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Aussie artists
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Howzat! Archive - May 16th 2012

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Magical things have happened on Ramsay Street. And a chance meeting on the Neighbours set led to Sophie Koh's third album, Oh My Garden, which will be out in July. Sophie and Ben Lee were both performing at Charlie's; they got talking and Sophie ended up flying to LA, to work with Ben and his producer, Brad Wood. Sophie wrote four songs with Ben and Brad, including her new single, I Understand. This is a piano ballad with bite. And the secret to Sophie's stunning vocal? Guacamole.

"Brad really encouraged me to explore the lower parts of my voice," Sophie tells Howzat! "Ben wanted me to try a guacamole dip that day - I was fascinated by all those weird and wonderful US grocery store snacks - but, unfortunately, I didn't realise there were insanely hot chillies in the dip. I cried so much and had to swallow a whole carton of milk before starting the vocals. But it cleared up my sinuses and I remember being so surprised by what my vocal cords could do that day. Most of the best vocal takes were done after that guacamole."

I Understand - which Sophie will launch at the Toff on Thursday, 31 May - was written during the first of four trips to LA. "I was worried about whether I could possibly match up with the other artists Brad's worked with. I mean, this is the guy who produced Smashing Pumpkins' Adore! But within a few hours in the studio, I knew we were on to something really exciting. At the end, Brad actually said I Understand was one of the most exciting records he'd ever worked on and he can't wait to see good things happen for me. I was so surprised but amazingly humbled."

I Understand is a break-up song. "These lyrics are probably the most personal I've ever sung," Sophie reveals, "as I was singing about myself, especially the line, 'I would love to love you harder, but listen, baby, I don't think I can.'" Sophie spoke with Ben and Brad about heartbreak. "I remember a quiet moment in the studio, when we were brainstorming lyrics. I swear we all must have reflected upon our own relationship histories right there in that very second. Heads down, we had that momentary heartbreaking silence. We talked about that moment - or week or months - where your head says you're happy, you're over it, you even say it out loud to yourself, to other people, but something in your voice gives it away that you're not. The sadness in the act of letting go. Acknowledging that you're okay with it and you're moving on is sometimes even more heartbreaking."

Sophie might also be singing about her career. "Gotta do what makes you happy," she declares, "gotta go when you've got that chance." Would she relocate to the US? "I've thought heavily about relocating. I love how Americans are direct and brash, but friendly. And for me, there was a sense of renewal, a different identity. I think I am in love with America."
Sophie has a couple of other things left to achieve. "When I was young, I always joked that I'd be the 'token Asian chick' on Neighbours," she laughs. She compared "tick lists" with Ben Lee in the Neighbours green room. "I think his was wanting to be on Neighbours, Good Morning Australia and Kerri-Anne. Mine was Neighbours, Play School and Home and Away. So I have two more to go!"

Australia hasn't produced many truly international pop stars. Darren Hayes is one of them. Darren turned 40 last week and celebrated by writing a letter to his 15-year-old self. It's a beautiful piece of writing, both sad and joyous. "If it makes you feel any better," Darren writes, "that group of boys who called you 'faggot' and 'gay boy' - the ones who beat you up and harassed you so much you sometimes wanted to die? Well, they end up getting the futures they deserve. My advice to you? Take that position in the girl's choir. Your voice will stand out and Mrs Landsdowne is going to realise you have a gift for singing. The rest will take care of itself but go to that choir audition. It will change your life. Listen to your instincts. The only times you have ever messed up in your life are the times you've ignored your gut."

Six Aussie hits in the Top 20.

Sitting On Top Of The World DELTA GOODREM (number eight)
Big Jet Plane LAKYN HEPERI (10)
Shut Up & Kiss Me REECE MASTIN (12)
Into The Flame EP MATT CORBY (15)
If Looks Could Kill TIMOMATIC (17)
Do It Like That RICKI-LEE (19)
Child 360 (28)
Big Jet Plane ANGUS & JULIA STONE (31)
In My Mind IVAN GOUGH & FEENIXPAWL (32, debut)
Love The Way You Lie FATAI VEAMATAHAU (36)
Somebody That I Used To Know GOTYE (37)
Need Your Love THE TEMPER TRAP (39, debut)
Turning Tables BRITTANY CAIRNS (40, debut)

No Aussie albums in the Top 10.

Drinking From The Sun HILLTOP HOODS (number 12)
Now & Then DAMIEN LEITH (14)
Don't Funk With Me ALSTON (19)
Falling & Flying 360 (20)
Nightflight KATE MILLER-HEIDKE (24)
No Plans COLD CHISEL (25)
Greatest Hits: 18 Kids KEITH URBAN (26)
It's Never Too Late ANDREW WISHART (30, debut)
Vows KIMBRA (32)
Inspire JACK VIDGEN (35)
Making Mirrors GOTYE (37)
The Ultimate Collection AIR SUPPLY (38, debut)

I Understand SOPHIE KOH
Lonely Girl THE FAUVES
Stupid Mistake DARREN HAYES

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