She’s 20 years old, fluent in French and Japanese, and has released just three songs to date but “Vibration”—which premiered mere months ago—has already clocked up 300k plus plays. The appeal is clear: like Jhene Aiko, the Japanese/Native American Indian singer blends fresh pop melodies and sparkling sonics with an R&B kick. Pulling from influences as varied as Stevie Wonder, Aaliyah, Kraftwork, and Bjork, the LA-based artist has been penning tunes since she was 12 and is now signed to Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records, home to Elliphant and Juicy J. What’s more pertinent though is Black’s collaboration with awesome English electronicist SOHN (who’s worked with Miguel, SZA, and Banks), alongside fellow producer Billboard (Robyn, Madonna) to create “Anchor.” Premiering below, "Anchor" is a breathy synth-pop cut boasting a sheeny chorus, as instantly appealing as any of Lorde’s greatest hits. It’s a song that follows “Kissing,” “OVR AGN,” and “Vibration”—the fourth taster from her forthcoming five-track, self-titled EP. Here’s “Anchor,” plus we called up Black to find out a little bit more about what makes her tick and how her parents' influence is integral to where her sound's at now.
Noisey: What is your writing process like?
Sophia Black: One person told me that I write in pictures and I think that’s what I try to do. I write in like a story so basically whenever I read a book or something the author makes it so easy to see the picture very clearly in your head, and I kind of want to create a visual aspect to the song when someone listens to my music so I try to write as visually as possible.
In “Vibration” you weave in French. How did you end up as a fluent French speaker?
I grew up in Los Angeles, born and raised, and I went to this French international school in LA where I went from three years old until graduation. I also speak Japanese as my mom is from Japan. As I speak Japanese fluently and she was just like, “You know what let’s make her learn another language.”
How have your parents influenced your taste in music?
My whole family is in the music industry, my mom is a composer/string arrangement person. And my dad, I like to call him a working musician because he does everything—he always writes things and plays. So growing up there was always music in the house and even if there wasn’t we’d be making up a song about what we were doing. In the car I would always listen to Stevie Wonder, Bjork, and Kraftwork, so those artists kind of developed my musical sound.
I saw you had an Instagram photo with some old R&B CDs Mariah and Aaliyah and your music has a very 80s/90s R&B influence to it. How did you get introduced to that genre?
I think growing up in the era of Destiny’s Child, TLC and all these amazing R&B/urban girl groups, I’m really influenced by that. And my dad always been in the R&B world: he performed with Chaka Khan and did a couple things with Prince too, so I think being in that world and especially now people are bringing it back a lot more.
What was the inspiration for your song “Anchor”?
Well my whole EP and my music in general I just wanted my songs to sort of connect—like a story almost—and this song was just about how, no matter what goes on between you and another person you’ll always be there for them you’ll always be their rock, or their anchor so that’s the kind of idea SOHN and I had for the song. SOHN is this awesome writer/artist from the UK, he writes for Banks—he wrote “Waiting Game”—and he’s just an amazingly talented writer. And we collaborated with this other producer named Billboard. It's a love song about being there for someone no matter what happens.
What else can we look forward to on your EP as far as collaborations or features?There's no features on the album however there’s this one song I wrote called “Water” which is a really interesting and artistic song that I wrote with these writers from Prescription [Dr. Luke’s stable of 50-odd songwriters] and it's also another visual song. I want people to listen from number one to number five—the whole way through like listening to an audio book. I mean less boring than an audio book, but I definitely want the storyline to be there, your classic love story but very visual.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
Yeah! I would die to work with Stevie Wonder even if it was just like sitting next to him humming that would be like the best thing. I would do anything! If Stevie Wonder wanted me to sing with him I would. And another person I would want to work with is Bjork—her music is so interesting and so different she just put out a new album and it's just so crazy, so different, and the arrangement in the production is just so brilliant. Bjork and Stevie wonder are my top two.
What's something you want people to know about Sophia Black?
I want people to know that I write music from the heart and I really want people to listen to my music and feel better. I want my music to translate from into their hearts and into their real lives and I want people to relate and kind of learn and become happier and energy lift and all that good stuff. I want people to be happy when they listen to my music.
Sophia Black's self-titled EP is out on 8.21 via Kemosabe Records/RCA Records