Following on from the release of her self-love anthem “Flawless” towards the end of last year, Sophie Ann is continuing to speak out, write and sing about mental health issues – issues that affect millions not just here in the UK, but around the world – in an open and honest way in an effort to remind those who hear her music that they are not and never alone in what they are going through.
Her latest track “Read My Mind” is an upbeat, pop-funk banger that looks at the anxiety that often goes with and can come with getting in your own head. In her own words, Sophie says:
“Read My Mind is about when you have a crush on someone and create their personality and your entire future relationship in your head, and when you daydream about someone you don’t even know. I was in this headspace before I went into the writing session where we wrote Read My Mind, and I thought it was such a funny concept. It’s something that’s embarrassing to admit, but we all do it.”
Check out “Read My Mind” below and to keep up to date with Sophie Ann, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
With several projects in the pipeline and following the premiere of her latest film The 6th Friend which took place earlier this year, 2019 looks set to be a great and busy year for Chantelle Albers. ThisIsTheLatest caught up with her to talk her admiration of Meryl Streep, her love of comedy and what she hopes to achieve in the years to come.
TITL: As an actress with a rather impressive and growing resume, was there ever a time growing up that you considered taking a different career path or have you always had your heart set on being on screen?
CA: Honestly, I’ve always wanted to act, even as a child, and I did a lot of acting as a kid growing up in theatre. I grew up in northern middle America so there isn’t a big film market there, but there was a theatre scene and I was very active with that. I remember being in the hospital when I was 4 after suffering a head injury where I fell and had an epidural hematoma, and I was watching TV with this strong burning desire to act. I kind of forced my parents to take me to auditions and rehearsals, and after a few years they were on board. I landed my first gig in a singing and dancing group called Kids on Broadway when I was 7 years old. It was my first audition ever and I sang, “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” from the musical Annie. Today my parents are my biggest supporters. Some other interests I have outside of acting is psychology because I think the study of moods, emotion, the brain, perceptions, and different realities to be incredibly fascinating. That also is what drives a lot of the research when studying characters. I also have a strong interest in animal rescue.
TITL: Which actors and actresses most inspire and influence you when it comes to your career and your work? What is it about he/she/them that encourages and motivates you so much?
CA: To me, Meryl Streep is honestly one of the greatest actresses, and what I love about her work is all the details she puts into her characters. She has played so many different characters from A to Z and they all are so meticulously filled with details and fleshed out with depth. Whether it’s an incredible accent in Sophie’s Choice, an elderly Rabbi in Angels in America, a she-devil in The Devil Wears Prada, an aging mother addicted to pain pills in August Osage County, or playing historical characters like Julia Childs. She nails it every time and adds an element of likability to all of her characters. I think it’s something about her as a human being that is really raw and beautiful. She’s an incredible talent with an incredible soul and has so much to share with the world. She is a true gift because she is beautiful from the inside out. Often times when I am researching a character, I think to myself, “What would Streep do?” Because to me she is the best. I love her taste for acting.
TITL: Your most recent film The 6th Friend premiered earlier this year. For those who haven’t seen it yet, can you give me some details as to the story?
CA: Yes, we are very excited about The 6th Friend releasing in Europe this month! Audiences have really loved the film and what they seem to love is all the humor that is in it. The story isn’t humorous because it’s a horror film, but there’s a strong element of comedy mixed in with it and audiences have really loved it. It stars an all-female main cast of six best friends on the night of their college graduation, where they decide to trip acid for the first time. The man, Tyler, who brings the goodies over decides to stay and join in the fun, but something dark and twisted happens. There is an attempted rape and murder, but the girls end up stopping him and killing him before it happens. The girls get a taste of fame from being the murder survivors and their lives are now changed forever. Fast forward five years later where they decide to rekindle their friendship on a weekend vacation to a cabin where the nightmare continues with a surprise at the end.
TITL: What was it like to re-unite with your good friend and former The Demon In The Dark co-star Dominique Swain on the project?
CA: It was great working with Dom, she really added a lot of humor to the movie and had some great ideas on set. During filming it was really great to have her to collaborate with as an actor. She gives you a lot to play with while filming and her eye for comedy is sharp. I always feel there is a lot of humor in horror because comedy and tragedy go together. Dominique was able to add that humor in and add to the humor of Melissa, my character. Our two characters add to the comedic relief of the movie.
TITL: Any fond or favourite memories from your time on set?
CA: I have a musical theatre background and I have always loved Bob Fosse. The FX channel is doing a limited series on Bob Fosse and his life with partner Gwen Verdon, with Sam Rockwell playing Fosse and Michelle Williams playing Gwen Verdon. FX asked me to come in and do a print shoot of some dance shots with Sam and Michelle. That was some of the best times on set, and the photos turned out amazing. They were raw, real, hard, passionate, and had a strong element of theatre life, which I have a deep passion for.
TITL: The film has won awards at several film festivals including the RIP Horror Film Festival, but do you care much for accolades like that or are you more concerned about what your fans and viewers think?
CA: The accolades are great and are certainly appreciated because it gives you validation, and a lot of actors in the beginning of their careers are looking for validation. At the end of the day though, it’s all about what your fans and viewers think and what they enjoy. They are the ones buying, watching, and talking about your film so they are the ones we cater to. If the awards and accolades come that’s great, but the most important thing is that people watch the movie, enjoy it and share it.
TITL: What can you tell me about your latest project Promises?
CA: Well this is the first movie that I sing in and I’m really excited to go into the studio to record the songs. I have a background in musical theatre as a mezzo-soprano and have been wanting to sing in a movie for a long time, so I was really excited to jump on board with it. The story follows my character who is a mother and also a musician with a terminally ill daughter. As the story unfolds, we find out that I am unable to pay for the medical care and we see how far a mother is willing to go to save her child. It’s actually based on true events the happen in Ethiopia.
TITL: Of all the roles and characters you’ve portrayed in your career so far, which one stands out the most and why?
CA: Even though I have a horror film out, I have a deep love and connection to comedy. Comedy is one of my first loves. A character that I played in the last few years, and really enjoyed, was a character from a play that was a west coast premiere called Niagara Falls. I played the character of Linda who is the comedic relief and has a dreamlike quality to her. Meaning that when she comes onstage, you question your own reality and circumstance. She comes with a heightened awareness, has an acute eye for detail, and has an added dose of quirk. I enjoy playing strong funny characters.
TITL: You’ve guest-starred on TV shows including Modern Family and Mob City, but if you could appear in any other series, past or present, which would it be?
CA: I would have loved to work on Arrested Development and Happy Endings. To me, those two shows have some of the best writing in the 21st century so far. There are some other shows from the 90’s like Seinfeld that is also up there, but I have a really strong appreciation for intelligent writing.
TITL: Are there any upcoming projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?
CA: I’m the lead in a really cool film going around the festival circuit right now called The Desert. It’s produced by one of the creators of NBC’s Grimm, Lynn Kouf, and directed by Ben Bigelow. The style of the film is like a 1950’s melodrama, but with an added sci-fi element. It follows my character of Martha, who breaks into her son’s imagination chamber which is used for psychological treatment. After breaking into the imagination chamber, Martha is thrown into a new world, a world of desert where she is reunited with her son. Once back to the real world, we come to find out that Martha has broken open the two worlds wreaking havoc on both.
I just wrapped on a film called Waiting, which is another film that makes the audience question the reality of the movie. The characters are stuck in the room of a restaurant that seems to become more and more claustrophobic, but they are unable to leave. That is until they are allowed to leave but they all must make a bold courageous move before they can get out. It’s sort of representational of purgatory, or the purgatory of our own minds.
TITL: Actors often work long, unsociable hours for lengthy periods of time, so what do you most like to do when you get a day or period of time off? How do you switch off from a particularly stressful role or busy day?
CA: I really enjoy getting massages. It’s healthy and beneficial for you and I think of it as a holistic form of staying healthy. It increases circulation, opens up chi, releases tension, and can help keep you centered and grounded. I also am an avid horseback rider and I have been riding horse since I was about 4 after growing up on a farm. For me being with animals is very comforting, as well as relaxing and healing. I enjoy going for a ride to clear my thoughts, be with my horse, and it’s also quite a work out when you gallop.
TITL: Finally then, looking to the future, what’s the long-term ambition for you, both personally and professionally? What’s left for you to tick off your bucket list and at what point would or will you be able to say “I’ve done all I set out to and more?”
CA: I don’t think I will ever say I’ve done it all, because there is so much to accomplish as an artist and an adult who is always growing. I have a lot of needs that keep getting added to my list of things I want to accomplish and do. With growth, comes more obstacles and more things to accomplish. What I want to continue doing is producing and acting in feature films and TV with scripts that move me. I want to partner with other investors and companies to create films and grow my creative network, but also make ground breaking films. The 6th Friend is a movie that audiences will enjoy and love, but I want to add a lot more genres and characters to my resume. I don’t want to stick with one genre because the artist in me needs to play with all the genres, styles, and characters. I’m an actor and it’s my job to create diversity within my work book of characters.
For more information on Chantelle Albers, visit her website, give her page a like on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.Header photo credit: David Villada.
Having opened for the likes of Stereophonics and with a number of as yet unannounced festival dates for the summer coming up, singer-songwriter and guitarist Alex Francis is starting to make waves. While supporting US music YouTuber Megan Davies on her first headline UK tour, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with him after the first night show in Manchester to chat favourite songs, future plans and his admiration for Ed Sheeran.
TITL: Guitarists have long since been a staple of the music industry, but what is it about the instrument that makes you connect with it so strongly?
Alex Francis: That’s a great question. When it comes to outside my voice, it’s my instrument. Guitar playing has always been a vehicle of sorts for me I guess. I didn’t go into music just to play guitar – my brother plays really well and he’s developed an amazing style – but I came into guitar playing later on. I like it and I was interested by it, but I was never on a quest to learn “Stairway To Heaven” or anything like that. I started singing from a young age and I decided that I needed an instrument to be a vehicle for that. It could have been the piano; I’m trying to chase that path as well at the moment. My sort of genesis of guitar playing, stylistically…I like the idea that I have a feel for how I do it. I don’t really know how best to describe what that is. I just use it as a vehicle to carry what I’m doing.
TITL: There’s a very Ed Sheeran-esque sound and tone to your voice, particularly when it comes to certain songs in your set…
AF: I love Ed Sheeran..
TITL: Given how he’s, I’d say, easily the most modern, successful guitar player in the world right now, do you ever feel any pressure to sort of live up to that and find yourself maybe one day selling out a stadium like Wembley or the Etihad, like he has?
AF: I think what Ed Sheeran is doing is phenomenal. Being able to do that – sell out shows at Wembley and here in Manchester as you mentioned – is incredible. What makes him so admirable, when I think about it is the fact that he’s presenting those songs in their most basic format. Now I’m all for production, I love all that stuff and I do it with my own records, but that guy can present his music in such a bare bones kind of way and it’s the truth and the power of a strong melody and great lyrics. When I think about him, it fills me with great hope that you can be a great songwriter with your lyrics and your narratives, your melodies and it’s still strong enough to connect with people on that scale. I’m a great admirer of Ed Sheeran; I think he’s doing a great thing not even just for a genre but music as a whole; the way he writes such great songs that people are receptive to – there’s a power in that.
TITL: I’m assuming you’ve played bigger shows than the one you did tonight, so taking that into account, how do you personally feel about playing smaller, more intimate venues like this one?
AF: I’ve been very lucky to play some really big theatres and arenas and to go out with other acts that are doing that but to be truthful, I get a kick out of every single version of a venue. Like tonight, for example, it doesn’t and didn’t matter to me how many people were here; we had a cool crowd tonight. I’m just want to connect with people, like I have with you. We hadn’t met each other until tonight, but we connected, and I’m glad to be able to talk to you about this. For me, I guess I’m looking for connection. There was a fella I was talking to just now and he asked me what it was I wanted from this and what I wanted to do…I’m just happy to give my art out to people. I want to be able to connect; that’s the only thing I really want. I like to give this out, I want it to be public and I just want to connect with people..on any level.
TITL: It’s been said over time that many things can bring people together and connect them with one another, but I guess music is a key part of that. Music has stood the test of time whereas many other things and ‘ideas’ per se haven’t..
AF: You can trace music back…it’s primitive. You can go back to a caveman hitting a club against the side of a wall because it meant something and people responded to that. I believe in the power of music. I’ll say this as well, sometimes playing in front of a really, really big crowd is sometimes much, much easier than playing in front of a small one because you don’t have such a level of attention that maybe you’d hope for, when compared to large audiences. We’re stripping these songs really far back, and as you were saying about Ed Sheeran earlier, you give people the bare essence and if that’s strong enough, then hopefully you’ve got something good. I wouldn’t speak for Megan but I’m sure she would come from the same place.
TITL: Megan mentioned earlier that it’s the connection to her music that she cares about most when it comes to people’s reactions, and that she once got a message from a soldier overseas who listened to her songs to help him sleep.
AF: Oh wow. People respond to the power and the connection, primitiveness of music.
TITL: Speaking of the connection so many of us have to and with music, which song do you personally feel most emotionally connected to?
AF: That’s a great question. Do I only get one?
AF: You can’t do that to me!
TITL: I can…I did it to Megan earlier…
AF: I tell you what, I’ll give you one song but it won’t be the only one I can think of. I would say…maybe “Case Of You”. Actually, let me scratch that one. Let me think…I love “Man In The Mirror” by Michael Jackson. I love that song – there’s something really ethereal about that song. It puts the hairs on my arms up every time I think about it. He accesses something in that track. I’m not talking about him…I mean he was an artist, but there’s something in that song…a message. It’s a message that people try and do a lot; it’s been tried in other songs and been done well, but I think the message in that track is incredible.
TITL: Just in case you wanted to know, Megan chose “River” by Joni Mitchell..
AF: Ah! And yours?
TITL: “Everybody Hurts” by REM.
TITL: I can come back to that song at any time, no matter what mood I’m in, but especially when I’m feeling a little low, and the message of that song – the reminder that I’m not alone, really touches me. And I think it does for a lot of people.
AF: It’s a beautiful song. Michael Stipe has such a beautiful turn of phrase to his lyrics. It’s such a relatable lyric, isn’t it? It’s one of those songs…kinda like one of those Motown tracks from back in the day when they were so simple but so profound.
TITL: It’s proof that you don’t need heavy instrumentation or production to get a message across or make a song connect with an audience. If the lyrics are honest and heartfelt enough..
AF: I’m really into those kinds of songs. I feel like we’ve got a common thread here; we’ve been talking about Ed Sheeran, “Man In The Mirror” and now “Everybody Hurts”…they’re songs that just give you the message straight up and down.
TITL: There’s something almost therapeutic about the message in those songs..
AF: Exactly and we understand what it means to have a connection to a song in that way. Some people do, some people don’t. It’s like that Bob Marley quote: “The greatest thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain.” It’s a great way of putting it.
TITL: So how did this run with Megan come about?
AF: I have a great agency who work wonders for me in the UK and do the same with Megan. I met Megan for the first time tonight. We’ve been talking and conversing via social music. I listened to her music and my agent pitched it in, saying he thought it’d be a really cool fit. For the last few months, I’ve been going out with artists who are trying or starting to break through over here, which is very much what we’ve been trying to do with my music. I love what she’s doing and I love the way she approaches her own music, the songs that she covers. She’s got a really individual style of doing that. It’s really cool, the way she blends all the music and the rest of it. I was like “yeah, let’s do it..let’s get on board.” Any opportunity to tour. I was just talking to Kelsea (Megan’s manager) earlier and saying the same thing. I love being on the road, wherever I am and the same goes for Gee my guitar player.
TITL: How have you found audiences to be different or similar when playing shows here and elsewhere in Europe or in the States?
AF: As far as the US is concerned, I’ve done literally a handful of shows over there. I haven’t done a massive amount. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Europe in the last 18 months. One thing I have found is that in my experience, being a relatively new act to a lot of people, I tend to feel like, especially in Northern Europe, they’re very receptive to music that isn’t perhaps on their radar. In the UK, I think we’re quite choosy about what we like, but I’m the same. I was born in Hampstead; I’m as English as it gets. You kind of have to ‘earn’ it a bit more over here – don’t get me wrong, I haven’t got a problem with doing that, and that’s part of the path we’re on. I feel like people can get on board with your music for a little bit less in Europe, but at the end of the day, I just want people to connect with the songs. As for the US; I’m dipping my toe in…I’m going to be in Austin next month playing SXSW. Excuse my French but it’s a bit of a clusterfuck of opportunity…so I’m gonna try and be in as many places, meet as many people as I can.
TITL: So aside from this tour and SXSW, what does the rest of 2019 have in store for you?
AF: We’ve got some pretty tasty ones in the diary for the summer festival circuit. Some of it’s still unconfirmed and I’ve been sworn to secrecy, so if you’re sniffing for an exclusive, I’m hard pressed to let the cat out of the bag. There’s going to be festivals all summer and then I’m going back to Germany in September; doing a little run of headline dates there. We actually rejigged the dates because the Megan opportunity came up, so I’ll be there in September and then I’ll be in New York that month too. I should probably mention too that I’ve got a single out right now called “Whatever Happened..”
TITL: Go on, give it a plug..
AF: It’s out now on Apple Music, Spotify. We played it tonight. And, we have another one dropping on May 3rd so keep a look out for that. There’s a video dropping in a few weeks. Social media is AlexFrancisMusic..check it out.
TITL: Looking further ahead, and given, as you’ve said, that you’re a relatively new artist, what’s the long term goal? What’s the big ambition?
AF: It’s actually really hard to know. It’s kind of tricky to pin down quite what that should be or what that is. All I can really say is that I’m going to try and keep developing what I’m doing. I want to try and become more familiar to people. I’m not trying to conquer the world, I’m not trying to get 10 million listeners on Spotify…I just wanna keep playing shows and have people connect with the music. This is so cool because you didn’t know me from Adam today and I just met you, and you were like “I wanna hear what he has to say”…sometimes I ramble and talk crap, but this is so much of the reason I want and wanted to come out and do this kind of tour with Megan and again, I don’t want to speak for her, but I think she would vibe on this as well. You want to access people, you want to meet people and talk to people. I got a really lucky opportunity to go out with Gee and the rest of my group and open for Stereophonics in Europe. This time last year we were still out…and it was cool. Sometimes it felt like a film…being whisked around all sorts of places, and it was so exciting to do it. We had such a blast every night and we got to get my music out there to people, hoping they’d connect with it.
TITL: I asked Megan the same question and she said, very much as you have, that her ambition is to get her music out there and have it connect with people.
AF: Exactly – for me, the connection is what matters. And, if I’ve got an end goal, it’ll be to do this until I can’t do it anymore.
Check out “Whatever Happens” below and for more information on Alex Francis, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter. Header photo credit: James Boardman.