Accompanying herself with nothing but piano and a delicate, wistful voice, Sophie Auster creates a magical cover of Tom Wait’s “Take Me Home.” A song that, in itself, is so musical, so delicate, and so stunning it sounds timeless and heavenly, just became even more emotional.
“Take me home you silly boy
Put your arms around me”
If you’ve heard the original, you’re familiar with Tom Waits’ raspy, deep vocals. Auster’s cover stays true to the simple longing of Waits’ performance, but it incorporates her stunning singing which couldn’t be more different from the original tune.
Her reimagining of the song is subtly impactful. A sweet voice plus a soft piano make for something more resigned. There’s nothing in-your-face about the heartbreak of “Take Me Home.” It’s about the deep, introspective regret and longing. Sophie Auster’s classical-inspired performance captures that timeless feeling.
Auster’s “Take Me Home” is romantic, feminine, and still brooding.
The short tune is melody-driven and restrained which means a memorable rendition requires great performance skills–the ability to put on a show and tell a story; even one that’s somber and unfinished. Auster’s cover is both hopeful and tragic. Through her dynamic singing, we feel both a love once felt and lost. It feels present. In the moment.
“Please don’t make me someone you once knew”
Perhaps what’s most endearing about the song is Auster’s vocal ability. Her singing is breathy, but purposefully so and done with a remarkable amount of control. Notes whistle through her lovely register as if she’s singing a lullaby. With all the passion and awareness of the most seasoned classical vocalist, but with the relatability and humility of a blues performer, she blends the best of each genre in her uniquely beautiful stylings.
“Take me home, you sill boy
’cause I’m still in love with you”
Not to mention her obvious skills as a pianist.
Perfectly balanced with her soft, sultry voice, Auster encapsulates the feeling of the song. One aspect never overpowers or outperformers the other. There are no showy fills or runs for the sake of it (which she could have easily done, given her impressive musicality). “Take Me Home” is grounded in real emotion. Her singing sounding not like a cover, but a diary entry or a prayer.
Making a song your own is no easy task. Neither is performing it with such a level of showmanship and musical awareness. Auster has accomplished both on “Take Me Home.” For fans of classical music, show tunes, the blues, folk, or virtually any genre you could think of, there’s something in Auster’s voice that reaches everyone.
How did you get into music?
I started singing in the school choir when I was a little girl. I vividly remember the day when our music teacher went row by row and listened to our pitch. She singled me out from the other students and asked me to come sing the song alone in front of the class. It was the first time I had sung in front of anyone before. I was very nervous, but she proudly announced after I had finished, that I would have the honor of being choir soloist. I credit this teacher for her encouragement and sparking my interest in music and performing. I’ve been doing it ever since.
How have your life experiences shaped you as a musician?
As I’ve gotten to know myself better, battled through heartbreak and disappointment and come out the other side, I have evolved as a songwriter. Music is cathartic. It’s a place where I can turn my feelings into art.
What makes music / a song good?
A good song should catch your attention and make you stop what you’re doing. Either to listen more carefully or get up and move.
When you sit down to write, where do you start?
It really depends. I write in a very free and spontaneous way, but I would say mostly it starts with the melody to me.
Would you rather write on personal experiences or general themes?
My songs are always quite personal to me, but I have also use songwriting to tell stories. I’ve been very inspired by Tom Waits and how he writes. He’s always weaving little tales in his music.
What is more important: Lyrics or sound?
I think it really depends on the song and what you want to convey. For example, I have a very thumpy and simple song called “Dragon Blood Tree” on my new album. This song started with two chords and a heavy emphasis on story telling. Whereas my single “Dance with Me” is less about the lyrics and more about capturing a feeling of joy and falling in love. I want my music to be honest and I want people to feel that I’ve shared something special with them. There is a lot of strength in vulnerability.
What inspired you to do a cover of this song in particular?
Tom Waits always manages to hit the simple yet heartbreaking love song right on the mark. I just love the melody and lyrics.
How do you balance honoring a song while putting your own take on it?
I think when you cover a song it’s about drawing out the essence of what makes it a good song to begin with, but putting your unique spin on it.
Does reimagining other artists’ songs impact your own writing?
Totally. When you break down a song’s structure and take it apart and rebuild it, you understand the nuances that maybe you didn’t before. For example I’ve been covering Annie Lennox’s “Walking on broken Glass” in shows and that is a surprisingly complex song. The structure never quite stays the same yet sounds very simple. It makes me examine my own writing and how to make it better.
What’s next for you?
I am currently on the road in Europe! But I will be back in New York at the end of May and I have a show at City Winery on June 5th! Tickets here!
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