SOFIA DRAGT is a singer, composer and producer from the Netherlands who’s music came into my world totally by accident. Last week she conquered the Indie TOP 39 as her single “Lighter” reached the top spot while another song “Stand Down” was at number two. Maybe it was meant to happen after all?
On the 23rd of February, you have released EP “Andras” that includes four amazing songs. What are the stories behind each song?
I can do it all alone
I don’t need no other half
Just have the urge to get me moving
To a better way to fall
“Lighter” is about being unsure if you’re making the right decisions because there are so many to options to from. Sometimes I’m feeling lighter when I’m on my own and doing my things and just worrying about myself.
The character in “Lighter” video is taking a journey and burning the past. If you could have one superpower what would it be?
Great you ask, cause I’m a fan of the character Storm from X-Men. I’d love to control the weather with my mind!
There are times when I have a fear of losing people I love. “Still Here” is about that feeling, telling myself they are still here. The only thing that helps me to get mind at ease, is being outside in nature and feeling the wind. But at the same time maybe I am trying to prepare myself for when it does happen.
I’m a fan of Marvel and stories about people with special powers. “We Are Just Strangers” tells a story about someone with the power and not knowing how many others like them there are. Also not knowing when the world might end because of those who use their powers the wrong way. So the big dilemma is having to decide if one should lay low, so nobody knows you’re one of them, or fight so you’ll know what you’re worth.
But I don’t like to be too specific about this, cause it’s also metaphoric for the way people are. If someone is different, we treat them differently. And if that’s not handled positively, it might lead to fear and hate and can be dangerous.
For “Build A Home” I had the movie “Interstellar” in mind. I was writing it as if I’m the father in the story. I wrote the song together with my guitarist Sander Huting, that’s the reason why instead of piano, the guitar is the main core of the song.
How did you decide to turn your EP into a short movie?
The EP ‘’Andras’’ is like a ‘branch’ to my album “Still Here’’ that was released in November last year. For years I had the idea to link my songs to a tetralogy of film, and now I finally did it. When I recorded all the songs on my album I chose the best fitting four songs and asked filmmaker Jonathan Smit to help me out.
Music to me is opening worlds and minds that you can’t otherwise open
It seems that for you, music and image walk hand in hand. How did you start writing music for movies?
Just before the graduation from the conservatory, I did a final concert playing music with my band. For the performance, I wanted to have a video of nature in the background. I saw a nature filmmaker Ruben Smit on TV who started making an amazing film about Dutch nature and I thought to send him a message. I emailed him my story and plans and also included a song. It didn’t take long for him to reply. He was very enthusiastic about my music and wanted to meet so I could get some of his footage for my concert.
At the same time, he wanted me to write music for a trailer he was working on. I am working with him ever since for some of his projects and I love it. I learned that I love making music for movies because of its powerful combination of music and image. Now I’m trying to expand my network and it would be amazing to do more of this.
What is the most important thing while creating music?
Finding the right sound for instruments is very important for a good inspirational flow. Writing music for someone else is different than writing for me. Love it both, but I guess it’s a different angle of writing. Inspiration plays a big part of it and another part is just working and finishing it.
How does your creative process look like? How do your songs come to life? Would you say it’s a magical process or hard work?
They say you write the best songs when you’re feeling miserable as there’s more inspiration at that time. But I see it also as a craft. So even when you’re happy you have to be able to write. You just have to be more creative.
I could compare it to acting in a movie – being a character and trying to feel how the character would feel. I have a song called “Under The Stone”, it is an ode to veterans of the WWII in the area where I grew up (Wageningen).I’m very intrigued by that time and tried to imagine how it must have felt being a soldier in that period. It’s a mixture of feelings.
Did you ever experience a situation when the inspiration took over, and you couldn’t even remember what you were doing until the song was finished?
I think I’m always there, consciously. But I had that with a song “I See You” from my first album. It just came spiralling out, and before I knew it, it was done. It is still one of my favourite songs to play live and I named the album after that song.
You recently joined creative forces with Evert Z to form LUMINAR. How is it going to be different from your solo music?
Writing with others is different than writing alone. I like having a side project; it helps me stay focused and creative. And that’s also a good thing for my solo music. Writing with Evert is inspirational because he’s a sound king when it comes to guitar and programming sounds. We never really had trouble writing and because of great sounds, it inspires me right away. I guess the difference is that lyrically it’s personal but always from a certain point of view. Landscaping a certain world or vibe that fits LUMINAR. For my solo music it can be both, but because I write on my own, I make other choices lyric and harmony wise.
The Netherlands is famous for creating reality shows. What is your opinion on music shows that produce so-called “stars”?
Well, that’s a good question. I participated in a TV show called “The best singer-songwriter of The Netherlands” back in 2013, and I managed to get to the TOP 9 candidates which I was happy about because I auditioned with my own song “Till It’s Over”. They appreciated my music, and that was great! Still, it’s TV, so they need more than just your music. They are looking for a story, and I could have given that to them, being more emotional and insecure which is interesting for television, but I wanted it to be all about the music. However, I don’t regret it because I gained a fan base and it got my music into the world.
Later I won a national music competition “De grote prijs van Nederland”. I was grateful for that! I loved the fact that it wasn’t on TV as the focus was purely on music. But now, looking at other competitions on TV, especially singing competitions, I wouldn’t choose to participate. I feel it’s not about music but more about money and ratings.
Who are your roles models in music?
Looking at the years when I started writing, I listen to Regina Spektor a lot and love her music. Jeff Buckley’s music gave me a lot of inspiration. Now I listen to Bon Iver, Patrick Watson, The Tallest Man On Earth, Agnes Obel, Sigur Rós and also my favourite film composer Alexandre Desplat. I also admire Ólafur Arnalds’ music. He does different projects as well, but it’s always that Ólafur Arnalds sound which you can recognise, it’s so cinematic.
Coldplay’s music has been an inspiration for years. I like their first couple of albums, but ‘Ghost Stories’, oh man, just love it. Sound & lyric wise it’s great songwriting. It’s not too heavy but still moves me.
Do you have a song that when you hear it, you’d be “Damn, I wish I’d written that”?
No matter how often I listen to “O” by Coldplay, it moves me all the time.
When did you realise that music is what you want to do?
In high school, music was always my primary focus, and I participated in open mic’s and music projects during that time and wrote my first song when I was twelve. While studying piano, I tried to follow the assignments that I needed to do for the lessons but I always made something new of it. I loved creating new stuff. After high school, I travelled with an international group called “Up With People”. We combined travelling through the US, Mexico and Thailand with a music show and community service. It was a great experience and after that, I started studying music.
What role does nature play in your life?
Nature is essential to me, and I can recharge myself in nature. I live in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and we have beautiful nature but the country is so small, and there’s a lot of housing. We don’t have wild nature, and most places are monitored. Though I still enjoy our nature I long for the mountains cause it’s flat over here. The only mountains we have are made of garbage with grass on top of it.
That’s why I love going abroad. I’m in love with Norway because of their beautiful nature! And because travelling in beautiful nature is good for the mind.
While travelling alone I learned that I can count on myself! I am the one who is making a decision and trust myself that the choices I make are the right ones at that time
What are the most important things that independent artists should do to become successful?
I think you should think of your own opinion first. So don’t try to make music because you think someone else would like it. I once made a song with the intention to make it ‘radio suitable’. The production was very different from what I would’ve done if I only thought of ‘what would I want it to sound like’. That song didn’t make it to the radio even once. The lesson learned – the song didn’t fulfil the purpose and you’re not 100% satisfied with the result.
That’s when I decided to make the songs I love. If someone else loves it, that’s perfect! But if not, it’s ok, I will always love it.
That have said, a lot of songs in the charts right now are written precisely for that purpose, so maybe it doesn’t go for everything. But as an independent artist, I want to stick with that, for my music.
What role does social media play in your world as an independent artist?
It’s crucial because it is the only way to show who you are as an artist. It can be frustrating at times because we depend on it, and sometimes it’s hard to know what is the best way to use it. Because of social media, we can do a lot ourselves, and that gives a feeling of freedom.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Trust in your own opinion. Everyone else has flaws. But you’ll find that out in time
How would you define success in the music business?
To have the freedom to do all the things you love and manage to live from that.
What can we expect from you in 2018?
I’m planning to play “Andras” show in small movie theatres in the Netherlands and hopefully Film Festivals. I will make music for a new Ruben Smit film about the Northern Islands of the Netherlands which I’m really looking forward to. Very soon LUMINAR will be releasing an EP. I will continue writing & co-writingsongs and singing with other musicians. So a lot of awesome things are coming in 2018!