Words: Heather Collier
Santa Barbara-based singer and songwriter Nicole Sophia has unveiled her new single ‘Small Talk’, a vivacious Indie-pop cocktail with a sharp folk twist. The single is the latest instalment from her upcoming debut EP ‘Reveal Your Heart’, set to be released on the 12th of January 2024.
As an established live performer on the Californian gig circuit, Nicole has built herself a loyal fanbase and fierce stage presence over the last few years. After discovering her musical influences from an early age, Nicole soon gravitated towards the art of lyricism and songwriting.
A sensitive child with an impassioned heart, Nicole found that she was able to best express herself and be at her most vulnerable through writing and music. Self-described as “the girl with a thousand questions”, much of her music is lyrically driven, and highly inquisitive about modern identity and the duality of self.
Inspired by the likes of Maggie Rogers, Sara Bareilles, Florence + The Machine, and Hozier, it’s clear that this gutsy U.S. musician has sourced her sound far beyond the west coast music scene.
Warm and hazy in ways that feels like a memory in itself, ‘Small Talk’ is gentle and grounded, infused with glimmers of country through a bright vocal and celestial guitar. Despite having a coastal upbringing, Nicole taps into sounds from the south, taking us on an introspective, coming-of-age journey.
Set to resonate with many who are returning home for the holiday season, the single sheds light on those who have to endure the same tiresome chatter around the dinner table, or constant judgement and questioning from relatives as a result of being young and trying to figure out who you are.
"Small Talk feels like the thesis statement of my entire EP. When I was 20 years old, I had the uncomfortable realisation that I was using labels and pre-planned stories to give the appearance of authenticity, vulnerability, and confidence – instead of letting myself show up authentically in the moment,” says Nicole.
“I wrote this song about navigating the dysphoria and discomfort of presenting a curated version of myself, and my deep desire and search for true authenticity. It’s about peeling back the layers and guises and getting to the truth. It’s about revealing your heart.”
Nicole captures the sting of nostalgia felt when returning to a hometown, and the growing pains of moving on from people and places that no longer serve us. The cover art is a powerful, overhead shot of Nicole shrouded in darkness as she claws at her hair, highlighting the dread and frustration of having to mask or curate parts of yourself, sometimes around people who are meant to accept you the most.
‘I’m meeting new people today / What are they going to see? / The pansexual, Jewish, Mormon, anti-prom queen / Or me?’ she ponders, emphasising how although these are fundamental parts of her identity, they also do not define her.
‘I feel so small talking like this’, Nicole sings, knowing that the ‘scripted stories’ she tells strangers are not a true reflection of who she really is.
‘I’m being myself today / What am I gonna take off?’, much like deciding what outfit to wear to impress others, Nicole presents the image of removing the labels, ideas, and assumptions we brandish or that have been attached to us, stripping them from our body like garments.
The single details defying the act of pleasing people and being performative in social situations that make us feel ‘small’ – to simply be yourself and know that that’s enough. Authenticity is not about what you’re ‘putting on’, but rather, what you’re ‘taking off’.
‘Small Talk’ is available now on all major streaming platforms.