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Sophie Lowe’s Surreal Life

Sydney-based singer-songwriter discusses recently wrapped ‘Above Suspicion’ film and introduces new ambient track “Mean”.

Sydney-based singer-songwriter discusses recently wrapped 'Above Suspicion' film and introduces new ambient track "Mean".

Actress and singer-songwriter Sophie Lowe knows how to stay busy. Having just wrapped up filming a new movie Above Suspicion, alongside Game Of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, she’s also teamed up with Los Angeles production duo, TWINKIDS, for a brand new single “Mean”.

Softly muted, albeit brimming with uncultivated emotion, “Mean” is an intimate and atmospheric track that tinkers with delicate synths and subdued bass, and is imbued with raw honesty. The track follows on from Lowe’s 2015 breakout singles “Understand” and “Pink Flowers”, which were plucked from Unearthed onto Triple J rotation, establishing Lowe as a powerful new left-field pop presence in Australian music.

On the acting side, Lowe has appeared in Beautiful Kate, as well as ABC television series The Beautiful Lie and The Slap, alongside a slew of acclaimed actors, including Rachel Griffiths, Ben Mendelsohn and Naomi Watts.

At just 26, Lowe’s experience and empathy well surpasses her age, resonating into each of her creative outlets. We recently caught up with her to talk about meditating on loneliness, the first song she ever wrote and the new TWINKIDS collaboration.

Did you always know you wanted to be a performer?
I did from a certain age. When I moved to Australia when I was ten, from England, I met a bunch of people that were into performing, and then that whole side of me came out. I don’t know if I would’ve done anything like that if I didn’t move here because I wasn’t around it. But as soon as I discovered it that’s all I wanted to do. So from around like, the age of 10 or 11, that’s when I found it and couldn’t stop.

Where were you that you found people who were interested in performing?
Just at school. They always had talent quests and stuff like that, and I just loved it. I always struggled at school so being creative and performing was a real outlet for me.

When you moved from England to Australia, did you notice any difference in the kind of music that was played?
I honestly don’t know. I was too young to even care. I was a gymnast before I moved, so I wasn’t into music at all, other than my mum blaring Queen all the time.

Was Queen one of the artists that inspired you when you were growing up?
My mum’s obsessed with Queen, so is my brother, but I don’t know if it necessarily influenced me that much. Maybe, I don’t know. The people that really influenced me were Lykke Li and Feist and Fiona Apple, people who write really honestly. And then I realised that, you can do that, it doesn’t have to be a certain way, you can write about real things.

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
Yes [laughs]. It’s so bad! Just thinking about it, oh my God. I wrote it on Garageband, and I was like ‘what are all these noises!?’, and got so excited. I wrote it about having a shit day at school or something, and I was angry, and talking about fake people at school, that’s what it was about.

You’ve been acting for a while now, and from what I understand, singing’s always been there for you but you just started releasing it later, is that right?
I actually started singing first, and through that I found acting, and I just kind of kept singing to myself. I was writing songs just for fun as a hobby. Then I decided to take it a bit more seriously and actually do something with it.

What made you realise you wanted to pursue music?
I just loved it so much, and I thought, I get to do acting and I love that so much, maybe I could actually make a career out of something else I really love. I guess I felt I had a lot to say, and I finally felt more comfortable to actually do that.

Are your creative processes for acting and singing similar? Or do you go to different places to find that expression?
I think they’re pretty different. I mean I always draw from true emotions, but my acting, I’m pretending to be someone else. With my writing, I’m completely me, and I can’t hide behind anything, like a character. My music’s definitely more personal.

What was it like working on set alongside Emilia Clarke and director Philip Noyce on Above Suspicion?
It was surreal. It all happened so quickly. I got the role, and I had to be in Kentucky in the next week. I didn’t really have time to process it. I played Jack Houston’s wife, and he’s so lovely, and so talented. It was so great to watch how he did everything. He’s such a smart actor. And working with Emilia was great too, that was really weird because I love Game Of Thrones. She was really lovely. I mean everyone was so lovely. It just happened so quickly I’m still trying to process what actually happened [laughs]. I can’t wait to see it.

Going back to your music, how were you connected with TWINKIDS?
My manager just set up a meeting when I was in LA to write with them, but I was so nervous, because I’ve never done that before. I’ve always just done it myself and worked with the same producer that I feel comfortable with. So working with someone else was really scary for me. But as soon as I met them, they were just awesome, and so lovely, and we had the best time. We wrote the song within like, two sessions. I brought this beat and it was called “Mean” because when I wrote the beat I was really angry, and it seemed kind of mean. They worked their magic and I had some lyrics that I brought with me and it just flowed so well. I’m so happy with what we came up with.

So, it was really collaborative, it wasn’t like you were emailing each other tracks back and forth from the beginning?
Yeah. In the sessions that we did, we played around with the beats, I recorded the first verse in a couple of takes and we kept that recording. We didn’t really change the song from the second session, it was just more like the mastering that we were emailing back and forth. When we first did the song, we were like, ‘this is a weird song. I don’t really get it’. And then we stepped back from it for a couple of weeks, and then we came back to it, and we were like ‘oh my God, we love it!’. It’s kind of two different songs in one, when it changes in the chorus. But I think it really captures the emotion of what I’m saying.

What is “mean” about for you?
There was a time in my life when I didn’t want to be alone. I guess everyone goes through that. And I felt really lonely, but then I realised, surrounding yourself with the wrong people can be the loneliest thing in the world. And sometimes being on your own is better than being with the wrong people. I was writing it with that feeling in mind, and through that song I learnt that being on my own is less scary, and less upsetting than actually being around people that don’t understand you.

I think you capture that really nicely in the song.
Thanks! I hope so. I think everyone goes through that. I think it’s important to let people know you’re not the only one feeling like that.

Have you noticed any particular differences between the Australian music community and the international scene in terms of supporting emerging artists?
I’m still discovering overseas stuff, I still know what’s going on mostly in Australia. But from what I can tell, there’s such a big community for upcoming artists in Australia and they’re really supported and looked after. There’s so many avenues for people to – like Unearthed and everything – for people to start off. I think it’s really celebrated in Australia. I’m moving to LA in a couple of weeks, so it’s going to be interesting to see how, if I do some more writing there, how that goes.

Why did you decided to move to LA?
I never thought I’d move there because I used to hate it, but now I just have this love for it that I thought, I might as well enjoy it while I love it. But I’m definitely coming back.

Do you ever see yourself integrating your acting and music in one big project?
I would love that, that would be so cool. I’m gonna shoot a video clip for “Mean” so I’m hoping that will be really emotional, but of course I would love to do something where it’s my music and I can really express what I’m saying in the acting, that would be awesome.

MEAN artwork 2

How would you describe the tone of “Mean”?
Um, I’m really bad at describing things sonically because I just think of it emotionally. So I’m sure TWINKIDS could explain that better.

Not even in a technical way, how would you describe it emotionally?
Well the song is kind of dark, and it seems tense and angry. And then you become vulnerable and tell the truth that you don’t want to be alone. That’s kind of the flow of the song. It’s really atmospheric. When people ask me to describe my music, I don’t know, I can never do it! And I don’t know how to describe it because, I don’t really think of the sound, I just think of what I want to say, and a feeling.

So going into the studio you don’t have any sounds or artists in mind to draw from?
No, no. I just write whatever I like the sound of and whatever it makes me feel.

What are you looking forward to most for the year ahead?
I’m gonna start recording some more songs when I’m in L.A., I’ve got a bunch of songs that I’m excited to get out there eventually. And… what else am I doing? I’ve got “Mean” coming out on Friday! I’ve been working most of the year so I’m excited to move to LA and just settle, and just enjoy doing nothing for a little bit.

Are you looking at releasing another EP?
Yeah, totally. Maybe before the end of the year.