No Second Guessing, Only Second Chances:
After my last independently released album, Dogs and Men, I was eager to get back into the studio. I had been writing a lot and I was eager to flex my muscles with a new producer. The idea was to make the album really fast. I was on board with the concept. I looked back on all my times in the studio and all the hours I spent toiling away on production, and I thought, maybe this is the right approach. Go in and get out. No second guessing. There was a purity to the idea that I appreciated. We recorded twelve songs in a little over a week. When I was able to take a step back and digest what we had done, I realized I didn’t like it. The more I sat with my songs, the more I started to panic. I thought my writing was weak, the production was not the direction I wanted to go in, and it felt like a betrayal of who I was. It was no one’s fault, but my own. I relinquished too much control and I didn’t come in with a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I felt like I had no option, but to stop production.
My decision to stop the recording process was not an easy one, but I knew it was the right one for me. I needed to go back to writing. Figuring out what I didn’t want paved a clearer path for me to discover what I did want. I wrote and I wrote, until I felt I had enough strong material, to start again. After listening to Nicole Atkins’, Slow Phaser, on repeat I decided to give my friend a call. She enthusiastically recommended, Tore Johansson, the producer of Slow Phaser and put us in touch. The process with Tore began over email. Tore is based in Sweden and I am based in New York. I sent him three demos that I recorded in my apartment and he sent me back production ideas. Immediately, I heard the sweeping drama of his arrangements and the bold sound he imagined for the album. I thought to myself, “I’ve met the man, and he lives in Sweden, land of all pop.”
We decided that I would come to the countryside, outside of Malmo, in Sweden and record the album in Tore’s home studio. Together with musicians, Tore’s friend Jan, who I affectionately call the jolly farmer, (he is not a farmer) we became a little musical family. We cooked, drank boxed wine, and recorded the album day and night. It was an unforgettable experience. I learned how to be relaxed while recording, to play and let it go. I think I have only truly been able to do this while recording at home or while I am performing in front of an audience. It was the first time I took total ownership over myself as a woman and a musician. I credit a lot of this to Tore, who guided me with a strong yet gentle hand. But, if I hadn’t stopped and started the initial project, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make Next Time.
~photo by Ellinor Stigel
The album is about stumbling and dusting yourself off, but it is also about the archetypes of men and women depicted in the culture. I used my personal experiences to take the conceit further and imagined scenarios that provocatively played with well-known clichés in our social institutions. The songs are sometimes tongue-in-cheek and sometimes dark, but there is also joy and hope for the future on the record. For me, making art of any kind, is about being honest with yourself. I had to let go of a lot of insecurities to make this record and write these songs. I had to trust myself and “embrace my weird”. It’s not easy to do, and I am still learning everyday, but I feel that I am now unapologetically myself. If I hadn’t fallen on my face and had to start again, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this essay for you today. This record is my Next Time. It is a second chance.
~ Sophie Auster
Watch the video for “Dance With Me” above from Auster’s new record, Next Time, to be released April 12th.
Pre-Order Next Time here: http://smarturl.it/SophieAusterNextTime
Catch Sophie Auster on tour starting April 26th. For more information and tickets visit: SophieAuster.com