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“When people ask me what kind of music I do,” says Soko, “I usually tell them – Punk secrets”. Intimate, lo-fi, crazy, sexy, funny, tear-stained, heartbreaking, often all at once, the explosive young Frenchwoman’s songs have already touched people around the world, earning her a massive global following. Since her teens, Soko has been on a roller coaster journey. From a stockpile of over 100 songs, she finally whittled down to a selection of 14, her debut album, which premiered in Europe last year and now will be released in the United States.
Aptly entitled ‘I Thought I Was An Alien’, it’s full of love and loss and worry, the kind of fundamental, life-dictating human feelings, which are so far beyond rational explanation, they really ought to be kept under lock and key. Like one of her absolute heroes, Daniel Johnston, however, Soko has the rare ability to sing openly about those feelings, in a way which is utterly compelling, sometimes devastating, but also, completely uplifting. “Most of what I do is like crying on my guitar,” she says.
Like many of her songs, though, it was written as a message, to a specific person. “When I write,” she says, “I don’t write for the purpose of putting another song on my album, I usually write a song for someone, like a musical letter, as my way to communicate with them – I’ll write it, record it, and five minutes later send it to that person. It’s like making a present that means something. I don’t think I ever wrote a song for no-one. Maybe I could censor myself more, but I don’t think I could do anything else but something that’s raw and purely honest.”
The air of mortal tragedy in Soko’s songs comes from bitter experience. “I had an awareness of death so early in my life,” she says, “because I lost my Dad when I was five. I lost my Godfather when I was eight, my grandfather when I was nine, my grandma when I was ten, then my other grandma and grandpa when I was 16. So, ‘We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow’ is like an urge to live my life now, to make sure that I do the right thing, that I’m the best of myself every day, even if most of the time I‘m not – I’m just trying to be. ‘I’ve Been Alone Too Long’ – that’s definitely a Dad’s death song, too.”
When she sings of a rootless existence, always sadly moving on with her suitcase and her guitar, you know that this is her existence – and it really is. “I’m just a homeless gypsy couch-surfer citizen of the world, depending on the love and charity of my friends,” she giggles.
After such a long and soul-searching evolution, ‘I Thought I Was An Alien’ finally introduces a truly singular talent, at her point of fruition. Like any artist in creative overdrive, Soko talks excitedly about her next album, her newborn songs as if she had already started a new chapter.