Sophie Mashlan: a conversation


Over the years I have been speaking with members of the wider creative community I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing and wonderful people. New Zealand original composer, musician and singer, Sophie Mashlan is no exception.

Sophie is currently touring New Zealand promoting her album “Perfect Disaster” and relatively early one morning we speak via phone from her Auckland home.

I want to know how she describes her musical genre – a folk singer?   Mashlan says she would not categorise or label her work and she does not fit perfectly into any genre as it wouldn’t allow her to be innovative.

Mashlan is presently a totally solo creative act although she admits she wouldn’t be averse to future co-writing. She “gets a lot of happiness from her work being hers and completely from scratch – her little babies.”

In her last year of a three year Bachelor of Music (popular music) at Auckland University she explains her full on course to me. As an escapee from Auckland I want to know how she gets on traveling from her home to Uni and it sounds like her timetable and public transport preserve her creative sanity. No, she hasn’t got a bicycle but “it would be convenient if it (the University) was on my street.”

No, she doesn’t have an extensive musical education and training background. I laugh when she says she gave up the piano after a year – she was 5 years old (but she plays all the piano on her recordings). A first guitar at 9 years old which she kept playing. Her delighted parents bought her a second guitar. Singing lessons in High School as a course requirement and then some guitar lessons at 16 years.  

Mashlan can read music and reduce her work to a written score – she could do it “if she was playing with an orchestra.”  Fundamentally she plays and composes by ear recording her work on her phone.   Sophie demurs and laughs when I suggest what she is telling me is that she has a natural musical and vocal talent

I’ve taken a look at Mashlan on YouTube. I tell her I don’t want her to be offended but I think she has a beautiful personal style and is it her own or is it the result of a “personal stylist.”  She loves makeup and her style and clothes I’ve seen are those she would generally wear to University. It’s here Sophie also discloses that although she’s not a photographer or director she’s responsible for her album cover and she paints.  

When I ask Mashlan her having lived in Canada for her first 9 years has influenced her musical development and career path she says it’s more the other way round. There all she did was “sing to the car radio.” It was coming to and being in New Zealand which has been so musically formative.

Then Mashlan shares something that I’ve heard and read about so many times before.   If you’ve checked out YouTube you’ll see a beautiful, golden-haired, talented young woman. But, a beautiful young woman who was bullied out of her dance classes which led to her going back to her guitar.

Sophie says she was “an ugly kid” and “an ugly teenager”. Pale skin, Pale eyelashes and eyebrows. Not super confident. While Sophie is telling me this I can now understand why her music is so penetrating and so hauntingly beyond her years.   I wondered why someone so young could sound so knowing. . When I first saw and heard her I flew straight back to the evocative music, words and sounds of the young Joni Mitchell.

She travels with “the best roadie ever” her Dad. This enables her “to sleep in the car.” I love it. And I love it when she tells me the supportive facebook post I mention is from her Great-Aunt.     No it’s not the biggest extended family but they’re all supportive of her coming to shows and buying albums.

As we conclude our conversation Mashlan confesses that she sometimes wonders if she made the most sensible career choice. “There’s no definite pathway, no right stuff, never knowing if what you’re doing is right and it can be really scary.”     Should she have been a doctor?

I know she’s made the right choices and is walking her right pathway. And once again ARTbop has given me the privilege of meeting and conversing with a wonderful, talented member of the New Zealand creative community.  

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Mashlan’s current promotional tour which coincides with New Zealand Music month takes in Tauranga tomorrow night (8th May) at The Jam Factory. “A great night out at the Jam Factory 19 year old Sophie Mashlan is still a fresh face in the New Zealand folk scene but has been rapidly gaining attention for her enchanting performances and evocative songs. Primarily taking influence from the folk genre, she is forging her own sound, with a mixture of elements from pop, country and alternative. Sophie is an avid performer, opening for major artists including Vance Joy, Donavon Frankenreiter, Graham Candy and Joshua Radin.   Starting off her first own national tour at the age of 17, she has proven herself an avid performer and has since featured in festivals such as the Auckland Folk Festival. Doors open at 6.30pm for 7pm”
Then she’s off to Napier to support Julia Deans; down to Oamaru, Queenstown, Christchurch and Dunedin. (She’s already done Auckland and Hamilton).

I’m including a selection of the YouTube conversations and performances Mashlan has already undertaken.   There is the opportunity for some door sales tomorrow at The Jam Factory. I’d recommend you go.

     And an article in Hawkes Bay Today              

Rosemary Balu.           Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.




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