Sophie Barker

Coming soon on DeepDownDirty is the first single from the highly anticipated remix album ‘Neon Lines’ by Sophie Barker. Chanteuse for Groove Armada, Zero 7, David Guetta and more, her silky vocals have been used by a cross section of artists here to recreate magical moments in her career. First up is ‘I Do It To Myself’ reimagined by South coast duo Paul Sawyer and Simon Sinfield due for release July 9th through Traxsource.

Released first on Disco Gecko Recordings in 2017 from Barkers’ third solo long player – ‘Break The Habit’, her vocal conveys a strong confident strut and is a huge step forward from the fragile self reflection of previous work. Sawyer (whose had much success in 2018 with a series of high profile releases) and Sinfield take the originals pop sensibilities to heart in their considered remix. Upbeat and fully focused on the gorgeous, thought-provoking lyrics, the Krafted guys have made an astounding mix.

We sat down with Sophie, the remix pair and Maya Stone, label head and driving force of the whole album project, to discuss dance music, remixes and a whole lot more.

Hello all, thanks for finding the time to chat. Maya, let’s start with you. Talk us through the idea for the project. How do you know Sophie and what is it about her that inspired the album?

I have to confess, it was my friend and former YouTube Manager – before he got bored of uploading videos on a verrry slow connection – Luke Silvan who contacted Sophie at first. I’m pretty bad at approaching people in the upper echelons of the dance music industry and am often dumb-struck with embarrassment (as Phil Hartnoll will probably be able to testify!) So Luke reached out to Sophie and then put her in touch with me by email.

I remember I’d heard a remix by Bennun & Healey of ‘Let’s Start Again’ which I loved (as this album has previously been remixed) and then I checked out the other remixes, and the original tracks and fell in love with Sophie’s beautiful voice. After a flurry of emails between Sophie and I, we started to embark on this project together. She came round for soup and quite literally to break bread with me at our humble abode in Surrey – nothing beats face-to-face contact in my opinion. I have to say that working with Sophie has very much been a partnership which I love: she has been involved at every stage and genuinely enjoys being so.

Were there any tracks you were unable to get permissions for that you’d have loved to have featured?

No, we were very lucky.  Disco Gecko Recordings, the original record label, was fabulous and granted us access to remix all the tracks on the original release which was called Break The Habit. The previous remix album was called LSA.
So how many of the singles are you planning to release before the album drops?

Oh I think we’re only releasing one: the remix by Paul Sawyer and Simon Sinfield.  It was Sophie’s excellent suggestion actually and I agree very much that it’s a beautiful summer release!  The rest of the remixes will be out 1 November 2019.

Sophie, let’s take a moment to reflect on your glittering career. As a teenager, guitar in hand and already performing all over the country, was there anything else you’d have ever wanted to do?

I was very interested in becoming an Art Historian as well as painter, however, the music was so strong that whenever I was drawn towards another path it literally wouldn’t let me go, so there was no escaping the music!

Hooking up with Zero 7 was a huge seachange in your career. How did you meet the band and what was it like working with them having been solo before?

After my first deal with Sony at 25 that came to a rapid halt due to artistic differences,  I quickly put a band together and held my first gig at The Tabernacle in Notting Hill Gate and that is where I first met Sam and Henry. However, it wasn’t until nearly 2 years later that we were re-introduced randomly by a publisher. I went to meet them in their studio and was pleasantly surprised that it was the  same two guys I had met those years before.

They already had this produced track that they wanted me to write on. I took it home and as I played the track the chorus melody and words literally came out but I just couldn’t connect with the verse. They were also working with Sia and somehow between them they wrote the verse and a little bit of magic happened as that’s how we co-wrote ‘Destiny’. It was an extraordinary time in my life working with Zero 7 and the rest of the band.  A true collaboration of connected creatives. I was very lucky to have been part of that.

During that fruitful mid-00s time, downtempo music had something of a boon. Indeed, your first solo album was released in 2005, capitalised on your fame. These days, much has changed in the industry, so what’s your take on how the industry has developed over the last 20 years?

A lot has changed in the past 20 years in terms of how music is heard, and I think gradually the industry is having to really listen more to the artists otherwise they won’t have an industry.

Streaming services also depend on the music, so even though it’s been a shaky start with regards to the value placed on the artists work, I feel that with developments in technology hopefully will open up more opportunities for the artists and allow us to be properly supported for the work we do. I think artists are beginning to feel a bit more valued, as what they contribute is a profound service of which, up and until now, the industry has had an unfair material advantage.

This has forced many of us to become much more autonomous and take more control over our business rather than give it away at such a cost. It does mean that realistically you may not receive huge advances, but you can be wise and make sure that you get better percentages in your contracts.

There is hope in having a much more balanced relationship between the artist and the music industry, and as far as streaming is concerned there’s a way to go in terms of equalising pay for artists and the amount of streams, however, every penny counts and if we can get the consumers to support what we do by contributing towards the music they listen to, this will add up in the end.

No doubt with much of your body of work, you’ve heard remixes. How do you feel when you hear them? Are there ever times you’ve contacted the remixer if they did a really good job?

I love hearing remixes of tunes that I have been a part of as it is another perspective.

So, the more avenues that my music travels down the better. Remixes reach multiple audiences and that’s also why streaming is so vital as it allows anyone wherever they are in the world to tune into whatever resonates. I’m eternally grateful to anyone who has been a part of this musical journey with me and long may that continue.

Let’s bring in Paul and Simon. Remixes… they have a rich history in dance music, but what constitutes a remix to you?

Simon – For me, I always prefer a remix to completely change the direction of the original composition. I love where that journey takes you in the studio. Sometimes you begin by aiming to create something for your sets or directed to a particular label request, but of course, creativity can take over and you end up in a different place entirely.

Paul – I really like remixes that open up doors to different genres and may not be anything like the original. It’s good to hear interpretations of tracks that are of the same genre, but when you start with something that isn’t your normal genre of music, it gives you the opportunity to really play with it.

The original version of ‘I Do It To Myself’ is quite poppy. When you go about designing the sound of your remix, how much of a consideration to you give that?

Simon – We felt that the remix needed to have an element of ‘pop’ within it. Neither of us wanted to go too deep. We wanted Sophie to stand front and centre, and to show off what is a great song.

Paul – Exactly that. We could have stripped the vocal back and made this more dubby, but both of us really liked Sophie’s voice and wanted our music to compliment the vocals. It was important to create a remix that represents our music when Si and I work together.

Talk us through how the remix came together. Obviously, the vocal was paramount…

Simon – Absolutely! When I am commissioned to remix a vocal track I tend to ignore everything but the vocal. In this case, Sophie’s vocal line is so striking we only used just a lead vocal line, without harmonies, fills or backing.

Paul – It was always about the vocal but funny enough, we battled with this one at first deciding which path to take it. Once we found the sounds that we thought were a good fit, it flowed. In fact, we pretty much put this together in a day, which is bloody good going when starting from scratch and only using the vocal lead.

So, the track drops in July. But what else have you guys in store for 2019?

Simon – I’m just wrapping up production duties on the fourth Krafted Chill album. I’m also completing a remix (as alias The Cloudshapers) on the 80s hit record ‘Hit n Run Lover’ by Carol Jiani which will be released on Krafted later this year. I’ve also got a new progressive house track called Impega due on ICONYC Noir for the Summer.

Paul – Gosh, there’s been a lot of projects that I’ve been working on this year already. I’ve just finished a remix for Solarstone of his track ‘I Want You Here’ that will see the light of day later this year on his label; I have two EP’s scheduled with Perfecto Black, the first coming out late June; a remix for ICONYC of a track called Drift Away by Damien Spencer that is another vocal track and also a remix of a track that means a huge amount to me from my early years of DJing. I can’t really announce it yet as contracts haven’t been signed, but it is something that I am SO excited about!!!

The Paul Sawyer & Simon Sinfield Remix of ‘I Do It To Myself’ by Sophie Barker, out on DeepDownDirty on 9th July 2019 (Traxsource exclusive)

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Sophie Barker

Paul Sawyer

Simon Sinfield