Concordia exchange student releases album based on her experience in Montreal
Sophie Botta, known on stage as Sobie, hails all the way from Sydney, Australia, but is proud to call Montreal a source of musical inspiration. Botta released her album, The Montreal Winter, on Nov. 19, which is dedicated to her semester spent studying in Montreal. The album has a nostalgic, folk-pop sound, accompanied by soothing vocals. Sobie gives voice to our city’s coldest season, making it the ideal album for Montrealers to listen to all winter long. Reminiscent of soft 90s pop, The Montreal Winter will take you on a smooth sailing, sonic joy ride.
In January 2014, Botta came to Montreal for a semester abroad at Concordia. She majored in electroacoustic/audio engineering with a particular focus in sound design. “I wanted to choose North America, and Concordia had all the artistic majors that interested me,” said Botta.
Botta said her passion for music started at a young age. “I use to watch my uncle play drums a lot,” she said. “I couldn’t reach the pedal on the drum kit until I was seven years old.” Botta played in a band called Castle in the Air while she was in high school in Australia, she then played as a session musician for musicals in England. When she arrived to Montreal, she played the drums and guitar in a band with her classmates from Concordia. “For one of my music classes at Concordia, we had to make a band, so I started playing gigs with a few of my classmates.” Botta was the drummer, Faye MacCalman played the saxophone, Ben Brimacombe and Luke Quin played the guitar and Fuat Tuac was on vocals. “The music we played was very experimental,” said Botta. The name of the band was Zürafa, meaning ‘giraffe’ in Turkish—lead singer Tuac is of Turkish descent. Zürafa played a few gigs in Montreal at the Upstairs Jazz Club and at theatre Sainte-Catherine. “My class lecturer asked our band if we wanted to play on morning TV, so we got to play on Global TV’s morning show,” said Botta.
In July 2014, Botta returned home where she finished her degree and continued playing music as a solo artist under the stage name Sobie. On stage, however, she plays with a backing band. “I am the lead singer of Sobie. I have a backing band of four musicians who play with me at gigs,” said Botta. Members of her backing band include Laura Samperi on keyboards, Jack Quinn on drums, Benji Tomc on guitar and Deeks Knight on bass. Botta released her first solo EP, Lest We Forget, in April 2016.
According to Botta, Montreal influenced her musically, which is why she decided her next album would be about her experiences there. “From the day I arrived to Montreal, the city was always so alive with arts and culture. It is very hard for a creative person to not be creative there. There is always so much music being played,” said Botta. She said she felt very inspired by the city and wanted to reflect that in a piece of art.“Even before I left Montreal, I wanted to write an album about the different experiences and people I met,” said Botta. Most of the songs on The Montreal Winter were written in Montreal. A girl Botta met at a bar in Ottawa wrote the lyrics for her track “Valentine.” “It was a poem she wrote for her boyfriend. She asked me if I could put some music into her poem—she had sent me her poem by text message. I came back to Montreal, recorded it, sent it to her and she loved it,” said Botta.
While in Montreal, Botta also traveled to New Orleans with friends, which inspired a few songs on the album as well. When it comes to songwriting, Botta said she always starts with the lyrics. “It’s usually inspired by an event. My inspiration factor to a song is 99 per cent [of the time] always the lyrics, and then I start to see how it can fit with something,” said Botta. Her favourite song to play live from The Montreal Winter is “Silhouette.” “We start playing it and everyone locks into the groove. We jam together and have fun,” said Botta. One of Botta’s biggest musical dreams would be to collaborate with Ed Sheeran or Adele. “If I were to make a song with Ed Sheeran, it would probably be something funny. I’d call our song ‘Like a Koala Hug,’” said Botta.
According to Botta, the music scene in Sydney is a lot different from the music scene in Montreal. “Montreal is a lot more open. Sydney has a lot of gigs going on as well but I feel like Montreal has more places and opportunities to play,” she said. Botta will be returning to Montreal in October and hopes to continue playing gigs at the Upstairs Jazz Club. In the meantime, warm up to the soulful and heartfelt music in The Montreal Winter.