a writer)

 

I definitely tend to write more songs about my feelings or situations that I have been in. There are a few exceptions, or sometimes a song may take the feeling in a different direction.  I read somewhere that love is like a fart: if you have to force it, it’s probably crap. I feel the same can apply to songwriting.  I find some of my best songs are the ones I write in 15-25 minutes, because the lyrics are often times much more raw and convey the emotion better. I also like to utilize metaphors and similes in my writing, so that to me it is talking about an exact situation, but the listener can take whatever they need from the song. In a song like, “Wildflowers,” however, some of the lines come across very symbolic and metaphoric, but are actually quite literal. I try to keep a certain ambiguity, so that the audience can relate to the song, but not so ambiguous that it isn’t saying anything.

 
 

 
 
How do you orchestrate your instrumentation for each track? The elements accent the compositions so perfectly— be it the orchestral strings throughout the record or the trumpet work on, “Moon Beams.” Are these studio decisions, or do you hear these elements while you write?

 

When I write songs, I can often hear what instruments I want to accompany the song, but not always the exact part. With this being my first time in the studio I left a lot of the instrumentation on the EP up to the musicians. We had a lot of fun in the studio playing around with different parts and layering all the instruments and sounds together. Including myself there were only a total of four different people who actually played parts on the songs, so having multi-instrumental musicians was handy. A lot of the styling my brother (who also did all the recording, mixing, and mastering) helped with and had a hand in.

 

 

Are there any groups/songwriters that you would stylistically link your material to— or who inspired you to write the way you do? 

 

I listen to a wide variety of music, and pull inspiration from all of it. A few main musicians I draw inspiration from are people like Billie Holiday, Lisa Hannigan, and Nick Drake. My voice lends itself to more blues and jazz style songs, but my music playing is much more folk, so I like to infuse the two styles.

 

 

What can we expect from you in 2013?

 

2013 is going to be a great year! I have a lot planned. I am currently working on my next EP, which listeners can expect to have a less ambient sound. I plan to utilize my whole instrument collection, and keep the instrument sounds very natural. I just signed with River Jones Music, in a sort of friend deal, and plan to go on a mini summer tour with some other great bands.

 

 

What would you consider your greatest challenge thus far in your career? And to contrast that, your greatest accomplishment?

 

I would have to say the greatest challenge has been finding backing musicians who are serious and committed. A lot of the struggle has to do with the fact that most the musicians I know are either already in a rockin’ band, or are high school students, like myself, and have plans of their own. I am currently trying to find a few musicians to join me for live shows. I believe the right people will come at the right time. I feel like I have really accomplished a ton in this past year. Simply finding my songwriting ability and breaking out of my shy “shell” for starters has been huge. My growth in being able to express myself through my music, and getting the feedback from others that my songs have touched them is my greatest accomplishment.

 

Now, for my James Lipton portion of the interview…
Sophia3
Do you have a Desert-Island Top-Five albums (or Artists)?

 

In no particular order my top five artists that I would need to have with me while on a desert-island are: Simon & Garfunkel, The Swell Season, Lisa Hannigan, Nick Drake, and Joshua James. (And I might secretly sneak some Nina Simone with me.)

 

 

What single song has the highest play-count in your music library? (Check your Mp3 player, iTunes, etc. or plead the 5th if it involves Jessica Simpson or Olivia Newton John and John Travolta)

 

Well, my iTunes library tells me it is Home by Lisa Hannigan, which I very much believe, but I have been listening to Little Brave by Lucy Rose on YouTube on repeat for the past week.

 

 
 
Any artist living or dead to collaborate with (could be recording, tour, or simply write with—)?

 

This is one of the hardest questions for me to answer. There are so many amazingly talented artists that I look up to. Living I would say Glen Hansard. Dead it would have to be George Harrison.

 

 

What is the best live show you have ever attended? (or if that’s too difficult to narrow down… just the first show you ever attended)

 

The best show I have ever attended has got to be The Swell Season at the Paramount theatre in Seattle. The venue is amazing, and the band is even better. Before entering the concert, I actually saw Glen Hansard walking on the street. Of course I froze up, and barely muttered out a hello, but my mother just shouted out “We love you!” He replied with his Irish accent “Thanks! Are you going to the show?” We didn’t even think to ask for a photo or anything until long after. The show was amazing, they sounded fantastic live. It was a very inspiring show for me.

 
 
Sophia
 
 
Again, immense thanks for taking the time to speak to me and our readers! I’m greatly looking forward to the new album! Here’s hoping you’re having an excellent new year thus far!

 

Au revoir for the moment, dear readers!

 

 

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