Interview: Sophia Danai talks love and other stuff
It’s a funny thing, love. A single emotion, in its many forms, has the power to both create happiness and cause destruction. At once, it can drive us, fulfill us, blind us, and have us at its mercy. Love’s all-encompassing nature is something Vancouver singer-songwriter Sophia Danai reflects on in her new album, Love Royale. On the recently released single, “Something To Nothing,” Danai musters up enough courage to walk away from an unhealthy relationship.
“It became quite a toxic relationship,” she admits, of the partnership that inspired the song. “It became quite codependent, it became quite controlling.” Through sincere lyrics and lush synths, Danai paints a portrait of a woman realizing that she, and only she, is in charge her life — it’s an empowered narrative that is carried throughout the record.
“When I left, I did feel like in the sense that I was starting from nothing,” she says. “But you’re never starting from nothing. There’s those people around you, your angels — those people that are really there for you in your life that come through…It made me feel powerful to write that song, in that moment. I was like, ‘you know what? I am going to be successful on my own. I am going to get there.’”
Finding her voice is something that Danai achieves creatively on Love Royale as a producer, as well. In the three years since her debut, Wishing Well, she’s made a dedicated effort to learn the technical ins and outs of record production in order to fully take the reins of her craft. She even enrolled in a course on how to create a demo, understanding how to get her ideas down to a point where she could explore her creativity in an entire soundscape, rather than just though melody and lyrics.
“It’s quite an intimate thing when you’re writing and recording and it’s nice to be able to do that on your own, if you feel like it,” she says. “Especially for this record, because I was talking about such personal things that were really raw still for me, so it was nice to be able to sit alone in my house and work through it and be able to record what I was writing and say what I wanted to say, without worrying about anybody or what anybody thought coming across.”
Danai’s soulful vocals donate a cinematic quality to dark, contemporary grooves on Love Royale — elements influenced by other strong female artists she was listening to at the time, like Lana Del Ray and FKA Twigs. One of her favourite moments during the recording process, however, came from her collaboration with fellow Vancouverite, hip-hop artist Matthew Brevner, on the track “Bitter.” “It was the very first one we did together, the very first time we had a session,” she says. “…We came together and we were both going through a separation of different kinds, and we were just on emotionally and we became friends super fast. We were just on the same page.”
Ultimately, the process of creating Love Royale has been a therapeutic one for Danai. Songwriting, she says, is like when you talk to somebody about your feelings and you allow yourself to acknowledge that emotion and, ultimately, release it. And even when it hurts, it all comes back to love — no matter how complicated that can be.
“We all want to be loved and we all want to love,” she maintains. “At the base of everything, we’re all human in that way, that’s one thing that is very common. And I think it can be one of the biggest factors in shaping who we are, who we grow into.”
When: April 1, 2016
Where: Biltmore Cabaret – 2755 Prince Edward Street
Tickets: $12 available online