Introducing Interview: Sophie Mahon

Set to release her debut album in October, Suffolk-based artist Sophie Mahon left the Royal Navy to pursue her love of music back in 2013, and hasn’t looked back since.

Inspired by the life and films of Humphrey Bogart, and with musical contributions from the likes of Emily Dolan-Davies (Bryan Ferry, Kim Wilde, The Thompson Twins), Martin Dobson (Eurythmics, Jimmy Sommerville and Siouxie & the Banshees), Bogart’s Eyes showcases Sophie’s unique ’80s inspired allure and poetic songwriting. Latest single ‘In A Lonely Place‘ offers a swirling synth-pop anthem, propelled by a shimmering energy and heartfelt emotion.

We caught up with Sophie to find out more…

Hi Sophie Mahon, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m 28 years old and I live in Suffolk. I have a band called Sophie Mahon & The Ready Mades, which has an ’80s inspired New Wave/Art Rock kind of sound. We’ve been going for a few years now and are slowly getting a name for ourselves around the area. I take inspiration from books, films, poems and art generally, when writing lyrics, and I am influenced by many things sonically but mainly the New Romantic era of the Eighties.

How did you initially start creating music?
I discovered Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music while waiting to join the Royal Navy, when I was about 18 years old. I then started learning a lot about music – listening to a lot of different bands from the ’80s, eventually teaching myself guitar, kidding myself that I was just doing it to occupy my time until I went to training. I went and did six months training with the RN before realising life’s too short to not do what you enjoy, so I left and went to music college. The rest is history. 

Your new album Bogart’s Eyes is out in October – can you tell us what it’s all about? Are there any themes running throughout the album?
Bogart’s Eyes is exactly what it says on the tin really: it’s inspired by the 1940s icon/legend Humphrey Bogart. I got into his films a couple of years ago and got a big hit of inspiration, writing a song for each film I watched. I admire his acting hugely and just him as a person; he was a kind, gentle, honest and colourful character; I wanted to show the other sides to him as well as the hard boiled, cynical tough guy he is always remembered for. The idea of the album is from a fan point of view – the way you feel when you discover something/someone new for the first time, who has a profound impact on you, and the way it takes over your thoughts. Like with the track ‘Casablanca’, it’s “easy to enter but hard to leave” – the intro and outro join up, so before you know it (if you leave the album on loop) you find you are back at the start going around again. Each song is connected to a film in some way and takes inspiration from either a quote, a scene, a character or even a dream you have because of it; covering feelings of loneliness, love and longing as it goes along. I have aimed for it to be like a Film Noir take on ABC’s ‘The Lexicon Of Love’.

You’ve been compared to the likes of The Human League and Roxy Music, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music, David Bowie and Duran Duran I would say are my main three musical influences, with other odds and ends added in between. They are all very unique, without being afraid to experiment and explore whenever they write something new. I think I admire them so much because they manage to bring something almost high brow to the mainstream, and dabble around the edges of it, without compromising on their own principles. They introduce their listeners to new things because of their lyrics and ideas, whether that be books, films or other music. And I think that is a wonderful thing. It is also the way they keep artistic control over all aspects of their brand and music, from album artwork to fashion. It’s a lot of extra work, but it pays off dividends when put alongside the music – it adds to that sophisticated escapism that they provide, which I wish to emulate.

In ‘normal times’, how is your local music scene? Do you usually go to see lots of live music?
It’s pretty good around East Anglia. I am very lucky that I have Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Norwich not too far away, all of which have decent music scenes and very supportive venues. There is also the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket which is a great venue too. I mean at the moment, like everyone else, I haven’t seen a lot of live music recently but I did a lot before the pandemic. I try to go see live music often, whether that’s a friend’s local band or an artist I admire.

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
Just good music to escape into and tap your toes to, or even dance if you feel that way inclined! My band and I aren’t the shoe-gazing types – we like to dress up and really give all we’ve got. That’s the thing with this industry, all you owe the audience is a good performance, so I will always give that. If the audience themselves want to get out, dress up to the nines and drop the weight from their shoulders, I hope we can provide a lovely space for them to get lost in.

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
To my shame I don’t know many – I tend to explore backwards listening to albums and bands I keep meaning to listen to. The newest bands/artists I listen to and I like are Christine & The Queens, La Roux and The Weeknd. There was a very wonderful band I discovered at a festival, called ‘Her’s’, and they were quirky and warm, but unfortunately they both were tragically killed in a traffic collision a few years ago. I still recommend you check out the catalogue they left behind, especially the song ‘Harvey’. The only other artist I would recommend, and I am biased because she is a dear friend of mine, is Lucy Grubb. She is a country/Americana artist, but her lyrics are witty and – even if you don’t like that kind of thing – Lucy will win you over. She is a lovely mixture of Paul Simon and Johnny Cash.

And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
I would say it’s very, very difficult unless you sound like something that has been successful before, but then you will get dropped very quickly. It’s a very hard thing to judge as record labels (mainly big ones) will only take artists if they have done the leg work and have achieved a certain amount of followers/listeners. I suppose I have learnt a lot from artists from the ’80s, so I have a skewed/old fashioned way of seeing it, but it is very clear that labels aren’t willing to take the risk anymore on new artists, unless they are a sure thing. They certainly wouldn’t give them time to develop as artists, like labels would have done a few decades ago. I mean the industry obviously has changed a lot, which is understandable, but it is more about quick money than finding an investment. Don’t take that as a total rant! As that’s more at the top end. I would say there are many very lovely people around who are there to support new artists, especially local radio stations and BBC Introducing – without them it is hard to make that first big leap and that makes all the difference.

Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for Sophie Mahon?
Now my first single ‘In A Lonely Place’ is out, the next thing is a gig supporting The Wendy James Band (Transvision Vamp) on August 27th at the Norwich Art Centre. Then the second single ‘Bogart’s Eyes’, complete with a stop-motion animation music video is out on 3rd September. The band and I then have another gig at The Empire in Great Yarmouth on 9th September, and then, finally, the whole album Bogart’s Eyes will be out on 1st October! We may also have a very exciting gig after that on 2nd October but that is still being sorted…

Massive thanks to Sophie for answering our questions!

Bogart’s Eyes, the upcoming album from Sophie Mahon is set for release on 1st October, and the title track will be out on 3rd September.

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