Q&A: Sasha Sloan Discusses Her Writer to Artist Transition, RCA Signing, and 'sad girl’ Debut

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Photo: Nicolita Bradley

There’s something to be said about artists who are brave enough to apologetically bare their souls in song. Songwriting is one of the only forms of art which allows for an explicit and direct path to the listener, creating an invisible yet deep line of empathy between the artist and the fan. Cue Sasha Sloan: a Ones To Watch artist who, above all, is a vivid and sincere songwriter at her core. Embodying her “sadgirlsloan” brand completely, she has connected with a growing fanbase through highly confessional, left-of-center pop songwriting that instantly connects with relatable millennial feelings of self-doubt and discovery.

Originally born in Boston, Sloan moved to Los Angeles and immediately began writing for pop giants Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, Camila Cabello, as well as collaborating with dance stars like Kygo and Odesza. When she decided to step out as a solo artist, Sasha Sloan was presented in her most prime form – immediately establishing an honest sonic identity with “Ready Yet.” Fast forward to less than a year later and her career is booming, with a Joywave support tour under her belt, several major festival performances lined up, millions on millions of Spotify streams, and a record deal with Sony’s RCA Records. Her debut EP, sad girl, was released with RCA in late April 2018, featuring six singles that are perfectly-tailored for solo cry sessions and as empowering breakup anthems alike.

We chatted with Sasha Sloan shortly before the record release and her interview answers flowed out just like her song lyrics: sans filter. Read more below and pick up your tickets to one of Sloan’s upcoming shows here.

Sasha Sloan Live Shows & Festival Dates:

06/22, Bonanza Campout, Heber City, Utah

07/06, Common Ground Festival, Lansing, MI

07/10, Great Scott, Allston, MA

07/13, Newport Music Hall, Columbus, OH*

07/14, Cannery Ballroom, Nashville, TN*

07/16, Delmar Hall, St. Louis, MO*

07/17, The Jones Assembly, Oklahoma City, OK*

08/05, Lollapalooza, Chicago, IL

08/10, Outside Lands, San Francisco, CA

*Oh Wonder Support

OTW: Before you went solo, you wrote for a ton of other artists. What led to the decision to start the official Sasha Sloan project? 

Sasha: Well, I think I’ve always been an artist. I wrote this one song “Ready Yet” which is my first release, and that was the first song that I felt like was me and was really personal, so I couldn’t give it away. So once I wrote that, it just felt natural to start releasing my own stuff under my own name.

OTW: And after “Ready Yet,” it seemed like an outpouring of emotion in every song you released. “Runaway” is my jam. How did you get comfortable being so vulnerable?

Sasha: I think that’s just who I am. I would feel uncomfortable putting out songs that were pop and happy, because that’s not who I am when I write. Which is kind of weird, because I’m genuinely a very positive person. Well, people who know me might disagree; I’m pretty cynical and jaded for the most part. (Laughs) But when I write for some reason, I just get really emotional, so it feels most natural to me. Hopefully I can start writing happy songs at some point in my life.

OTW: Is that in the works?

Sasha: I think so, we’ll see. They’ll always be bittersweet for sure.

OTW: Does your songwriting correlate with where you are at that point in your life?

Sasha: I think for me, most of these songs were written before I had broken up with my boyfriend, so they were kind of foreshadowing. Super weird, I know. He’s heard them, but they weren’t released until after we were broken up, thank god. He’s probably like, “What the fuck?” But I think sometimes when I’m writing, I don’t really know what’s going on in my brain, so I’ll write something and be like, “Oh shit, this is how I’m actually feeling.” Even if I can’t admit it to myself. I released “Runaway,” and we had broken up, and I remember listening to it one night, and that was the first time I cried about a breakup. It was super weird.

OTW: Amazing! Backtracking to your songwriting credits – any highlights that you want to share? 

Sasha: Yeah, I mean I moved to LA when I was 19 and just started writing for other people. Got signed to Warner/Chappell when I was at Berklee in Boston. It’s been a really slow grind – I think because I had a lot to learn when I first moved to LA. I didn’t know anything. I was a jazz snob, and I hated pop music, so I think it took me a second to really love pop music, and now I’m obsessed with it. But I’ve been really fortunate to work with Camila, Dua, Charli XCX, all these girls who paved the way for me and showed me what it’s like to be an artist.

OTW: What steps do you take to make sure your music is different from that typical Top 40 sound? 

Sasha: I think I’ve been writing for so long that it’s easy to take that hat off and just be myself. But it’s been nice because I kind of have the tools to write a pop song, which I didn’t have before, so I can channel me into a pop song better than I would have been able to three years ago. But it’s weird – I just kind of know when a song is for me. It’s just a feeling; I can’t explain it.

OTW: So obviously you seem to be very comfortable with yourself, but then there’s songs like “Normal” about trying to fit in. Have you transitioned out of that?

Sasha: I think I’m accepting the fact that I’m a bit weird. (Laughs) And I’m okay with that. I think I tried really hard to fit in and be like other writers around me, and I didn’t know who I was. Once I let that go, I felt more confident knowing that I’m not sane, which is fine for me now. I still have days where I’m like, “Should I wear this instead of this?” I’m still insecure as fuck. But, we’re working on it.

OTW: So you’re from Boston. What are your thoughts on Dunkin’ Donuts?

Sasha: (Laughs) I miss it, very very much. I’ve tried it here, but you know what the difference is? You don’t get treated like shit in LA. In Boston, people who work at Dunkin’ Donuts are Bostonians, and they’re rude to you. It’s part of the experience. In LA, everyone is so fake, so the experience isn’t the same. There are also no drive-thrus, which is huge for me. I really hate getting out to get my coffee here.

OTW: Okay, I’m glad we cleared this up! So you also had some collaborations with Kygo, King Henry and ODESZA – how did those come about and what was the experience like?

Sasha: They all came about in different ways. ODESZA was a session; they just played the track and my friend Nuni and I wrote the topline to it. And now they’re friends and I love them, really great dudes. They all came about through me being a writer, but with Kygo, I was just at camp, and we played it on guitar and he put it out. You never really know what’s going on as a songwriter, you just go ahead and do your best and hope it comes out.

OTW: So when you go in and sit in the studio, what’s the first step you take to channel some feelings?

Sasha: It depends on who you’re writing with, and who you’re writing for. If the artist is in the room, I usually take a backseat, and I’m just like, “What’s going on in your life?” And then I’ll let them do most of it, and I’ll be more of an editor, but then when it’s just me I just write everything myself. I feel like when you’re an artist, it should come from you, and that’s why when I’m working with other artists, that’s usually the role I take. With DJs it’s different; “This Town” I probably would have released myself if Kygo didn’t, because it’s a super personal song for me. It just depends on the situation, but usually I like to start with lyrics, that’s really important to me.

OTW: So you just signed to RCA, congrats! How did you decide that that’s the right home for you?

Sasha: RCA and I have had a good relationship for a while now, just for me being a writer. I just love the people there; they really get the vision. I think they’ve always understood who I am, with being able to release my own music first independently, and kind of show who I am – they really got it after that. All the pieces just fell into place, and I’m really excited. It’s going to be nice to not have to do everything myself anymore.

OTW: So we’ve talked a lot about your process in figuring out who you are – if you could sum it up into one sentence, who are you?

Sasha: An anxious mess, mostly. I don’t know, I’m just really normal. I don’t really do anything crazy. I’m a full on grandma, who’s very emotional, and likes to write songs. (Laughs)

OTW: With so many breakup songs, what would be your number one piece of advice?

Sasha: See the red flags, don’t ignore them. And if you can’t be yourself in a relationship, don’t be in it, because it’s not right. That was hard for me to learn, I’m still learning it.

OTW: Great advice. So you did “Psychopath” with Nina Nesbitt and Charlotte Lawrence. What happened when you first got in the room together?

Sasha: We had never met before, but we had a track already – Henry had produced it. With most sessions if you meet someone for the first time, you don’t usually get anything, but I think we all felt the pressure like, “Oh shit, we need to write something today.” It was actually really fun in the end; the girls are really tight, and I really like them. We all got along and wrote a song that we all liked it, which was dope. I was really scared that someone was going to hate it. For me, the song is about people in your life who are haters, they wanted an empowerment song, so that’s kind of what came out. I think we each have our own interpretation of what it means to us, which is cool. I’ve never collaborated with two other girls before.

OTW: How was the tour with Joywave? What was your favorite part?

Sasha: It was really dope. My favorite part was that honestly, I’d never performed these songs live before. I had seen songs that I’d written be performed to audiences before, but I’ve never been the one singing them. All my songs are so personal to me – like you can see streams on a computer, but when you’re performing live to someone, it’s like, “Okay, you’re really listening.” It was really cool to see people react; I learned a lot as a writer, too – what songs didn’t work and what songs do work. Now, when I go in the studio I have that in the back of my head, which is cool. I really liked performing and being in that world, because I’ve been stuck in the studio for three years, and being live is just a whole other experience.

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OTW: What is on the horizon?

Sasha: I’m opening for Oh, Wonder in June, and Eden in the fall. I’m playing a bunch of festivals: Lollapalooza, ACL, Bonnaroo, Outside Lands. Really excited for all of them, a lot of performing is on the horizon. 

OTW: So who are some of your Ones to Watch artists?

Sasha: Phoebe Bridgers, amazing. I’m such a huge fan of hers. I’m really not hip to music, I usually write something and then be so sick of the loop by the end of the day that I just play video games, so I’m really bad. King Princess is really dope – I only know “1950” but she’s amazing.

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