March the 8th is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate and highlight the valuable contributions women make to our world. One day is not enough, so this is part of a month-long series of posts celebrating female artists from Australia.
Today’s feature artist is Sophie Koh, a musician, songwriter, and singer, currently making waves internationally for her incredibly powerful song “I Understand”.
1. What art do you make?
I’m a musician, songwriter, singer. I also play piano and sing backup in other bands like Emma Heeney and for Ben Lee when he toured Australia last year. I learnt classical piano for most of my life and it’s really nice being able to use my piano chops in a pop setting.
I also collaborate with other musos as a songwriter, currently working with an electronic grunge pop outfit called Sugarglass. Recently I did a stint as a music supervisor on TV show called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I also do a bit of vocal work for various people.
2. What is one of your proudest achievements as an artist?
1) The China tour with my band was one of the proudest things I had ever done.
We toured 12 cities all over China, 14 shows in continuous 40 deg heatwave for three weeks. Staying in dodgy hotels, band relying on you to communicate in Mandarin for nearly everything. Waking up, bullet train for few hours, arguing with taxi drivers, soundcheck, show, then doing it all over again the next day. Always sweating through your clothes. One day it got down to 35 degrees and that felt like winter. (You can watch a video of tour highlights here.)
I’m really surprised we managed to put on such great performances considering the strange and stressful peripheral stuff that went on that only happens in a foreign country like China. Being part tour manager, translator and lead person on stage all at one time was a fatiguing job. But adrenaline seems to make everything okay at the time. When we got back to Melbourne with all our luggage, my voice intact and band members happy, I was amazed.
2) My music video for “I Understand”, a song I co-wrote with Ben Lee and Brad Wood.
It was born out of an extraordinary collaboration in LA where we just exposed our hearts. This song recently won the Independent Music Awards (contemporary category). The making of the music video is also something I am SUPREMELY proud of.
Not many people realise I was hung up and strapped into a rotating device for nearly 10 hours and completely upside down under water whilst trying to lipsync in time but I couldn’t see or hear.
The pain on my back and pelvis was unbearable but I knew I had to push through. It scared me shitless.
It was an independent project and it was ME that the whole film team was here for, I couldn’t chicken out.
3) My music video for “Lo-Fi”
It was a one shot clip, filmed in Piedemonte’s supermarket. I’m very proud of my spunky mates from my dance class who happily volunteered to be in the video!
3. What has been a challenge recently, and how did you overcome it?
I have released and self-funded three albums in my career. Most of it self-managed and all independent releases.
Organising everything, tours etc. with no big label behind you can be expensive and exhausting.
Trusted friends would tell me… “I think your fans don’t realise you’re entirely independent and doing all the hardvwork yourself, maybe you should start telling people that”. So, I’m starting to tell people that now.
4. What are you most excited by creatively right now?
I’m about to record my 4th album next week! The new album will have a very different vibe to the previous and I am so excited about a totally new vibe. I’m reading a lot of Chinese poetry as inspiration and very inspired by my Chinese contemporary art.
5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given about growing your career as an artist?
Just keep writing and collaborating with people you respect.
Songwriting is a craft that needs constant sculpting and perfecting.
6. Where can we find your work and connect with you?
I’m playing a solo show supporting Epicure for their reunion show at The Northcote Social Club, 2nd May 2015.
You can find me online at:
(Photo credit: Ben Loveridge.)
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You might also enjoy:
- Celebrating female artists: Introducing Malia Walsh, theatre & circus artist
- Celebrating female artists: Introducing Shu Shu Zheng, writer, visual artist & musician
- Celebrating female artists: Introducing Maria Blackwell, visual artist
- Celebrating female artists: Introducing Sarah Jane Pell, extreme artist & space/summit/sea explorer
- Celebrating female artists: Introducing Xanthea O’Connor, living statue, musician & arts manager