Sophie Klein – a.k.a Little Wise – is one of Melbourne’s most touching singer/songwriters. Deriving her name from an amalgamation of the origins of her Yiddish/Germanic name, Sophie Klein – Sophie roughly translating to “wise” and Klein to “little”. It’s this kind of poignancy that you will find too in her music, which is a stunning, raw take on rootsy folk and alternative country.
The evocative songbird is on the rise. She’s just about to embark on a 5-date east coast tour, so we asked her to put together a list of five records that have altered her perception, given her a healthy dose of inspirtion, and moved her musically. Here are her picks.
Little Wise walks us through five LPs that changed her life and inspired her soul to become the lustrous singer/songwriter she is today.
Paul Kelly – Hidden Things (1991)
We had this cassette in my mum’s green Mazda wagon when I was growing up and the songs are now burned into my brain. I remember asking my parents about Paul’s song Special Treatment and learning for the very first time about the Stolen Generation. This is an absolute classic album with the typically strong songwriting Paul is known for. These were also some of the very first songs I learned on guitar when I started playing years later at age thirteen.
Other People’s Houses, a story about a boy accompanying his mum on her Saturday morning cleaning rounds, is almost fused in my consciousness as my own memories. The pictures in my mind of that story have pretty much melded with the visual memories of my own experiences, even though factually I know I have no experiential connection to the boy and his story!
Paul is an artist I have revisited time and time again since those early days, like many songwriters around me. But for me, this is where it all began.
Macy Gray – On How Life Is (1999)
I was ten when this album came out and it was the first good music that I really loved. It was sexy- more so than I actually understood at the time – but I new it had a certain feeling about it. The explicit language warning on the front cover only enhanced its appeal.
I was absolutely obsessed with Macy’s voice. Looking back, I have always loved singers who aren’t technically flawless, but have a certain quality in their voices that is so uniquely their own (see: Dylan, Gillian, Ani et al). Listening back on it now I hear flavours of Marvin Gaye and many of the great soul and pop divas that came before; but to my inexperienced ears at the time it was completely new. I was hooked.
The Waifs – Up all Night (2003)
If I had to pinpoint the beginning of my journey to becoming an independent singer songwriter, I would choose this album. Though The Waifs themselves and their music are loveable as ever on this record, it wasn’t necessarily the music that made the most impact. It was the vibe. It was Mabo. It was the fact that they were doing completely their own thing, in a grass-roots fashion, as pioneers of the Independent Music industry in Australia as co-founders of Jarra Records with John Butler. This was the first time I thought to myself, ‘I could do that!’.
I longed to travel around the country in a tour van; and I have been lucky enough to do so a couple of times since. After all, as Donna sings on the opening track ‘I’m just your regular West Australian fisherman’s daughter, middle class, folk-singing, guitar-playing girl’. It was all so down to earth yet so romantic at the same time.
At their shows I felt I had found my home. The music’s connections to early roots and folk traditions led me on a trajectory to discover Dylan in a backwards kind of way, working backwards to Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger and a host of other blues, roots and folk artists. I like to think it all began here.
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cold Roses (2005)
It was hard to whittle my list down to just five items. Even though there are many influences that have shaped the way I listen to and write music, I have chosen records that in some way changed me. Cold Roses was probably my introduction into Americana and Alternative-Country. Like The Waifs, this album was the catalyst for me going deeper into the music’s rich heritage.
The impeccable songwriting, twanging electric guitars, crying steel guitars, sweet acoustic guitars and Ryan’s heartbroken vocal delivery just moved me. The production value and the Cardinals as a band are just so on point on this double album that the influence definitely lingers and can possibly be heard on my work today.
Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball (1995)
Kalju Tonuma, who co-produced my new album with his partner Megan Bernard, first introduced me to this record. Amazingly, it washed over me on the first listen and didn’t really make an impact. Slowly and surely over the past few years I have come to crave this record, almost in a spiritual sense. This was Emmylou’s big come-back record, produced by Daniel Lanois and engineered by Mark Howard. I love the way that this album strays beyond any boundaries of genre. It is a collection of country songs, delivered in a non-country style. This was a concept we openly discussed as sonic inspiration when making SilverBirch, my album due out November 2016.
The Triffid’s Wide Open Road is another example of this sort of delivery. The song choice is eclectic and the sound is mesmerising. Great albums create their own world and their own sound and this is certainly one of the best. Ever.
To celebrate the release of her new music video, Little Wise with be doing a run of Aussie shows. Check out the tour dates below and find out some more details here.
SUN 7 Aug / BRISBANE / The Milk Factory / With Emma Bosworth
SAT 13 Aug / CANBERRA / Smith’s Alternative / With Jim Sharrock (Doctor Stovepipe)
THURS 25 Aug / ADELAIDE / The Wheatsheaf Hotel / With Loren Kate
THURS 1 Sep / SYDNEY / The Gasoline Pony / With Sam Newton & Alana Bruce
SUN 4 Sep / MELBOURNE / The Yarra Hotel / With The Weeping Willows