Sophie Stockham

Sophie Wales catches up with alto/tenor saxophonist Sophie Stockham, based in Bristol.

We’ve been checking-in with jazz artists and musicians throughout the South to see how their lockdown experience has been.

What was your first ever encounter with jazz?

I was lucky to come from a musical family. Music was important to us, so my parents would take me to different concerts throughout the year. I remember seeing Pee Wee Ellis at St George’s, Bristol, and I was so blown away by his sound, it really inspired me. My first real encounter playing jazz was with a youth music project called ‘Remix’ at the time (I think it’s now become Bristol Plays Music). They used to run jazz workshops led by Abram Wilson, Dennis Rollins, Femi Temowo, Soweto Kinch and Denys Baptiste. I learnt so much from them all, and they inspired me to want to get involved with Jazz.

Name a track you wish you’d written.

At the moment I’m delving into the string world. I wish I’d written Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Symphonic Dances’ from Westside Story. The compositions are so strong; I love how well he mixes all the different genres together and the arrangements are just amazing. I played this with the Bristol Symphony Orchestra and it was a game changer for me. There’s so much I can learn from this piece of music. I’m obsessed with it!

Who have you been listening to while in lockdown?

I’ve been listening to: Deerhoof as they write with such variety and creativity. Billie Ellish, Bjork, Kacey Musgraves, St Vincent, Lianne La Havas, and Sailing Stones. They are all incredible songwriters, singers, and musicians; I love their voices and the melodies they write. Little Simz’s new album ‘Grey Area’ is amazing. She is an incredible artist. Her lyrics and delivery are unbelievable, and all of the tracks on the album are brilliant. Her work really inspires me.

I’ve also been returning to my rock side, listening to Joy Division, Radiohead, Biffy Clyro, and David Bowie’s album ‘Blackstar’… I think it’s important to listen to different genres of music. I find I get just as much inspiration from all of the above as I do from the jazz I’m listening to.

Saxophone wise I have been listening to and transcribing Stan Getz (his album ‘Focus’ is amazing), Lester Young, and Lou Donaldson. Again I love a good melody, and these guys are masters of strong melodies and great tone!

Favourite gig you’ve ever been to and why?

Medeski Martin and Wood with Nels Cline at Under the Bridge in London. Each player has such a strong identity, there was a lot of improvisation, experimentation, and groove. They are experts in listening and musically communicating with each other. It was so mind blowing, myself and my partner sat in silence the whole way home from London to Bristol!

Any livestream concert recommendations? 

My good friend Lady Nade has a concert on the 23rd August. She’s got a beautiful voice and she’s a brilliant songwriter. Her music is a mix of Indie-Folk-Americana… I would definitely recommend checking her out!

What advice do you have for fellow musicians adapting to life in lockdown?

Be ok with the down time. Try out the things that you’ve always wanted to do either musically or generally. Also,  think of ways that you can adapt and use your talents until you can play live again.

Have you been working on any new material whilst in lockdown? 

Yes, I’ve been working with my partner Matt Brown and we have written an EP worth of new tracks for our band Sefrial. We’ve also written and finished an EP for a new project of ours Orphic, which will be released soon!

After having the amazing experience of arranging some compositions for my band Dakhla Brass alongside the fantastic Will Goodchild and the Bristol Symphony Orchestra last year, I’ve started work composing for my own Strings and Saxophone project. I’m not sure what its full form will be yet, but it will definitely have a few guest players and also a few collaborative compositions.

Our next ‘Catching Up With…’ will be posted on 26th August. Follow the series on our social media and hear about it directly when you sign up to our mailing list.