Born in Gran Canaria, Sofi De La Torre’s stunning artistry is a product of her ever-changing environment. Manoeuvring across bubbling scenes in London, Berlin and Los Angeles, the producer, singer and songwriter has been exposed to a myriad of influences through the journey. Now with her feet firmly on the ground in the country she adores, we had the privilege of catching up with Sofi amidst the serene beauty of one of her cherished spots on the island—the former residence of UD Las Palmas.
Were there any defining moments in your childhood when you realised you wanted to pursue a career in music?
It’s really funny because, throughout my whole childhood, my thing was sports. I used to do athletics and play football a lot and that was my thing, I thought I was going to be an athlete. But there was a lot of music at home always, my dad had a bunch of CD and vinyl collections and every time he used to take us to school and bring us back, there was always music playing in the car so I was always very keen on music and I liked it but I didn’t know I could write or sing or anything like that. I just wasn’t focused on that. I’m from Gran Canaria but I grew up in Lanzarote. When I moved back here I was around 13 and my music teacher in school was pivotal to me knowing that I could write music. He sent us the homework which was to write the song. I didn’t play any instruments or anything, so I just wrote a poem and put a melody to it in my head. When I showed him the next day, he was like wow, you can actually write. He sent me home with the school keyboard and I just learnt that and started experimenting and writing and yeah, he’s one of the main reasons why I started thinking music could be an option for me. I didn’t know if it could be a career but it became a passion and took over from sports.
A lot of people I interview that are musicians or artists often have a sporting background when they were younger. I wonder if it’s the discipline learnt from playing sports that you can bring into creativity?
I think there are a lot of parallels between music and sport, at least for me! There are a lot of similarities that I learnt at a young age - discipline, teamwork, maybe not thinking you’re the epicentre of the world and still thinking you’re good and having an ego but tamed down. I think it’s something that’s a good skill to have when it comes to music as well.
How do you think being born in Gran Canaria shaped you as an artist?
I really struggled when I was away from home and that kind of showed me important this island was for me, but the first couple of years I was in Berlin proved to me that I really wanted this. I was struggling because I felt so alone and it’s funny really because football was the thing that gave me a sense of community. I used to play in the street pitches and it was important to have that on the side of music. In LA too, that’s how I socialised outside of music.
I really understood that I really wanted to pursue and take seriously if I was willing to suffer for it, and now it's come back full circle with me coming back and being able to live off it in my home country, being close to what I love and what’s important to me, it’s incredible.
You write music in both Spanish and English, which is really cool. Do you tend to touch on the same themes within both languages or do you associate one language with certain themes and the other with different ones?
Interestingly, I never wrote in Spanish until I moved to LA. and when I started to write for other people. The reason I moved was that I signed a publishing deal and was going to start writing for other people as well. That was the big Spanglish era of music and everyone was making music in Spanglish. So I came here I was asked if I could write in Spanish and I said I’d never tried but I’ll give it a go. It was then that I discovered a whole new world of expression and creativity and also it found me at a time when I was a little bit stagnant when It came to the English stuff and it gave me an avenue to feel like I was new to something again. It was great! I recently started to touch back on the English stuff, because it allows me to feel fresh again and bounce back and forth and it’s a good thing for me to renew myself. It also has different flows when you write in different languages.
Is it mainly down to the flow of the music and the lyrics, or is it more theme related?
A lot of the time I’ll just sit and start writing or I’ll sift through beats or whatever. Certain sounds instantly just come to me in either English or Spanish. From the beginning, it’s clear if it’s going to be in English and Spanish, or both. A lot of it just has to do with something that feels right to me at that point.
You’ve worked in both design and arts-based roles and created your own artwork for your releases. How does this approach lend itself to your practice?
It’s been like this my whole career because I’ve always taken control of the artistic side of things. At the moment I’m learning to produce and I’m really excited to learn and do things for myself in that way also. Taking care of all the music side of things and then thinking about it visually also, it just feels right to me. When you come to organising the videos, it’s not just the concept, but the production also. I like to do that myself because I have the time and also it’s fun for me, almost like a little puzzle. Sometimes I have a hard time delegating and I don’t like that about myself. I do like to collaborate though, so that’s a big part of the process that I'm trying to work on.
4 Sure Sure is an incredibly creative project where you have four different artists all collaborating on the same song with different releases (essentially making them all different songs). How did this idea come about and what did you want to achieve with the project?
It’s important for me to be a big fan of the artist I want to do a feature with and for me to know that they want to jump on it. I want to know that they like the song and are into it. The idea is that I’ve been around the world with music for so long, for so many years, that I wanted to showcase that side of me. The Italian feature idea started out because I have family from Italy and have spent a lot of my life listening to Italian music. I was a fan of the artist like, 3-4 years ago and it just seemed right. The other collaborations share similar stories, essentially just working with artists who I love. I guess on the whole I wanted people to immerse themselves into their universe and wanted the songs to either be better than the original or kind of keep that level high. I think all of them did that in their own way. They all made the song so much better.
Judging by the fact you’ve been photographed in UD Los Palmas' old stadium, football has played a role in your life in some way. Can you tell me how?
Los Palmas are the team of my heart. Since I was born that was my team. I only suffer and cry for that team. In the stadium where I took the photos, I used to go with my dad when I was little and I’d go and watch the games with him. Football has played an immense role in my life because since I was little I played it with my brother and my dad. I played it in school because we had a girls' team. It’s always been there for me, even now in my older life and like I mentioned before. In Berlin it was how I felt less alone, I’d go and play football on Sundays. I used to drive an hour and a half three days a week to play football in LA. when I came back here football is such a big thing but I couldn’t find anywhere to play casually. But now I’ve finally found it, a year later. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days where I go and play and I just forget about everything. Other than music, football is my biggest passion for sure.
Since England won the Euros last year, there’s been a huge rise in women playing football. How was your experience of playing as a woman in Spain, Berlin and LA?
Except from when I was young when we had a girl's team in school, I’ve always played with men and Although in LA I’d say football is bigger amongst women than men, that was the only place I’d see other women playing in my experience as an adult. Here in Gran Canaria, there’s another woman that plays every now and then but it’s just mostly me and a bunch of guys. It was the same in Berlin. I’ve always been used to playing with guys so it doesn’t phase me. I’ve never once been treated disrespectfully. It’s a shame for me, as I always wish there was more female representation because it’s gotten to a level where we play so well. I think now with women’s football growing, in Spain, it’s definitely becoming more prominent, the next island has a really great team. I’m always happy to see that moving forward because I feel it’s about time it’s just seen as normal.
Maybe you should start a team?
I’ve actually heard that my team Los Palmas are going to be setting up a women’s team. That’d be really fun.
Who from your childhood is your footballing hero?
I can only choose someone from my team because that’s what I really felt in my heart. In one of the songs that I released around a year ago, I filmed it in Estadio Gran Canaria. It’s a song that narrates the parallels between me, and my life within music and football. There’s a line in there that mentions a player which I think is the top player in Spanish football, called Juan Carlos Valerón. He is the epitome of class. For the video, we did a mural of him huge and I did some of the takes in front of that. He’s one of the legends.
Do you still watch Los Palmas?
Yes, every single game. I have a season ticket. Last year we got promoted into La Liga, so next season is going to be immense. The first thing I did when I came back to live here was buy a season ticket. I’ve been to every home game for 4-5 years whilst we've just sitting in the second division. Now that we've been promoted, I'm planning to see the team away as well, which will be cool.
What team are you most looking forward to coming to the Estado?
It’s got to be either Madrid or Barcelona.
Find more from Sofi over on her Instagram.
Photography: R A N C