Sophie Gault (Opener)
“Nashville can be a place where you lose yourself a little bit,” says singer-songwriter Sophie Gault, while reminiscing about her move to Music City back in 2014. Gault understands this two-sided sentiment more than most, after getting caught up in her own moment serendipitously meeting Americana icon, Julie Miller, at local haunt Bobby’s Idle Hour – an experience meaningful enough for Gault to honor Miller’s song “Broken Things” through the name of her earnest alt-country band Sophie & the Broken Things.
And indeed, while the frenetic energy of Nashville can leave some musicians lost after launch, Sophie & the Broken Things have only continued to evolve since the release of an eponymous EP in January 2020 – even during the lost year of live music that would soon follow. Now with the reemergence of real world connection, Gault’s notion has flipped from being lost in the crowd, to joyously losing yourself in the palpable energy of a live show and a vivid story, a feeling that’s easy to embrace when listening to Sophie & the Broken Things’ forthcoming debut album, Delusions of Grandeur.
While tracking the new songs, Gault caught the attention of another Nashville legend: GRAMMY Award-winning producer Ray Kennedy, who is known for his own country hits from the early ‘90s, as well as his work with artists such as Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, and Lucinda Williams. Serving as an unofficial advisor throughout the recording process and then mixing and mastering the resulting 10-song set, Kennedy has fostered a special interest in the project, saying, “Sophie’s songs have a cozy familiarity with a feeling reminiscent of some of my favorite records from the ’70s: timeless yet new, with an emotional delivery I don’t hear in other contemporary records. The lyrics combine visual storytelling with melodies that make me want to sing along, and the band electrifies the many moods with textural tones of nostalgia to full-on rock ’n’ roll.”
The nostalgic, timeless feel of Gault’s songwriting and guitar skill is fueled by early years spent living on a Maryland farm – cultivated through many afternoons listening to and imitating the likes of Freddie King and Keith Richards, as well as a musical bond Gault shared with her father since childhood.
“My dad was big into music and he was really big into blues and early 60s rock and stuff like that,” Gault says. So that’s what he always played and we would play together. I [channel] a lot of his riffs that he taught me so it always will come out in my playing and my singing like, ‘Ooo, that’s from back home, definitely from back home’.”
Right from the unfurling of opener “Golden Rule,” the atmosphere of a memory begins to descend, as a delicate finger-style hook from Gault’s acoustic guitar and the hazy reverberations of notes from an electric fill the room with a contemplative energy, preparing the listener for the grippingly relatable stories to come.
Gault’s duet with Logan Ledger in “Trouble,” echoes far more bold recollections. Still, bold feelings don’t always mean clear stances, as the song’s metaphor-driven reflections reveal quite the internal contradiction while the pair insist they just don’t work as a couple: Baby, we fit like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle / Like thunder and lightning / bad luck and some broken things / Some dirt and a shovel / You, me & trouble. Meanwhile, “Dashboard’s” tale of emotional avoidance in the face of rejection is delivered with the kind of candour anyone slow to start their day, or possibly hungover while working through their own heartache, can see themselves in: I got up and pulled on last week’s clothes / Wrinkled in a pile on the floor / Poured some coffee, it was black and cold / I drank it and walked out the door.
Though the straightforwardly titled “Churches and Bars” seems to describe parts of Nashville, Gault unveils the song’s original ties to her home in Oneonta, New York. “I put the finishing touches on ‘Churches and Bars’ after I moved to Nashville but it’s really about Oneonta,” says Gault. “There are so many churches and I don’t know if this is still true but I think this was true at some point: that Oneonta had the most bars per square mile of any town in upstate New York.”
While parts of Delusions of Grandeur‘s sonic skeleton – with its 12-string guitar, resonator, pedal steel, and dobro – evoke the bold rootsy styles of artists like Margo Price, Sturgill Simpson, and Lucinda Williams, Gault’s modest but deeply emotive vocal vibrato also calls to mind the rivetingly vulnerable performances of Jewel Kilcher’s early music. Gault’s endings to words, verses, and choruses both pierce the air and float about – their messages imparted with stronger fervor from an extra moment’s sustain. “Far Away’s” minimalist three-part arrangement lets the emotional impact of Gault’s voice shine in this way, as a blend of astonishment and audible pain ring out in her exclamations to a beloved figure who abandons her.
In making Delusions of Grandeur, Gault recognized just how much having an in-person connection shapes her music and that remained a key aspect of the album’s development process, even as the resources and people available to the band grew and changed from the previous release.
“When we went in to record, it was very natural and organic,” says Gault. “It was like a small group of people – [engineer] Ryon (Westover), Twon, and Lemmy – just kind of sitting in Ryon’s house, throwing ideas back and forth, seeing what works.”
During a brainstorming session for “Churches and Bars,” Gault even found herself caught up in her own grand reverie of sorts, transported to a place, and given the feelings of her younger self, as she worked out a solo with the band.
“Jules had already laid out this great guitar solo but I wanted to try adding something so, I plug in my electric guitar and play this little solo on the second half of the song. We ended up keeping it – it’s kind of like a dueling solo. It was fun; I felt like a teenager in my room, playing along to this great band.”
There’s an immersive richness in the way Gault describes different facets of the human experience, whether in her songs or from the vantage point of the stage. “I’ve always enjoyed playing shows where people are having fun, laughing, and talking,” Gault says. “You know, the lighting is low, you can hear glasses clinking…”
And though the past two years have brought lots of unforeseen and unwelcome change, Gault is confident that this album can help bring genuine feelings of goodness back to the world – and that’s no delusion of grandeur.
“Two years ago I didn’t know if there was going to be a place for the music I do. Now I think there’s a place for what we do and people are going to gravitate towards that. Genre doesn’t really play that big of a role anymore. It’s more about vibe, and grooves, and people like what they like.”