Some people will play through anything. Athletes limp on broken legs to lead their team to laurels (Byron Leftwich, anyone?). Protestors protect themselves with garbage bags and banners when it relentlessly rains on their political parade. Musical theatre majors manage to make the show successful, despite dealing with long hours and laryngitis. When I saw Sophia Kayafas sit down at OglebayFest on a stool, solo, barely protected by a tiny tent in the pouring, piercing, rimy rain, I knew she made music for a reason.
Despite the cold conditions, Kayafas comforted the crowd, some of whom weren’t worried about getting wet as they withstood the weather and even sat on soaked seats to see. From the first sentence of her cover of Sara Bareilles’s “Bottle It Up,” singing “There’ll be girls across the nation that will eat this up,” I couldn’t help thinking there are girls across the nation who have hits that are heard hourly who can’t sing this good. It was obvious that Sophia loves to sing, otherwise she would have left and not beguiled with the backdrop of rain. Proving that she’s not a one trick pony, she performed proudly not only with a keyboard but a guitar as well.
An Art major, Kayafas doesn’t lack in creativity. She also writes her own songs, some of which she showcased at the fall festival. Between being an artist and a musician, Sophia also managed to land a role in her school’s latest musical. With a cd in the works, torrential talent, and a legitimate love for making music, Kayafas can’t be contained.
Sara Fincham: What came first for you – playing piano or singing, or was it a simultaneous scenario?
Sophia Kayafas: I played piano first. I have always sung on pitch but I did not start to even attempt to control my pitches or develop a style until around sophomore year in high school. Mastering the ability to do both was very difficult because of the absurd amount of coordination it takes. I do not read notes but I don’t think that it hinders my style.
SF: In the beginning, when you started playing piano– was that something you enjoyed, or was it just another extracurricular that your parents put you in?
SK: I was always very curious about the piano. We have always had some form of piano since I was young. Lessons were at first my idea, and then I hated them soon after. I could never read the notes well. I would just listen and repeat what I heard and the teachers didn’t like that, but some helped me to develop my ear while others encouraged me to write instrumentals. I quit two teachers and the third moved away, not because of me, of course! They all influenced me greatly. I am glad I went. But I never was able to grasp the concept of reading notes. I have since then rebelled against the law of notes by only playing by ear and writing my own songs!
SF: Performing is obviously something that gets better with practice. What have you learned about it from your first time til now?
SK: Be confident. If you don’t buy it, the audience wont either, and also know the lyrics to all of the songs. I keep a special book of all of the lyrics to both my own songs and cover songs because I cannot remember them when I am nervous. I am always nervous at the beginning of every gig and performance. I think it is a good thing though. Keeps me from being flat.
SF: You have a lot of creative credentials –art, musical theatre, playing instruments, singing – a.) how did you discover that you plugged in well to those outlets, and b.) please tell me you’re horrible at Math or something!
SK: Ha! Okay well first of all I would say I was definitely born with an interest and a creative mind. I always knew I liked art and piano just sort of crept out of nowhere, but I really worked hard at both though it was never purposely. I practiced piano because I liked it or because it was fun, or because I was inspired, never because I intended to get better because it was forced upon me. I never would have thought that I was decent at drawing or piano or even singing until high school. I had a lot of options and classes and experiences that sort of fed my creativity and evolved my interests, sculpted my passions, and created new ways for me to express myself. But I had a lot of support from friends, teachers, and family.
I just applied myself and tried so many activities that I found that I enjoyed them all! High school was an adventure and I loved it. But I think that one particular time of my life changed the way I would see myself, my god given talents, and my future. I was diagnosed with Graves Disease the beginning of freshman year. It basically shut down my ability physically and emotionally, to function like a normal human being. Long story short, through my diagnosis, depression, and doctors appointments, I found this outlet to distract me from my sadness and frustration. I started drawing all of the time. I started writing music, playing more by ear, and even took a few acting classes. After I got better, I stuck with everything that I loved and I slowly developed this crazy drive from within for music and art.
And yes, I have always been horrible at math and science!
SF: How have you managed to make music and attend school – do they balance each other, as in school gives you a chance to make music and making music also affords you with opportunities to learn, or are they two separate schemes?
SK: I have the time to practice at school. I have a place to practice. We have open mic nights in which I sometimes participate in and I am always looking for gigs to play at. I think music will always be apart of my life but never a career.
SF: Do you have to be inspired to write or can you sit down and say “I’m going to write a song now…?”
SK: It all depends. I can be inspired and just sit down and try, but sometimes I come out empty handed. Its just like fishing… in the ocean. Other times, I will be trying to play something by ear and Ill warp it into something original. Other times I will have music and need words. Sometimes I will have words and need music. It all depends, but my best songs are the ones I write randomly while I’m alone. I have to be alone!
SF: What’s your favorite lyric from a song and what’s your favorite lyric that you’ve ever written?
SK: I don’t have a favorite lyric… yet, but my favorite artist is KT Tunstall. My favorite song I’ve written is “You Are”. It’s real cute!
*To hear some of Sophia’s music you will just have to see her live!