By Frank Bell
Sophie Hutchings is a very modern, piano-led composer that brings accessible mindfulness into her work. As someone who has constantly battled against sleep, Sophie uses music, alongside her everyday ocean and nature rituals, to connect to her current reality. Heading towards an EP that looks at sleep, friendship and connection (to both yourself and the world around you), we spoke to Sophie about the first single from Love & Keep. Sophie touches upon feeling over-connected, and potentially over-stimulated when the internet is our only channel to those around us.
Believe or not I bake in the middle of the night too… Raspberry choc chip muffins go down nicely with a cup of tea at 2am!
Can you tell us about your experience as an insomniac?
I’m naturally a very energetic, self-motivated person so this has helped me pull through some intense periods of lack of sleep… I also have a pretty resilient nature. However, having said that, after a while, it can take its toll on your nervous system and you can feel yourself plummeting. I’m a bit of a night owl (clearly) but I love the mornings also, so tend to burn the candles at both ends!
You read so much about how sleep is imperative for health, how it improves productivity, concentration, performance, etc. Of course, this is true but when an insomniac reads this it’s like “But I can’t sleep so what’s going to happen to my productivity”??! So, when I’m going through a bad patch, I’ve learnt that it’s important not to react to not falling asleep and to just ride with it and remind myself that I have been productive on little sleep before so I can do it again and come out the other side…
Research has shown if you can’t sleep it’s beneficial to get out of bed and do something outside of your sleeping environment and then go back to bed. This has been the best method for me. I try to make sure I don’t make the bedroom my office and avoid technology late at night which is a tough one when there’s so much you can look at on your phone! I always have a good book on the go and if I’m just too exhausted to read I enjoy listening to podcasts, interviews of people’s life stories etc. It’s quite inspiring hearing other peoples experiences. Believe or not I bake in the middle of the night too… Raspberry choc chip muffins go down nicely with a cup of tea at 2am!
I make the ocean a part of my daily ritual which I find extremely medicinal. I try to go rain, hail or shine. There’s something about it that I think changes your brain waves to a more calm, relaxed mindset. For someone who really feels the cold, I still love the ocean (even in winter!) I remember diving into the ocean in the heart of winter in Ireland which was absolutely freezing but it really is healing. It’s been proven that exposing your body to cold conditions on a regular basis can make you more resilient to stress and stimulates your nervous system. I’m a big fan of the Wim Hof Method.
It’s staggering to learn how many people suffer with insomnia out there. People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well. There’s been so much awareness raised over recent years about anxiety and mental health that I think there should be more awareness raised about insomnia. It can feel quite isolating to manage at times. It’s not just like feeling tired, there’s a lot more to it and the nights are long…
Things like world sleep day are becoming more widely recognised which is great.
How was music helped you in relation to your insomnia?
Even though insomnia is frustrating there is a beauty and peace in the stillness that you otherwise don’t always experience during the day so I try to turn it around into a positive… I’ve written a lot of pieces when I can’t sleep .. my album “Night sky” and “Wide Asleep” were all written through different moments of insomnia hence song titles like “By Night” and “Dream Gate”.
I’m not very good at practising mindfulness (I’m working on it) and music can almost do the practice for you as it takes you into the moment and creates the mood that you need. It’s also great company when you’re not sleeping, having it hovering around in the background. Like furniture music, it doesn’t demand but floats around you which has a subconscious soothing aura about it. I’ve discovered a lot of beautiful ambient music for late-night listening which I’ll always have in the background when I’m reading or baking.
What has helped you find connection to the world around you in the enforced lockdown?
Actually, with all the virtual technology going on I can tend to feel a little over-connected. I think lockdown is a good time to focus on a bit self-care. Taking the time to just reflect and breath. In this day and age it isn’t that easy due to continual distractions. I find reading books, watching a really good movie, cooking, going for a surf or swim. I think they stimulate your thinking and enable you to take in what’s going on and then connect in a better mindset.
Staying in touch by messaging or calling friends and family is really important and staying musically connected with my audience is a high priority also.
AND finally, definitely listening to music. There are no barriers or lockdown laws with music. It has a universal language of its own that connects all of us regardless of our language or cultural background. It’s also therapeutic which in such uncertain times for so many I think it helps one feel grounded.
If your first track, Not Alone, could speak. What would it say?
We’ve all had forced alone time and the result is something that we are all going through at the same time. It makes it easy (well it should) for people to understand and empathise with each other. In that sense, we’re not alone because we’re all experiencing something similar. I think it’s a lesson that even if we haven’t been through something similar to someone else, empathy in this day and age goes a long way. We should always try to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, to acknowledge and understand that human connection is a fundamental part of our make up.
Could you tell us more about the EP that’s coming?
It’s a very sleepy late-night listen. I actually recorded it between the hours of 12 and 4am over a couple of nights. Though it initially felt like a challenge, once I got going the experience became unique doing something opposite to the routine of others. It was peaceful, like a moment in time had stopped and I was documenting that moment..
Love & Keep I guess is a bit of nostalgic contemplation on appreciating the simple things that we perhaps took for granted and now value as extremely precious. Instead of holding onto and valuing something from before it’s about building on that, rather than allowing the world of technology to fill in the social fabric and to consider the longevity and significance of friendships in time of uncertainty and struggle. I guess it’s also just allowing time to ponder, and breathe, to free us of extra anxiety to what has already been brought upon us and to not feel alone in that.
Photos by Luke Dubbelde