Sophia Stephens: born to sing
Of the dozens of music articles I’ve written, this is perhaps the most challenging. It’s just that I’ve never seen myself in front of a diamond in the rough like the American singer/songwriter Sophia Stephens, who has just released its beautiful first EP: “Remnantal”. The 17-year-old has one of the most melancholy and authentic voices I’ve heard since Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” fell into my hands. And the most curious thing about this talent is that not even Sophia knows where it came from. “I’ll be honest, I have no idea where my voice came from“, she says.
I’ve been influenced by every song I’ve ever listened to in some way, however I’ve never really sat down and said I want to sound like this artist.
“Remnantal” is a collection of 4 songs written in different periods of Sophie’s life, including times of pandemic and social isolation. With a sound reminiscent, at times, from Radiohead to Nina Simone, passing through Lorde and Aimée Mann, Sophia’s work is permeated by the gravity of her timbre, needless to say, it’s pretty unusual for a 17-year-old with a developing voice. “All of the music touches on a different emotion“, she explains, without fear of exposing and dealing with the very feelings of loneliness and happiness that dances around her verses and melodies.
Here comes The Stephens
One very beautiful thing about Sophia’s case is that her family, especially her father Matt, play an important role in promoting her music. According to Matt, who acts as an advisory producer of sorts, Sophia came up with the lyrics and melodies for all her songs, adding the efforts of her younger brother. “The base piano chords for “Familiar” and “Submerge” were created by her younger brother Jackson who plays by ear and has a knack for creating some pretty cool music. She then worked with 3 different producers to create a professional quality track adding in the additional instrumentation she wanted“, he explains.
Those producers included Aaron Shafer-Haiss from Nashville (Familiar), Idan Altman from Portugal (Shadowlit, Never Spoke), and Roger Gamon from the UK (Submerge). “Once she had the production ready track she would sing the vocals for them (This includes all background vocals on the track). The producers then would take her vocals and the production track and create a final master track“, completes Matt, sounding prouder than anyone could be.
2 6 Things about Sophia Stephens
RC – What’s up Sophia? Are you in Indiana right now?
SS – Just started my senior year of high school so I’m keeping pretty busy. Yes, I am currently in the state of Indiana which is southeast of Chicago.
RC – I couldn’t help but notice that you have quite a few listeners from Brazil. Have you ever been to Brazil, what do you know about our music mostly?
SS – I do have quite a few listeners in Brazil right now and I’m super thankful for every one who listens to my music there! I’ve only been out of the country once, so I’ve never been to Brazil. I would love to go one day, it’s such a diverse place and has a lot of beautiful areas. The music is also diverse, partly I’m sure, because there’s a lot of people. One of the things I admire about Brazilian music, and many popular songs in South America, is the more upbeat tones of many pop songs. In America songs are definitely more dark and slowed with lots of piano and strings, I would say half of the top 100 is like this here. However in Brazil there’s definitely more brightness in music, which I think is so fun.
RC – Your EP is very well produced. We have keyboards, acoustic guitars… I wanna know if this was a DIY (do it yourself) kind of project or did you get some help.
SS – My Ep started out with chords I either played on guitar or my brother on piano, and my original lyrics I’ve written. However since I’m still learning how to produce we went to several producers to help finalize the EP. For a few months I worked with different producers from different places, such as Nashville and London, while recording my singing at my home.
RC – Your songs are a bit sad, what artists have influenced you till’ you shape your specific tone of voice?
SS – I’ll be honest, I have no idea where my voice came from. I’ve been influenced by every song I’ve ever listened to in some way, however I’ve never really sat down and said I want to sound like this artist. The same goes for my lyric writing, I sit down and write and what I write is what I get, I don’t base my songs off of songs already in existence because I want them to have a unique sound.
RC – The lyrics of “Remnantal” are personal on what level? What audience do you think these beautiful songs will be appreciated?
SS – “Remnantal” was written at several different times in my life. Songs like “Submerged” and “Familiar” were written in the middle of Covid while I was still in middle school. While “Never Spoke” was written just last year. Because of this each song touches on a different period in my life, in ways that are relatable in some way. All of the music touches on a different emotion. For example “Shadowlit” is about not feeling good enough, which is an emotion every one experiences at some point.
RC – Are you into the “Barbie Movie” fever too?
SS – I loved the Barbie Movie! I’ve seen it two times and if it wasn’t for school I would definitely go see it again.
Track by Track: “Remnantal by Sophia Stephens
Shadowlit: The opening track is a mixture of Radiohead and Aimée Mann that really moved me. Including the lyrics, “how can you be happy all the time”, which give the melancholy tone to this first EP by Sophie.
Submerge: With a classical piano intro, Sophie and her wonderful deep voice sound like Nina Simone here. It’s amazing when we find out that this old soul is only 17 years old.
Never Spoke: “Never spoke” has a prominent acoustic folk-guitar in contrast to some electronic base. I would like to hear this particular track without effects, because Sophie’s songwriting is essentially organic. There’s also a bit of drama, something of Fiona Apple here.
Familiar: Sophie’s most “known” track, “Familiar” brings a dark aura that is very reminiscent of Lorde and Evanescence. It’s amazing how she manages to fit a whole symphony into such a simple melody.