This year the singer from Wolverhampton released her third EP, Out With The Old, and its title signalled a new direction for her. It proved popular, hitting the top 10 R&B charts on iTunes. That one took her two years to write, and came three years after her previous release. This time, she wants a full album, and quickly.
“It was all very much a surprise seeing it in the charts as it’s really not something you’re expecting coming from where I do,” she admits. “I always thought you had to be signed or have management to achieve things like that but it just goes to show that if you work hard you will see results.
“All the money for studio, distribution and getting hard copies of the CD printed came out of my own pocket so it was great achieving such incredible things because of me, nobody can take it away from me.
“The gap between my last CD – Spiritual – and Out With The Old was three years. I’ve given people a flavour of the more mature and grown up Sophielou, so I owe it to the supporters to stay on top of providing them with new music. I’ve already been writing so it is in the works. I won’t rush it but I definitely won’t take three years to complete it.”
Sophielou, 25, is also working on her singles, given their importance in the modern musical world.
Upcoming release track Bright Lights was produced by Wolves’ own CRT, and videographer Read The Title, also from the city, helped her with filming.
She points to Jojo, Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey, Usher and Chris Brown as vocal inspirations while she grew up on the Long Knowle Estate in Wednesfield – ‘by far the best years of my life, I’m still friends with all the people from the area and most definitely the place I’ll always call home’, she says.
Adding to that her love of Drake, Jhene Aiko, PartyNextDoor, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd and her style becomes varied. “I wouldn’t say I sound like any of them at all, they gave me the inspiration for the more love-based concepts when it came to writing. A lot of people have referred to me as ‘the female Drake’, which is a huge compliment. I wouldn’t say I sound like him but I’m highly influenced by his flows and lyrical content.
“Another artist I’d love to say I’m similar to is a Columbian artist Jhene Aiko. Again I don’t sound like her but I take a similar approach when it comes to writing. I believe in deep, passionate, honest lyrics with no boundaries.”
OWTO veered towards the softer side of R&B. Sophielou’s hushed, almost understated vocals drift over the beats inviting you to heed her thoughts, feelings and desires rather than forcing them on you.
But the relaxed approach to singing masks a much busier and active mind behind the voice. As well as the musical side, Sophielou does her own promotions and even co-runs a clothing label – also called Out With The old – alongside designer Sian Price.
“We’re always looking for people to join the team,” she says, “whether they’re making a purchase, promoting or modelling some of the clothing. Starting my own clothing line is something I’ve always wanted to do, I just didn’t know where to begin. Taking inspiration from bigger artists and using their slogans or CD names as a clothing line gave me the idea to tie in the EP with a clothing range.
“I feel that Out With The Old is something that will never die out, it’s a phrase that people can always relate to. The brand is slowly transforming into more of an empire and I hope to eventually start a label under the name OWTO and bring other artists on board. All in good time though, one step at a time.”
And there is also the live stuff. Sophielou continues her musical journey later this month at Birmingham’s Hare & Hounds on July 24, starting at 9pm.
“This will be a 45-minute showcase of Out With The Old live, including a live band, visuals, plus more exciting features,” she adds. “It will be a real chance for supporters new and old to see what I’ve been up to for the past few months and how everything over the years has come together.”
But before then comes something aimed at helping more than just her career. Next Saturday, July 15, in her hometown’s Newhampton Arts Centre, Sophielou is holding a live music and fashion event called Amplify which plans to help out good causes as well as enable independent traders to promote themselves.
It runs from noon to 4pm at the venue on Dunkley Street and proceeds will go towards women’s refuge The Haven.
“Anyone that enjoys or has art, businesses, clothing lines, products etc, are encouraged to come,” she says.
And she’s been studying too – a course with links to some famous names. “I’m in my final month on a popular music performance course which I attended at Birmingham City University in conjunction with Access to Music,” she says. “It’s the same place Ed Sheeran and Rita Ora went in London.”
A similar career path would do nicely.
l For more on SophieLou, follow @SophielouLife on Twitter, visit www.facebook.com/SophielouMusic/ on Facebook or search for her name on Spotify to listen to OWTO.