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Meet Sophie Seng

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sophie Seng.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Sure! As far back as I can remember, music has been a part of my life… I guess I officially started when I was in first grade with some piano lessons. My first performance was in my piano teacher’s living room for one of her yearly recitals… good times.

As I got a bit older, I started learning saxophone through my elementary school’s band program. I chose to learn sax because I thought it looked cool, and my uncle had one that I could use. I quickly fell in love with it, and dove into the jazz world. I spent a lot of time playing traditional jazz, which was so joyous and fun to me: I loved improvising and playing with a band (I still do)! Fast forward to high school, and I was playing in a jazz group of my own – I had started singing, and we were playing a bunch of gigs around Sacramento. After graduating, I made my way over to LA to pursue a music degree.

I arrived at Cal State Northridge as a jazz major for saxophone performance. There, I met an amazing community of musicians, friends, teachers, and future collaborators. About two years into my degree, I decided to change directions and switch out of the jazz major into a more flexible music degree. I started taking classes about composition, recording, and electronic music. By that time, I was writing songs on my own – experimenting with genres and discovering my sound as an artist. Later, in 2018, I released my debut self-titled album: “Sophie Seng.” I had pretty much no prior experience recording a project like that, but with the help of a few friends, we managed to pull it off! It is an 8-track full-length album. I thought of it as an introduction: it is an eclectic mix of genres and topics intended to represent the many different aspects of myself. I felt the need to prove to the world that I could execute an album like this, and I did. That gave me the confidence to move forward as an artist.

As I finished up my degree at CSUN, I started playing a lot of shows with my live band. We are a four-piece group made up of: myself on vocals, sax, and keys; Keelan Walters on guitar; Nathan Puckett on bass; and Myles Martin on drums. They are all amazing friends and musicians; and we’ve had so much fun collaborating over the years. I credit them all with helping me refine my sound – they always take my songs to a new level, and I am incredibly grateful for that. As a sort of feature for my live group, I released a single titled “Water” in late 2019. This is an unashamed seven-minute track that features solos from each member of the band. We recorded it all together live in the studio to capture the energy of our live shows. Following that, in early 2020, I released “Water (Remixes).” This is an EP containing four different remixes of “Water,” each in a different style by a different producer. It was a fun experiment with genre and collaboration – two themes that have been prominent in my music since the beginning.

My most recent release is “Home EP.” I spent a long time working on this project, and it is probably my most vulnerable and personal to date. This is also my first project with a theme: it’s about finding home… whatever that means. I went through a period about a year ago where I was in-between homes in a state of flux: I felt lost in Los Angeles, not knowing where I fit in here, while also feeling disconnected from my hometown in Davis. Each track is about a different aspect of home – searching for a place to live, nostalgia for my hometown, uncertainty in a new city, finding comfort in familiarity… I was grappling with these problems in my life and had a hard time articulating them. Naturally, I turned to songwriting to express those feelings. I didn’t write these songs with the intention of creating a home-themed EP, but that’s what happened! Similar to my previous releases, this EP stays true to my passion for experimenting with genre. There are aspects of electronic, folk, singer-songwriter, rock, and jazz within this project. I produced “Home” myself and worked with some great musicians to record the parts… I am really proud of how it turned out. It truly feels like a representation of my thoughts, sound, and where I am at today.

This project was also the first time I released merch! I am so excited about it… I worked with the designers in “Local Offices,” a new design practice based here in LA. They designed the cover of “Home,” my shiny new website, and the merch items. We have t-shirts, cassettes, bandanas, and bumper stickers available to buy! I am so happy to be able to share such fun physical items to go along with the music.

Now, I am deciding what to do next: these times are strange and unpredictable, so I am taking a moment to reflect and decide how I want to move forward. I guess we’ll see what happens!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think a smooth road is rare when pursuing a passion like music. Personally, I have struggled to find balance between mental health and creating my music. It is clearly a prominent topic in my songs, and I like to bring awareness to it, but it’s not always as easy as writing a song and things get better. Sometimes when things get dark, it’s impossible to create anything at all. I am grateful that I feel things deeply and have music as an outlet – but it’s not always very easy. I hope that people who listen to my music can feel less alone in their personal struggles, the same way that writing these songs made me feel less alone. Mental health struggles are real, and music won’t completely solve it, but it can help. It helped me, and if I can help one other person with my music, then it’s worth it.

Another challenge I have encountered was being a woman in such a male-dominated scene. I spent most of my life in the jazz community, often being the only woman in any given group. There are many challenges that come with such a disparity in representation… I am glad that some light has been shed on these issues recently. It was difficult and was partially what led me to change out of the jazz major and explore other genres. Fortunately, I found my niche as an independent artist. However, many aren’t so lucky. I do worry about all the young girls that have an interest in jazz like I did, who get discouraged by the lack of representation and respect, and who maybe don’t make it to the point of finding their own voice. All this is to say that this challenge is not unique to me – but I do have hope that it is getting better as people raise awareness.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
Of course! Genre-wise, I am kind of all over the place. I usually go with “alternative,” but there are aspects of folk, rock, jazz, singer-songwriter, experimental electronic… However, there is usually a common thread of vulnerability and honesty at the core of the songs. Many topics I sing about are difficult for me to talk about, and I feel that they can be better understood through music. I also really prioritize writing and producing music that is new. I love synthesizing genres, mashing them together, and just creating for the sake of experimentation. My goal is to make sounds that people haven’t heard before.

Something that I am proud of is that I do virtually everything for my projects. Not only do I write, produce, and perform my music, but I am also fully independent, so I run all business aspects of my project myself. Of course, I collaborate with others – that is one of my favorite aspects of my work – but at the end of the day, I am the one running things. One day I’m sure that I will expand my team, but I am proud of how far I have gotten on my own!

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My plans for the future are rather up in the air at the moment… the live music scene has taken such a huge hit because of the shutdowns, so I know many of us are being forced to get creative and come up with new ways to share music with people. Before the pandemic, I had a West Coast tour routed for July 2020 (that was canceled, of course). So, as soon as I am able, I would like to try that again! For now, I am planning an outdoor, socially distant show in LA for some time in the coming months, so I am excited about that! Besides the shows, I am working on video content for “Home EP,” writing more songs for my next release, and working on collaborations for my friends’ projects.

Pricing:

  • Lyrics T Shirt – $30
  • Is(n’t) Bandana – $12
  • “Home” on Cassette Tape – $10
  • “Call Me” Bumper Sticker – $5

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Nathan Puckett, Local Offices

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