Interview: Sophie Coran: Stream new single ‘Circles’

Posted: by The Editor

Ever wonder what it would sound like if someone blended jazz and R&B with the likes of 20th century film orchestration? You no longer have to, as Philadelphia-based Sophie Coran has done just that. Self-proclaiming herself a “Noir & B” artist, Coran explores the landscape of modern nostalgia that has been difficult to capture in present music. Playing off the likes of Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Rey, and classic film scores, she carves her own place in the industry, almost as if she’s a veteran in the scene.

With the release of her fourth single, “Circles,” one can hear the most mature soundscape Coran’s released thus far. The jazz-leaning tune features glittering chimes, languid strings and entrancing vocals with passionate lyrics, unmatchable vocal harmonies, and rising tides of breathtaking cinematic production. It’s difficult not to chew on this track for a bit long after it’s faded— reminiscing slightly of Melody Gardot’s haunting, sonic underlay. The inspiration for the song comes from Coran’s pull to using water as a metaphor. “Circles” details the constant swimming and treading water of navigating a relationship, possibly realizing there might not be a way to recover it. 

I got the opportunity to pick Sophie Coran’s brain, and found out a little bit about how her songwriting process goes, what to expect from her upcoming debut album, how important she believes DIY is in modern music, and what her favorite Noir film is:

We’ll get the obvious question out of the way first. With ‘Circles,’ this isn’t the first time you’ve written a song with water symbolism. Why is it that you’re so taken with water and like to translate it into your work?

Water represents so many different things for me. The idea of swimming to or away from something really inspires me. I have many childhood memories of summers spent at the beach with the ocean as the backdrop. Today the beach is one of my favorite places. Water feels super introspective and is a musical jackpot; it’s the perfect metaphor. I love finding ways to represent it in my songwriting. 

I see that one of your biggest musical inspirations is Amy Winehouse. A lot of her earlier work was actually taken from her poetry to create a more emotionally captivating song. As a songwriter yourself, has this aspect of her lyrical foundation had any influence on how you write your intimate lyrics? Do you consider your songs poetry?

Oh man, what I wouldn’t give to see what Amy Winehouse would come up with today if she were still around. Whenever I listen to her music I always find new things I didn’t notice before. She’s an icon, and certainly one of my musical idols. I don’t know if I knew that about her poetry! I’ve studied her lyrics a lot; their intimacy is so captivating, devastating and heartbreaking. I aspire to write lyrics like that- relatable and conversational while also being deeply poetic. Amy Winehouse is a great story-teller. I try to tell stories in my songs.

In ‘Circles,’ there is a bit of a haunting enchantment that takes over its sound. I know that R&B, Soul, and Jazz orbit in a similar field. What drew you to that sound? Is it the way these genres can evoke emotion so well? 

Sonically, we were just trying to get a cool vibe. In ‘Circles’ the chords are a jazz-leaning progression. Then the arrangement gives it more of an R&B feel. We used a sample that we had of wind chimes from the Tuileries Garden in Paris. All of those sounds are really emotive and heartbreaking, which how I wanted this song to make me feel.

What inspired the song ‘Circles?’

‘Circles’ is a tragic love song. I wanted the lyrics to be pretty straight-forward, while also using the idea of swimming as a metaphor for navigating a difficult moment in a relationship. It was the first new song I had written for this project and it came pretty quickly. I wrote it in a few hours one afternoon, revised it the next day, and then it was finished.

Tell us more about Noir & B. It’s a clever name. You seem to be the only artist who has self-proclaimed themselves in this genre. What ultimately caused you to choose this label, and is nostalgia a big thing that you feel is missing in modern music?

I really must give my husband, Michael credit for that one. We make my music together (he’s an engineer and producer), and one day we were talking about R&B in my music and maybe I mentioned old movies as an inspiration. He just said something like “you should call your music ‘Noir & B.’ And it just seemed to make perfect sense and align with everything I was trying to do musically as well as my visual aesthetic. “Noir & B” is a play on R&B obviously. With “noir” I’m referring more to an era of nostalgia and inspiration from old classic movies, as opposed to “film noir.” Nostalgia is a big component of my music and I explore it a lot in the topics I write about, such as understanding a difficult situation in a personal relationship or growing up. It’s not necessarily that I feel it’s missing from modern music. For me, “Noir & B” is as much a sound or musical style as it is an aesthetic, a photograph, a cultural reference, and a period.

Speaking of nostalgia, you’re a big fan of classic 20th century cinematic orchestration, and that is very apparent in all of your released tracks, especially your latest single. What made you so adamant on including this beloved but forgotten stylistic cinema score into your sound as not only an artist but as a performer?

I’ve always loved writing for strings. I was a composition major in college and did a lot of that, so it’s found it’s way back into my music these days. For the studio recordings I like getting live string players. For the live show, it’s fun to arrange the songs with my band and figure out ways to bring out the cinematic sounds.

What is your process in creating a song? How does the skeleton of the lyrics and music get put together, and which do you find more challenging to put together?

My process can be super messy. I’ll usually start with an idea I have for a lyric, a title or phrase, or a chord progression. Sometimes it takes me three or four days just to get started with a song. From there I could either get stuck on the music or the lyrics- it really depends on the particular song. Then there are those times where I’ll be very lucky and the song will come very quickly- those are the gifts!

You are soon to be releasing a full project. What can we expect from that? Are the singles a big precurser for your debut? And what has been the hardest part about creating a record that is different than one-off singles?

Lots more music! Yes, this next group of singles, including “Circles” is part of a larger project. I can’t go into too much detail yet. The hardest part of the process has been the time it’s actually taken vs. how long I thought it would take. These things always take waaaay longer than expected. It’s such a different experience to work on one single versus like 6 songs at a time. I’m really excited for people to hear it.

You’re writing a lot with your band for this project. How has that shifted the dynamic from independently creating songs to now creating them in a group dynamic?

My band has changed my life. First of all, they are all top-shelf musicians. I still write all the songs, and my band helps shape them and arrange the parts. Sometimes I’ll collaborate on a song with my keyboardist and friend, Logan, and then I’ll bring the song to the band to discuss arrangement. This shift has been so eye-opening and has allowed me to make the kind of music I’ve always wanted to. I truly believe in the power of collaboration.

You’re from Philadelphia. Are there any thriving local music scenes there? And how important do you think local scenes are for the future of music- especially DIY.

Oh yes! Philly is full of amazing musicians and there are many different music scenes within the city. The DIY scene is a huge part of the music community. Everyone is so supportive of each other and I feel that this is particularly unique to Philly. With so many great artists and bands coming from here, it’s a great place to grow and develop.

What’s your favorite Noir film?

Chinatown. I think that counts, even though it’s from 1974 (and not the 1950s/1960s). I’m more inspired by classic films from the noir era that aren’t necessarily classified as “noir,” especially Audrey Hepburn movies. Some of my favorites are: Two For The Road, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Love in the Afternoon.

Stream “Circles” below:

Hope Ankley | @hope_ankleknee

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