YMX was pleased to sit down with Serena Sophia. The new artist, hailing from Glasgow, recently released her debut single ‘Diary Of Thoughts’ which is only the first of many tracks to come. While she was stuck on a cruise ship for eight months, she focussed all her energy on creating new music and taking that big leap of faith by starting with the release of her first single at the end of last year. The multi-insturmentalist spoke to YMX about her various influences, the meaning behind ‘Diary Of Thoughts’ and what else she has in store for this year.
YMX: Hey Serena Sophia, thanks for talking to us. How have these gloomy times been treating you?
Serena: Hello! In all honesty, as much as this pandemic has been awful and so heartbreaking in many ways, I have actually been more productive than I have in my whole life! I was also stuck on the cruise ship I was working on for 80 days from March-June of last year so that broke it all up a bit and I definitely did not experience the first lockdown like everyone! When I was stuck on the ship I started writing so much music, making demos, sending them to my producer Eric and finding what sound was really for me. I then suddenly had all these demos I had no idea what to do with and finally thought to myself – it is time to get my music out there! I am so used to working away, I actually have a musical theatre agent and do jobs working in that realm so being home this amount of time is very weird for me, but like I said it has given me the push I needed to do my music which has been amazing.
YMX: How did you decide music was something you wanted to pursue? Are there any particular episodes that inspired you in doing so?
Serena: I have honestly always been involved in music in one way or another. I can’t honestly remember a time when I wasn’t doing something creative in all honesty. I started dancing at the age of 7 and then from there my dancing turned into a theatre school and then I found out I could sing. My first live performance was of Beauty and the Beast at age 9 and I almost fainted through fear but the more I done it I quickly realised this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life. As I got older I was more focused on the musical theatre side of things but then I started to play the saxophone and piano and then I got a guitar for my 13th birthday and started writing lyrics and I mean HUNDREDS of them. I found a book the other night from 2009 and I was actually pretty impressed – some of them I legit might use! aha! I had even drew album covers and what I was going to wear and the title and ideas for videos. CRAZY!! Back to the story, so then when I left school I was determined I was going to do music so I studied a music degree and then as part of my music degree I moved to New York at 21. This was genuinely the most insane, exciting, scary experience of my life. I loved it and I learned so much and then from there I went onto study a masters in musical theatre at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and then landed my musical theatre agent Debbie – who btw is the absolute best. Lots of love to Debbie!! <3 Whilst I was working a job in Ibiza I began to just feel this urge to write so much music, this was when I really discovered what my sound was going to be. I would sit up until 3/4am writing demo’s and trying to sing quietly to not wake anyone up and I feel like it was then that something finally clicked and I was like this stuff is pretty good and I knew from there I had to do something with it. Then in 2020 I took the leap of faith! and….I DID IT!!
YMX: Here’s a fun game: name 3 artists, or bands, that inspire you and influence your work, and explain why:
Serena: Jorja Smith- her soul, her passion, the rawness of her voice, how chilled her songs are yet so deep and emotional and also meaningful. I also love that her sound isn’t too crazy or complex and you know exactly who she is as soon as you turn the song on. Pink Floyd- I am mainly mentioning them because (And I KNOW this will cause controversy but Im going to say it anyways) I think Dark Side of the Moon is the best written album of all time in my opinion. I don’t think music would be where it is today had this album not come out. The way it flows, the ideas, the atmosphere created, the imagery. Ugh. Everything about it is a work of art. Great gig in the sky – I used to play it and try to copy the riffs – over and over and over. I think this song is reason why I discovered I could sing so high and improvise too. I am also about creating an atmosphere, I love sounds that sound spacey and dream like and I definitely think my song has elements of this and like this album did. Lady Gaga – My number one, always and forever. I’m mentioning the princess of pop because she truly dips her toes into everything and I feel I am a bit like that. I sing, dance, play instruments, act etc. I also LOVE how fearless she is and that she fights for her rights and other peoples and truly paved the way for female artists to come forward and be different and not care what other people think. She is actually very special to me and I dont think there is anything she has ever done that I have not liked. I appreciate that she can use her voice in so many different ways too, she can do jazz, soul, pop, rock, indie, musical theatre. Her voice truly is astonishing, her range, vocal technique, tone, everything! If i met her I would probably not know what to do. I could probably also dance every single one of her dance breaks from her music videos I used to play them on a loop!
YMX: You recently released your single ‘Diary Of Thoughts’. Can you tell us how that project came about?
Serena: I was working on a number of demo’s and then I found this guitar riff I liked and it gave me the idea for the song. I was stuck on the ship at the time and I began writing one day. I had this melody in my head and as soon as I started to sing it I was like this song needs to be honest and painful but also present beauty and strength at the same time. I had some ideas for lyrics but then I went into my diary (lol excuse the pun) and then I started to take sections from entries and place them together and it all clicked. I had a really bad year in 2018 where I was really struggling mentally, physically and I used to write everything down. This was the basis for the song, all diary entries from around this time. In my opinion they show vulnerability but also how I overcame this and realised self love was more important. Eric then came up with the production side of things and created my vision. He truly is a genius, he played every instrument on it and truly made the track come to life.
YMX: How did the pandemic affect your personal music recording experience? Was it easy adjusting to working remotely?
Serena: In all honesty, like I mentioned I was legit in the middle of the ocean for most of the first lockdown so I did most of my demos myself and then sent them to Eric. Once I was back I was able to record as things were eased more around that time.
YMX: Professional livestreams seem to be really taking over these days. Is it something you would consider doing?
Serena: Yes definitely! I would just be worried no one would be interested, ah!!
YMX: Since pandemic began, online music promotion has become crucial for an artist’s growth. How important is that for you, and are there any strategies you are willing to share with our readers?
Serena: The one thing I have learned throughout this process and Im STILL learning is how important social media is and how vital it is to represent yourself in the best way possible, to use hashtags, tag brands, post at certain times etc. Like you truly dont realise how complicated it all is until you start to try and plug something and get people to listen and engage. Even friends, family sharing my stuff on their social media makes such a difference, they don’t realise! I have had companies, people etc contact me from LA and they’ve found me from a hashtag ! INSANE! The thing I can truly say is be patient. I get so uptight sometimes at instagram in particular because some days thousands will see my posts then the next day not even half my followers BUT what i try to remember is it is not a true reflection of you and the quality of your work or efforts. KEEP PUSHING AND HASHTAG haha!
YMX: Finally, what are your plans for the future? (releases, gigs etc.)
Serena: I plan to release the video for ‘Diary of Thoughts’ on February 20th so make sure you all keep your eyes pealed for that! Then probably around April I will release my second single ‘Hold On’ which is SO different to the first but in the best way possible! I am really excited about this one. My goal for the next 12 months is to get established more as an artist, grow my social media, grow my monthly listeners, fanbase and truly continue to create real and authentic content!