Music Interview: Sophia Darcell

Sophia Darcell  – Fresh Morning Breeze

By: Mut Asheru

Sophia Darcell is that fresh morning breeze seeping through your window pane. Her sound is jazzy loveliness offered up on the altar of pure sound that appeases the sound gods with an unheard of swiftness. With a breathy sound from her blessed voice they are made grateful…and so are we. Sit back and enjoy meeting this soulful beauty.

Sophia claims to have an old soul “…and a lot of my influences extend way past my being a kid. I listen to folks like Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald.” Growing up Sophia listened to the likes of Soul II Soul, Sade, Santana, Gladys Knight, Buena Vista Social Club, etc. In truth, her tastes were and are very diverse which is why it is difficult to pin down her musical style.

Her latest release “Soul Eclectic” is fundamentally a Soul & R&B album but there’s also a lot of jazz and Caribbean influences in this body of work. This record is audibly different from her 2000 work of art “Love=Pain” and one can tell that Sophia is somewhere else now in terms of musical expression. Which leads to the question…What brought about the difference?

”’Well on ‘Love=Pain’ you get me in my very self-reflective depressive male bashing mode”, she says. “I didn’t have a lot of positive male role models for the first phase of my life, and a lot of my personal relationships weren’t good ones. I used to have some issues with love hence the title (Laughs). Now I’m in the third decade of my life. “Soul Eclectic” puts the latest version of myself into perspective for the public to see. A lot of the grooves on the current album are my stories but also the stories of other people I know. It’s more of a social commentary on love and life instead of the forlorn melancholic broken-hearted Sophia Darcell of the first CD.”

A solo artist for most of her career, Sophia finds herself in a different dynamic.

You were a solo artist for most of your career, and now you’re part of a band. I see you have four guys here that make up the band Sophia Darcell. What brought that about?

”When I did shows with the first album back in 2000, my band would change-up depending on what city we were in. I never really got to know the people I performed with, and I hated the constant shifting of musicians so I made a pact with myself that this time around it would be different”, offers Sophia.

A lone interview, the guys are missing from this session due to a busy schedule. They’re doing some shows in Puerto Rico until the “Soul Eclectic” tour starts up early in 07.

“Kenny is the bassist. That man can groove! He’s known here in Miami for being one of the best bassists in town. He’s like my rock. Kenny and I, we’re very serious but cut up a lot too. We’re both very blunt which can put some people off, but we understand each others’ ways. Marcelo and Eric are the guitarists, and they play off each other really well. Eric’s the youngest in the band and he’s really cool in a laid back surfer guy kind of way. Marcelo is more high-strung, like me. Last there’s Dave the drummer. Such a cool guy even though most of the time he speaks in French with Eric…When Dave does speak English it’s broken English, but somehow he always gets his point across. Dave locks down the groove and basically we all play off of each other live. The cool thing is at rehearsals we sound like a United Nations meeting or something because collectively we’re representing America, France, and Ecuador so you hear a lot of Spanish, French, and English. (Laughs) Yeah, but those are my guys. Always.”

A very diverse group. Sophia often finds people wondering where in the world she is from and what her ethnic background is.

Sophia explains, “I’m American. People think I’m from the caribbean. I’ve always gotten this “You must be from the islands” thing from folks. Don’t know why. Maybe because I dress like a hippie (Laughs). I guess also because they hear a lot of cultural influences on “Soul Eclectic”. I had a very international group of musicians and contributors working on the album. There’s a guy speaking Yoruba on the song “Drama King”. On “Ceyrah”, “7 Seas” and “Senor Alvarez” you definitely get that Latin Jazz vibe and on the rest of the album it’s pretty much Soul with heavy percussion, sax, flugel horn, etc. and I think most Soul music these days is more straight forward. That’s why we named the album “Soul Eclectic”. It’s Soul music but very mixed with other musical styles.”

So far, she has received good reviews. Some compare her to Sade. Does that bother her? After all, it could make it difficult for her to establish just who the band Sophia Darcell is.

” I don’t think so”, Sophia explains. “There are some Sade influences in our sound, but we’re more funky. On the uptempo songs I sing less in my chill vocal style and let loose. Just take a listen to “Someday Someone”. On that track I cut loose… Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Sade and if someone thinks I bring her to mind I have no problems with that. I still remember the day I saw the video for “Smooth Operator” and I was floored by how talented she is. I take the Sade comparisons as a compliment. Who wouldn’t?”

Some of your critics pour on the accolades on Sophia in favor, but a few have also deemed “Soul Eclectic” as not being commercial. What do she think of that? Is that good or bad for what she’s hoping to accomplish as an artist?

She says, “You know something I’ve always been different. I’m not surprised because those songs and music come from out of my spirit. I wrote all the songs, arranged the tracks on my Triton LE, and then hand-picked the folks who contributed to the album musically and therefore they contributed spiritually as well. Together it’s going to be something unique. I don’t want to be mainstream. I just want to be a damn good artist at personifying my art which is music.”

Sophia’s favorite track on the album?

“His Sweet Face” is a strong contender. It’s about a little boy who gets beat to death by his father. It’s depressive as hell but it’s real. The production is bare bones, sparse on that one, but I wanted to story to come through. It’s a true experience and it’s a story that needs to be told,” she explains.

’Ceyrah’ has some violent undertones to its lyrics as well, despite the laid back sexy groove behind what she’s singing. Does the lyrics on “Ceyrah” hold some relevance other than just being words to a song?

”That track is about a dope man’s lady, her life and her experiences. The narrative voice in the song is a good friend who probably understood Ceyrah and her motivations better than she did. I think for Ceyrah there was always this double-edge sword to that life. On one side there’s the benefits of money and power, and on the other, there’s the danger, the envy, the grime of it all…no matter how she tried to clean it up there was always a dual existence predominantly one of bad character. That’s why the hook goes “Ceyrah, whatcha’ doin? How you livin’ in this world of crime? All the money he brings, the big diamond ring, that you’re wearin’ bears the blood of a thousand lives,” says Sophia.

That’s graphic. You speak as if you know this person well. Is Ceyrah you?

She adds, “I’ve been asked that before. I’ll just say if it were me, I probably wouldn’t be here now cuz’ she gets shot during the bridge of the song.”

Being shot isn’t the same as being killed…right?

” This is true…You know what. I’ll just say there’s a lot of truth to that song too. I don’t sing about what I can’t relate to…so there you have it. I only write what I know. For the record, I’ve never been shot. Maybe shot at, but not shot (laughs).”

That just doesn’t seem likely. You’ve been shot at?

” Hah, please don’t let my babyface fool you. I’ve had a very interesting life to say the least. If anyone wants to know me, just listen to my songs. I only write what I know. A lot of people look at me and think I’ve had it easy all my life. (Laughs) Ri-iiiight. Like hell, but my motto is if it doesn’t kill you, it’ll only make you stronger. I’m okay with who I am, past, present, and future. That’s just self love and when the world really starts kicking your &^%, you’ve got two things to depend on your self and God. You can’t go wrong if you have that knowledge. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but people can disappoint. I’ve always found my love in music and God. Kind of hard to explain,” she adds.

Interesting point of view…”7 Seas” is my favorite. Such a sexy piece. What’s that song about?

”Sex,” Sophia laughs. “Nah really it’s about how love flows like the seas of the world, shaping those it comes into contact with. Have you ever noticed that the seas actually form the land masses? It’s in constant motion. Love is like that. It shapes us, makes us, good or bad.”

When does the “Soul Eclectic” tour start?

Sophia Darcell will be opening up with a show in NYC at The Lion’s Den in March early next year. Having just finished up a pre-tour before the CD came out, they find they need a little break to just recharge…body and soul. After the Lion’s Den show, they’ll be all over the place, Atlanta, Philly, Miami, etc…There are plans for a mini-UK tour too. The band has got a lot of love from the UK so they will be touring there around the summer.

Words for the fans and supporters flow from Sophia.

” I just want to thank them. I have love for them. Taking a piece of yourself and putting it into song isn’t easy, but when I hear back from people all over the world saying they feel the grooves, it’s just so worth it. I take that with me each time I sing. The fans make this everything it is. The band and I, we’re just so touched by the support we’re getting, and that’s real,” she concludes.

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