Sophia St. Helen’s musical career didn’t begin like your typical singer-songwriter. After studying vocal performance at The American College of Greece, she stayed in the country and worked as the house singer at a hotel, performing the occasional gig in Athens. While on the island of Hydra in 2014, she met producer Robby Baier, and they recorded the song “Lazy Summer” — the first she recorded for her debut album, None The Wiser, which came out May 1.
St. Helen got back in touch with Baier while she was in the U.S., and they ended up recording the rest of the album last year in the Berkshires. With a voice reminiscent of Nora Jones, St. Helen’s sound is mellow and whimsical. Songs like “The Bay” use natural imagery to evoke a relaxed, blissful mood. Others, like “Comfort in Crying” and “What the Heart Wants,” deal more explicitly with love and heartbreak — but St. Helen says the deeper theme of the album is “wisdom and naivety.”
“To be none the wiser is to not learn from one’s mistakes, or to not be aware of what has happened,” she says. “In a way, I’m poking fun at myself for remaining naive, even after analyzing and putting into music many situations I have faced in my life.”
St. Helen has released music videos for two songs on the album, including “What the Heart Wants,” which features herself and others dancing at a rainbow-and glitter-filled party full of crowns and animal masks.
“The concept behind this music video was let your freak flag fly,” she says. “I wanted to zone into the lyrics of the chorus – the heart wants what the heart wants – and let that be the message taken away from the video. I didn’t want it to be too literal. I just thought about creating the scene of a party that I wish I was at… sparkles and weirdos, free of judgment and full of energy. I wanted to blur the lines of fantasy and reality. I think one of the cool things about music videos is they don’t necessarily need to make sense.”
The other video is for “Like a Fog,” a haunting meditation on solitude, which sees St. Helen traipsing through woodsy scenes, befriending only wildlife. “It was -17 degrees outside that day,” she remembers. “I could barely stop shaking enough to film. But when I was holding and nuzzling the owl, it had my absolute focus, and nothing else mattered. It was just so majestic! It was funny, actually — we had to try and avoid making it look like a love affair between the two of us, because I was visibly infatuated.”
The owl has been a symbol for St. Helen since she was a child. “Owls symbolize wisdom, and my name, Sophia, means ‘wisdom’ in Greek,” she explains. “Again, here I am playing with the theme of wisdom. The song ‘Like a Fog’ is about trying to learn how to be alone. Facing a moment of self-discovery, and looking at wisdom…or quests for wisdom, right in the face.”
St. Helen has been writing new music and plans to start touring throughout the U.S. whenever it’s possible again. In the meantime, you can access None the Wiser on your streaming service of choice and follow her on Instagram.