BAF Artist Spotlight - Interview with Sonia Indigo Clarke
WE SAT DOWN WITH ARTIST SONIA INDIGO TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HER JOURNEY AS AN ARTIST AND HER RECENT MOVE TO ITALY.
How/What started your interest in music?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt deeply moved by music. It has always punctuated memories and events in my life, it’s been the ‘source’ I go to for comfort, when I need to celebrate, when I need to affirm myself…practically every aspect of my life has music flowing through it.
When and why did you start playing/singing?
We had a piano and I started attending formal piano lessons with my cousins at 7 years old.
Which instruments do you play? What was your first instrument. Other instruments (in order)?
My first instruments were actually trombone and Steelpan, both at primary school. I became frustrated with steel pan because I wanted to be on the soprano pans, playing the melody(reserved for the more experienced players). I loved the trombone and was starting to get the correct ‘embouchere when I was stopped from playing it - reasons; it was too heavy for me to carry and I would end up with cheeks like louis Armstrong!!
What was the first tune(s) you learned/played/performed?
Alongside classical pieces for exams I made up a lot of songs. I still remember Fur Elise, my Grade 3 exam piece.
Is your family musical? If yes, who in your family is your biggest inspiration?
My dad is an avid music lover, his record collection was a source of fascination and inspiration and I spent hours in the ‘front room’ discovering new artists and sounds. I always wondered how he got to amass such an eclectic mix – Baha’I orchestra to Elton John, Tchaikovsky and U-Roy.
Who was your first music teacher? Other teachers?
Mrs Barker, a quiet old lady. I was a bit naughty and would get up to all sorts in her back room when it was my uncle and aunt’s turn to have their lessons. Mrs Locke as my next and favourite teacher, we really connected and she saw a lot of potential in me. She sussed our that I had a good ear and stopped accommodating my requests for her to play my pieces before I attempted them in order to get me to sight read. When she started teaching at Oldham Lyceum I moved there. The last teacher I had was a bad tempered Canadian, Mr Phillips. He shouted a lot but I passed all my theory and practical exams with honours.
Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
Stevie Wonder has to be the one. I don’t think his contribution to music needs any explanation!
What did you learn from these famous musicians? How has this influenced you/your singing/playing?
Music is like painting,
Are there other producers, songwriters and/or artists that you see as your main inspiration?
Jill Scott, Joni Mitchell, Lamont dozier - brilliant writers
Has your musical taste changed over the years or have your favourite genres of music stayed the same? Is there a genre you can't stand/don’t listen to?
Music where the vocals are mainly screaming does nothing for me. I find that type of music disturbing. My tastes have always been open and remain so.
What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your city or journey?
I was telling someone about this the other day. Status quo, ELO and Fleetwood Mac our the family travel music.
Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?
Too many to mention but here’s a few; I went through an intense reggae phase in the late 1980’s and used to carry my master blaster pumping out Maxi Priest (strolling on was a particular favourite). I had taping off the radio and splicing down to a fine art.
Who are your favourite musicians? Groups? CD’s?
At the moment I’m loving Emily King and Ryuchi Sachimoto for film music
What unexpected/embarrassing songs might I find on your MP3 player?
Too shy Kagagoogoo
How/When did you become interested in composition/songwriting?
The same age I was acquainted with the piano. Original songs abounded about every topic, there is one about a trip to the bathroom which my brother and I fondly remember!
Have you entered/won any competitions with your compositions?
New York film Festival. My song ‘Blown Away’ was used in the film, DayOne and won best tracktrack. It was also nominated at the MVISA Awards.
What comes first when you’re composing? A theme/melody/rhythm/words? Does it come easily or do you have to go to a special place physically/in your mind?
It’s so random
You do a lot of public performances - how is that for you? Do you (still) get nervous before a performance? Is it different for singing/playing piano?
I can get anxious but I don’t let it overtake me. The opportunity to share my music is too precious, I try not to waste it on worrying about the performance/audience. That said, in the early day I remember wishing I could break a limb to avoid going on stage (Professional Footballers Awards).
What advice would you give to musicians who are nervous/just starting out?
How often and for how long do you practice?
Do you teach music? Do you enjoy that as much as performing/writing?
I really enjoy seeing students bring a piece of music to life, particularly when they think they can’t. Teaching is a really precious part of my role as a musician.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your life/music?
My children. I love the fact that they have found their own very personal connections to music.
What’s your favourite song/piece of music? Your favourite composition?
There are honestly too many to pick a favourite
Is there an artist you want to work with that you have not yet had the opportunity to work with?
Ryuchi Sachimoto - I’m moving more into composing for film. I love his sensitivity.
What is your favourite thing about working in music? Your least favourite? Why?
Most: meeting hugely talented people,all with different gifts and enjoying them all.
Least: People thinking this is just a hobby and having to justify why I should get paid
Which and where is your favourite performance venue/space? Why?
Symphony hall was particular favourite
If you weren't in music, what would you be doing?
Art and/or teaching
What do you like to do for fun outside of working on music?
I love discovering new places whether that be a new eatery, town or country. There is also never a dull moment being around my children, I find them fun and inspiring
The music circle in Birmingham is pretty special and you’ve been a strong component of that for some years. Why the move to Italy?
Whatever space I’m in, music will come and I’ll go looking for people to add to it. The universe has always provided the right people.
What (if anything!) will you miss about Birmingham/the musicianship here?
Have some longstanding musical relationships which I don’t take for granted. Perhaps, we won’t play as often, but I’ll be dipping in and out and they will continue.
What thought/message do you want to leave with artists/musicians here in Birmingham, the UK?
Be adventurous and explorative, let art feed your soul, collaborate and support each other, don’t stop!