“I’ve managed to gather all the people around me that are right for all the different elements and influences I’ve had all of these years,“ Sophie Barker reflects as she winds down a brief afternoon acoustic set at Asbury Lanes, a punk rock-themed bowling alley and music venue one block from the Atlantic Ocean in the New Jersey town of Asbury Park. The British singer-songwriter recently stopped by Asbury for a performance to be featured exclusively on Diffuser.fm that included ‘Say Goodbye’ and a cover of the Cure’s ‘A Forest,’ both tunes from a recently released, eponymously titled split single.Barker, who later that day launched an eight-date Stateside trek, is referring to her entire music career, but her words could best describe the synchronicity of her current situation as a solo artist. Barker was grateful to recruit violinist Chloe Lander and guitarist Yul Desai to back her in time to record her latest solo album, last year’s warmly received ‘Seagull,’ and the duo is still around a year later supporting her on the road.
Barker may best be known for her work with Zero 7, the British downtempo duo that scored its biggest hit to date with the sultry, slow-burning jam ‘Destiny.’ Barker co-wrote and sang alongside Sia Fuller on that tune and several others from ‘Simple Things,’ the group’s breakthrough 2001 debut. She continued recording with Zero 7 on 2004’s ‘When It Falls’ and branched out for collaborations with a host of other artists in the intervening years before issuing her solo debut, ‘Earthbound,’ in 2006.
“I think there’s similarities and obviously there are differences in that I’ve now been able to write a whole album that I’ve been in control of in terms of emotions and the energy of it,” Barker tells Diffuser.fm when comparing her past collaborative work with the freedom of continuing solo with ‘Seagull,’ which mixes the eclectic influences of folk, trip-hop and even Motown into one coherent whole. “The things I’ve done with Zero 7 — the writing [process] is the same but the production is slightly different, and then of course we’ve all got quite a lot of ’70s influences.”
So, what inspired a band steeped in the sounds of the ’70s to cover one of the definitive bands of the ’80s in the form of the Cure’s ‘A Forest?’ “The sounds are amazing, the band is amazing, Robert Smith’s got an incredible voice [and] they write amazing songs,” says Barker. “I love singing it because it just reflects a different part of me.”
Watch Sophie Barker Perform ‘Say Goodbye’
Watch Sophie Barker Perform the Cure’s ‘A Forest’