Years before making her label debut with 2019's Sophie and the Broken Things, Gault grew up on a 10-acre farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was a quiet, rural home, miles away from the summertime resort towns that dot the Atlantic coast. Surrounded by country roads and farmland, she turned to music, developing a love not only for the songwriters whose songs seemed to reflect her own surroundings — from the blue-collar roots-rock of Steve Earle to the raw, ragged country music of Lucinda Williams — but also for the guitar, which she began playing as a 12 year-old.
"All my friends lived almost 30 minutes away," she explains, "so I spent a lot of time jamming with my Dad and other family members at parties, drinking beer and playing covers of old blues, rock, and folk songs. It was a peaceful, creative environment." Between those family jam sessions, she'd brush up on her fretwork in private, watching concerts of her favorite artists on DVD and trying to replicate the solos by pickers like Keith Richards and Freddie King.
Before long, Gault was playing her own songs, too, rolling her love of alt-country and folk music into an original sound that showcased not only her instrumental chops, but also her compelling voice. She headed north after graduation and enrolled in the music program of a college in upstate New York. When an internship brought Gault to Nashville during her senior year, though, she chose to remain in Music City, cutting her teeth with a long string of local shows and adding her own stamp to the city's ever-evolving sound.
While driving home from a songwriting session one evening, Gault decided to stop at Bobby's Idle Hour, one of Nashville's longest-running music venues. There, she ran into another local icon: Americana pioneer Julie Miller, whose award-winning music had shaped Gault's own approach to songwriting. The two struck up a conversation, and Gault left Bobby's Idle Hour later that evening with a heightened level of inspiration. Recorded months later with bandmate Daniel Jones, Sophie and the Broken Things pays tribute to that influential encounter, thanks in part to a name that nods to Julie Miller's own song, "Broken Things."
A drummer and producer who began touring the country at 17 years old, Jones met Gault through a last minute fill-in gig in Nashville. They quickly discovered a shared vision musically, and began piecing together the four recordings that comprise the Sophie and the Broken Things EP. "At first, we were unsure of how we wanted to record, but we decided we wanted to do it ourselves, using any equipment and experience we had," Gault remembers. "All of my vocals were recorded with the same AKG mic I've had since college. I had seen The Ballad of Shovels & Rope and was really inspired by how they used whatever they had at the time to record music. You don't always have everything you think you need, so you work with what you have."
Drawing upon additional influences like Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, John Mayer, Neko Case, Ryan Adams, and the Rolling Stones, Gault and Jones recorded Sophie and the Broken Things at Upside Sound in Nashville, with Will Newcomb assisting Jones as co-producer and engineer. Drums were even tracked in the basement where Gault formerly lived. From the breezy, countrified swing of "Paper ID" to the mid-tempo "Kickin' Stereos," Sophie and the Broken Things finds Gault taking stock of the present, the path that brought her to Nashville, and the memories she picked up along the way. It's an EP of original music, rooted in confident guitar playing, Gault's unforced vocals, autobiographical lyrics, and light touches of B3 organ, upright piano, and glockenspiel. At the center of that sound, though, is Gault herself: a small-town native with a big sound and an even bigger future, making sense of the world around her through song.