In the unorthodox new musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, rollicking ensemble numbers abound, but in the midst of Act 2, one arresting solo stands out: “Sonya Alone,” sung by Brittain Ashford as the titular Natasha’s good-hearted cousin, who has just learned that Natasha is about to ruin herself by eloping with the roguish Anatole instead of her fiancee, Andrey.
Ashford is a singer-songwriter in her own right (with the band Prairie Empire), and composer Dave Malloy wrote the song having known her music for years. “Some of her songs about heartbreakingly fierce loyalty and love reminded me of Sonya,” Malloy says. “After convincing Brittain to be in a musical (over a few beers), I wrote ‘Sonya Alone’ specifically for her — in a freezing rehearsal room in Helsinki.”
“I’ve always tried to stay true to my own sound and lead with heart and conviction,” Ashford says, noting that she looks up to The Mountain Goats‘ John Darnielle and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver as vocalists who showed her “that it doesn’t always need to sound ‘pretty’ or ‘nice’ to be deeply moving or have emotional depth.”
Making a music video for “Sonya Alone” was “such a wildly different experience to perform this song in the context of the show,” Ashford says. “On stage, I’m able to be present in the moment, contemplating the consequences for Natasha, myself, and our family if I let her run off with some guy she’s known for three days. Making a video presents a different set of challenges. While I’m able to channel the emotional moment, I have to admit I’m also thinking about things I don’t really think about during the show: Is this my good side? Did I just smudge my eyeliner?” The permanence of a music video, she says, “is a little intimidating, to be sure!”
Below, Billboard debuts The Comet’s new music video for “Sonya Alone.”