For Clare Bowditch and Sophia J Smith, growing up and making music in Melbourne has been an integral part of their respective journeys as artists. ARIA-Award winning singer and songwriter Clare, has multiple albums to her name and is a much loved Australian artist, actress and author. Sophia J Smith has only just begun her ascent, garnering attention on Triple J Unearthed and performing around Melbourne at events like The Push, Collingwood and ALWAYS LIVE's Garage Band 2022 in Fed Square.
We gave Clare and Sophia the chance to explore their stories and ask each other a few questions about their biggest inspirations, their struggles with self-doubt and insecurity as musicians, and what they hope to look back on in the future.
Clare Bowditch: What’s your first memory of making music or writing a song?
Sophia J Smith: The first song I wrote was a remake of the kid classic Goldilocks and the three bears. At the age of 5 I decided from now on it should be Goldilocks and the house of the pandas and if I'm honest, it was a hit. My brother and I can still recite the lyrics to this day.
When did you first discover your love for music?
Clare: My earliest memories almost all include harmony or music is one form or another. It lit me up from the beginning, and always felt to me like I was somewhere I belonged, in the good company of something I belonged to. We sang a lot as a family I guess, all of it casual – might have been on car trips, or while doing little jobs around the house, or at church on Sunday too. I was lucky to be born in an era where, for whatever reason, our kinder and school curriculum included lots of singing and exposure to music. But it probably goes even further back, because song or voice is the pre-curser to speech, and my parents both had really lovely voices. Mum was Dutch and had a beautiful sing-song quality to her speech and my father was a natural born baritone. I guess the short answer is, as early back as I can remember, I have loved music and felt like it loved me too.
Dream collaborations, and it doesn’t have to be just one, but if it was, who what where would it be?
Sophia: There are so many people who I dream of working with but one that sticks out is Phoebe Bridgers. Phoebe has been such a huge influence in my writing and is someone I look up strongly to in the industry. She seems like the kind of person who would be amazing to work with and if I got to write a song with her I'd die. Another artist who has been my favourite since birth is Taylor Swift. If I even got to meet her it would be a dream come true. What are your biggest influences?
Clare: Gosh, hard to say, but… if I had to put it in a sentence I’d say, anything – personal place thing idea - that makes me feel something so strongly that I can’t forget it, automatically marks itself as an influence, as something that, in it’s own way and time, will play out through the stories I tell or the sounds I make.
We both come from what I am not shy in calling “The Music Capital of Australia”. Who are your favourite Melbourne / Victorian bands?
Sophia: Well besides the one and only Clare Bowditch ;) there are so many, but one has got to be Missy Higgins. She has been a staple performer in my family and going to her gigs have been some of my fondest memories. My favourite song of hers is Scar. Over the past year I've gotten to discover Briggs' music and he is another standout Victorian performer for me. What is your favourite thing about being an artist in Melbourne?
Clare: I feel so extraordinarily fortunate to have grown up in a city where music – our love of, pride in, support for music – is front and centre with our city’s identity. The diversity of performance spaces, of opportunities to not only enjoy listening to but participate in music from a young age, as a working musician learning their craft, those central live music venue hubs such as Richmond, Fitzroy, Brunswick, St Kilda, and those regional venues in Ballarat, Castlemaine, Bendigo, Meeniyan, and every truck-stop and community hall in-between; these are the places where we were given our chance to cut our teeth and learn our craft, in front of humans who also love music. Very few cities in the world are as proud and supporting of their musicians as our Melbourne, and our Victoria.
When it comes to performing, and reaching for your dreams in general, how do you deal with the almost unavoidable voice of self-doubt, and stay positive?
Sophia: I won't lie, the insecurity does creep in at times especially being a teen but it's all about backing yourself and ignoring your own hate. I try to remind myself that small steps are the best steps and that in the end, if I love what I write and I respect the words I've written then that's the best I can do. It's easy to want the validation from others but real joy in music isn't about that and I know that music is something that has moulded me to be who I am now and gives me that essence of belonging, so yeah, sometimes you have to tell that voice to shut up.
Clare: When you’re an old lady and you look back, what are you hoping happened with your songs and your music career?
Sophia: I don't necessarily have a benchmark of what success is for me with my music but I want it to reach as far as it possibly can. To one day have one of my songs be someone’s go to sad song or song they play when they need to smile is a big aim for me. Songs like "Waiting Room" by Phoebe Bridgers or "Supercut" by Lorde are songs that have special meaning for me and if my songs could hold the same power for someone else one day, then I will be a very happy granny. If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be and what has been one of the most helpful learnings through your career?
Clare: Keep going – it gets a lot better. Play the long game; it’s so very much more fun.
Clare Bowditch and Sophia J Smith will be appearing at ALWAYS LIVE End of The Line Sandringham presented in partnership with Metro Trains and Sandy Traders Association. You can catch their performances in Sandringham on Saturday Dec 2.