She lives in Melbourne, but was born in New Zealand. Her mum and dad are from Malaysia, but she grew up in Singapore and New Zealand, and was "Unearthed" in Darwin. Her debut album is called "All The Pretty Boys". Just who is Sophie Koh?
"I was always the new kid," she says, remembering her childhood. "I went to about eight schools." She wanted to play everything on her debut album. "I've been playing classical piano since I was five and one of my hobbies was to learn different instruments. My parents couldn't keep up." She ended up singing and playing guitar, harmonica, keyboards, viola and accordion on the album. Though she doesn't claim to be a very good viola player, admitting, "The wonders of Pro Tools got me through!" And she was joined by some very special guests, including her collaborator/producer Richard Pleasance.
Sophie's songs are enticing, cute, exotic and memorable. There's some ache, some angst, and occasionally some anger. Add a dose of dreaminess, naivety and striking honesty and there you have it - All The Pretty Boys. "I like to imagine pictures in my head when I write songs," Sophie explains. "The songs are not just about me. They're not all autobiographical." "Anywhere, I'll go anywhere with you ..." Sophie headed north after finishing uni. "I just wanted to get away," she says. She was Unearthed by JJJ in Darwin in 2003. It gave her the confidence to pursue a career in music. "I remember the first time Easily Broken came on the radio, I was driving my car and had some friends with me. I tried to turn off my CD player, thinking that I had left my demo CD in there, but, of course, I couldn't. The song was on the radio, it was unreal."
Sophie decided that music was what she wanted to do when she played Nirvana's Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam at high school. "I only knew three chords at that stage, but I could play that song." She was 15 when she wrote her first song. It was called "Through A Closing Door". "I'd left New Zealand and moved to Melbourne," she recalls. "A friend gave me a poem. I think he had a crush on me, the poem hinted at that." Alone in Melbourne, Sophie had no furniture and no radio. But she did have her guitar, so she put the poem to music. "And it was crap," Sophie laughs. "It was a crap song."
Some songs from the time survive, however, and can be heard on All The Pretty Boys, which Sophie made with producer Richard Pleasance over a four-year period, "though we probably only spent a total of four weeks in the studio". Sophie and Richard met in 2000. "Richard is one of those rare people in your life who believe in you even more than you believe in yourself. He is a mentor, with a wonderful ear for production." "I love working in the studio," Sophie says. "I wish I had my own studio. I love listening to other people's records. If I'm stressed or upset, I'll put on my headphones and listen to a Neil Finn album and hear all the little things that happen on the record. That's what I want to do - make records sound interesting."
Sophie also loves playing live. "The most enjoyable thing is being in the studio, with the headphones on and singing to a track that I've put down. The next best thing is playing live. It just makes your day when you're connecting with an audience." In the past year, Sophie has supported acts such as Betchadupa, Pete Murray, Alex Lloyd, Paul Dempsey, Ember Swift and Mick Thomas.
"Take these memories, take 'em home tonight ..." So how does Sophie describe her music? "I hate doing that! I just like to say, 'Come to a gig.' If I have to say something, I'll say, 'I'm a singer-songwriter. I like quirky songs.' I don't know ... what do you think?" Alternative pop? Contemporary folk? Who knows what to call it. But one thing is certain - All The Pretty Boys is an album to live with. It will take you anywhere and everywhere. Feel the chorus.