Your new album is titled Scattered on the Wind – how important is the natural environment to you as a source of inspiration?
I value time alone. Being out amongst the natural elements is really healthy for your headspace. I particularly love the ocean and I make it part of my daily routine to swim. It’s very medicinal. It gives me clarity and I also find it keeps me focused and grounded which always helps when you’re being creative.
Sophie Hutchings. Photo © Luke Dubbelde
Who have been your most important musical or artistic influences?
This is always a hard one for me to answer because as other composers might relate, writing for me is always a very visceral process. I’m very unaware of what I’m doing when I’m writing. There’s a certain part of me that disengages and ventures deep into that subliminal state. So as a whole I think it’s what I’m reading, watching, listening and experiencing that has an overall effect on my psyche and comes out pretty organically in my writing process. Like I might stumble across a really powerful line in a book or it might be some sort of experience whilst travelling abroad, be it gazing out onto a vast terrain from a train in India or I remember, for example, being at the Gustav Klimt exhibition in Paris. The immersive visual element married with the soundtrack really affected me. The Humming chorus of Madam Butterfly in particular had me frozen in time. Occasions like these stir up something within.
Musically, I’m a huge Arvo Pärt fan. I’ve listened to him a lot over the years and composers like Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, Arve Henriksen etc. My music taste is very broad. I listen to so much, from Afro Jazz, Ambient Electronica, and Dance. I really enjoy delving into old-world-type classical, Persian, Indian Raga, too. There’s a beautiful eeriness, tonally. I think even though my music isn’t the same there are elements that I think have infiltrated into my own.
The music on this album is particularly intimate, almost private, drawing the listener in. Do you imagine an audience when you record?
I think because it does come from such a private, more internal, part of me, I’m never really picturing anything. It’s more a meditative space that is a pretty personal experience, however the documenting and recording process becomes a personal place for the listener to then enter and I guess the beauty of live performance is that it brings those two elements together…
For this album you worked with sopranos Sandra Liu and Josephine Stark and Lee Hutchings on flutes, what do you feel they brought to the sound world?
I really like that otherworldly kind of element the flute and vocal layers add. It’s very ethereal and brings another imaginative dreamy aspect to it.
How are you staying sane – and creative – during the COVID-19 pandemic?
My daily routine hasn’t changed all that much, apart from studios shutting down and just the overall environment and mood has changed which has an effect on everyone, I think. Staying positive throughout this time is very important as it’s had a really big impact on artists. I’m supposed to be on tour in Europe in a few week’s time and I guess with a lot of uncertainty in the air taking each day as it comes helps me stay focused. Visiting the ocean everyday keeps my sanity levels regulated! I also really love cooking, so that’s a little outlet between taking care of the more administrative side of my work and then when I have time I’m enjoying playing piano with a glass of wine late in the evening.
What’s next for you?
Well, if everything goes to plan, I’ll hopefully be returning to Europe in October seeing as my May Europe plans were cancelled, and possibly a solo piano companion to Scattered on the Wind.
Sophie Hutchings’ Scattered on the Wind is out now on Mercury KX