An Asian that sings folk music? Liberty Martin investigates…
Saphron Storey or Saphron as she prefers to be know is an up-and-coming country/folk singer and songwriter from London. Of Sri Lankan descent, she aims to be the first Asian artist to break into the country and folk music scene. The singer/songwriter, who cites that growing up in multicultural London and her musical family are her influences, has always had a passion for music. She explains: ‘Its’ something that I’ve done from a young age. Growing up I was always in school choirs and getting involved is school plays and stuff like that.’
Saphron discovered a love for song writing at a tender age as well thanks to her unique love of words. She recalls: ‘When I was younger I used to spend hours – this is going to sound really geeky – reading the dictionary. From that I just started to write stories and poems. And then I started to learn instruments, as my parents sent me to piano lessons; I started putting my poems to music. That kind of developed into the craft of song writing.’
Telling stories, which is Saphron’s favourite thing about song writing, is the reason she decided to take a turn into country and folk music. She says: ‘Country music is renowned for telling good stories. It’s all about capturing emotion and the story in the song, and that’s what I really enjoy about it; that coupled with singing with raw emotion and then portraying it through the music and the song lyrics, and then putting it altogether. That’s something that really excites me, because you can start with a blank page and sit down to write something, and by the end of it you’re leaving your little stamp on the world.’
However, Saphron didn’t originally set out to pursue music; at first, she did a law degree. She reveals : ‘I’ve always had a real interest in drama and music but it wasn’t something that my parents necessarily thought was worthy of a career. When I finished my A’Levels I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, so like every good Asian girl I went to law school. I started a degree in law and, to be honest, it was probably one of the most miserable years of my life.’
She continues: ‘But then I realised that you get to live life just once and you’ve got to do the thing that you love. Otherwise you’re never living life to its max; you’ll be living other people’s dreams, but that will never fulfil you. So, I got to the point where I was like, ‘I’ve got to do the things that bring me to life’, because then it will have an impact on other people’
Before establishing a career as an artist herself, with a thirst to do something creative Saphron went over to Los Angeles to do film and TV projects, and began writing with other songwriters and for other artists. Saphron met her husband, Dan Storey, who also works in the music industry, whilst on a project. Dan in fact was the producer of Saphron’s debut EP, Changing Seasons, and is a major inspiration to her music.
‘It was actually my husband who said, ‘You’ve got an amazing voice, you need to sing. Its good to write for other people but you’ll never feel fulfilled if you don’t do your own stuff. It was amazing to do my EP with my husband as well because it was something that we enjoy and it really brought us together. He also wouldn’t let me settle - he’d always push me to do better.’
Saphron also went on her own personal journey in order to write and record her debut EP. ‘The title track for my EP, Changing Seasons, came about because I got to the point where I needed to get all the negative words that had been spoken about me and step into a new season. It was almost like a little motivational speech to myself. But, I think a lot of people relate to that, where you’ve gone through quite a tough season and it feels like no one really gets you and you’re not fully being yourself because there’s a part of you that you haven’t explored. It takes something drastic – some people like to cut their hair or some people like to get a makeover or buy a new wardrobe – but for me it was putting what I was feeling into words, onto paper and then onto a CD. I definitely faced some of my fears, and one of which was hearing me sing when my music was played back. A lot of emotion went into Changing Seasons; it is really raw and real. Doing the EP, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel a real sense of relief, like, ‘Oh wow – I can do this.’
Saphron aspires to sell out stadiums and go on UK and worldwide tours, but she has more than just music in her sights: ‘I’d love to be an advocate for diversity: something in regards to education and politics about getting cultures to understand each other, and seeing diversity as a positive thing to be celebrated and embraced, rather than a negative thing that divides us. I experienced quite a lot of racism growing up in a fairly Caucasian area. I’d drive past and they’d be like, ‘Go back to your country, you Paki’. It was quite hard growing up,’ Saphron remembers.
‘But fast-forward ten years and curry is the favourite dish in the country. If I went back to my country, where would you get your curry?’ she laughs. ‘I believe a lot of that racism came from a place of ignorance and not being taught about the beauty of diversity. I want to change people’s understanding and perception of racism; for racism to no longer be a thing that is normal to people.’
Saphron would also love to work artists such as producer Labrinth, rappers Chip and Tinie Tempah, Jay Sean, M.I.A. and Ed Sheeran, as well as fellow country singer/songwriter Taylor Swift. However, Saphron also wants to make a difference with her music for Asian artists as well. ‘In the mainstream music scene, Asian artists are very underrepresented. I’d love to change that balance and go into areas where Asians have never gone before. That’s why I’m really keen to go down the country/folk route, because there are no Asian artists doing that kind of stuff at the moment. I’d like to raise awareness. Our ethnicity shouldn’t determine what we do. I’d love for Asians to be represented in every area and spectrum of culture.’
With the launch of her EP, Saphron has received attention quickly. ‘My husband said you need to get it out to the BBC then out of nowhere I became BBC Introducing Artist of the Week.’ Publishing companies have since been in contact with Saphron who are keen to work with her on a range of projects. It looks like this talented singer/songwriter, who cares just as much about as her music, is sure to have a fruitful career ahead of her. In her own words, when it comes to Saphron, we better watch this space.
Find out more and keep up with Saphron on her website, Facebook, YouTube and SoundCloud page.
You can purchase Saphron’s music on iTunes or Google Play at: