If you admire passionate but down-to-earth musical artistry, Sophie Garner’s got a few things to sing to you. Sophie, originally from Suffolk but now living in London, is a singer with an absolute passion and dedication to her art. When illness and surgery threatened to get in the way of her musical ambitions, she fought her way through and then set up her very own organisation and support network for singers who have undergone vocal surgery.
Her eagerly anticipated album, Genes, reflects a lifetime of blood, sweat, tears and inspiration and Sophie can’t wait to unveil it on record and on stage. “I’m a live performer,” she says, delighted that the chance to share her new songs has arrived. “I like it up close.”
I spoke to the lovely Sophie about the album, which is due to be released on 27th February, VoxOp and exciting future plans…
The inspiration for the album sounds incredibly diverse and very personal – can you tell us a bit more about what influences you musically as well as lyrically?
“My musical tastes are very eclectic.
“Everything I have ever listened to has influenced this album on a conscious and subconscious level. I was a punk in my teens and didn’t follow what my school friends were listening to at all. While everyone was into Duran Duran I was listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees and Jethro Tull!
“My album is as diverse as my musical tastes. Each song has it’s own identity and sound but the album as a collection works really well together. As this is my solo album my own life experiences are clearly played out in the songs I have written. I have deliberately avoided writing purely about love and relationships as often these can be really done to death, although clearly my songs contain such references.”
You must have been scared when you started to have vocal problems – do you think this affected the tone of the album at all?
“My vocal problems didn’t affect the tone of the album. What it did do though is create a really stressful environment in the recording studio where we were practically living for a year. I can recall a very difficult day when I just couldn’t get the right vocal down on one of my songs ‘When the mourning comes’ due to my vocal problems and I was getting more and more stressed.
“I ended up asking my producer and my partner/ co-writer to both go for a walk for an hour and leave the record button on and let me do it on my own. I turned out all the lights and just sang over and over again until I felt focused. I ended getting the best vocal for the track this way.”
How did VoxOp come about? Can you tell us a bit more about the group and how it can help?
“VoxOp was a result of going through the experience of a vocal operation in April 2010. Ask any singer what their worst nightmare would be and they will tell you having a vocal operation is top of the list. It was a terrifying time both emotionally and financially. My partner Paul and I nearly lost everything because we had invested our life savings in recording the album. VoxOp is the UK’s first and only singer support group for pre and post op singers and it’s a free service. We run meetings every month in London.” www.voxop.co.uk
I love the fact that the first song you sang live after the op was ‘Rehab’ – how do you think your positive attitude has helped you get through the difficult times?
“After my vocal op I had a very strict vocal regime to adhere to. I found this actually made me quite positive about the future. Because it was baby steps I wasn’t dismayed by the slow progress. My vocal teacher was incredibly supportive at this time even waiving his fee on occasions because he knew how difficult it was for me financially.
“What I did find shocking was the total lack of support in aftercare for singers who have undergone surgical intervention. Setting up VoxOp helped me to focus on creating something really positive out of a negative experience.”
How did it feel to be the first person to play the O2 Arena?
“It was an incredible experience. I was supporting The Sugababes and McFly at the time. The plastic was still on some of the seats it was that new! My agent said to me ‘You do realise you are the first artist to perform on the main stage don’t you?’ Apparently I beat Bon Jovi and the official opening by a week! It was a great feeling and one of the best live sounds I have ever had.”
Can you tell us a bit more about your other project, Sophie Garner Design ? Where can we find out more?
“I can remember watching TV on a wet Sunday afternoon when I was about 10. I saw a film featuring the 1940’s star Carmen Miranda. She appeared singing in all her bright coloured jewellery. That was it, I was hooked. A few years later, I began to wear 1940’s and 50’s vintage clothing, this continued up until around 6 years ago. As a result I have accumulated a great collection of fabulous original clothes and jewellery.
“I decided earlier this year to start making my own jewellery for wearing on stage and after getting many comments from friends and total strangers about my designs I decided to start my own business creating deco inspired modern perspex jewellery. I have also created a unique collection called Dazzling Dorris especially for Drag Queens who struggle to find bracelets to fit their wrists. I’ve already had four boutique shops asking to stock my pieces!
Find out more about Sophie at: http://www.sophiegarner.com/