Q&A: Sasha Sloan on her EP ‘sad girl’ and collaborating with ODESZA

Sasha Sloan sits among giant chess pieces at the 2018 Bumbershoot music festival in Seattle. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Sad girls have a new queen.

Pop singer-songwriter Sasha Sloan is the bridge between the upbeat, superficial and the subtle, more truthful realms of modern pop music. Shrouded in the electronic beats of today’s radio hits, Sloan’s melancholic 2018 EP, “sad girl,” explores songwriting as a form of overcoming adversity.

Apart from her own music, Sloan has songwriting credits for a variety of different artists such as Camila Cabello, Charli XCX and John Legend. Her voice might sound familiar to fans of ODESZA and Kygo, having featured in “Falls” and “This Town,” respectively.

Sasha Sloan recently performed “sad girl” at the 2018 Bumbershoot music festival in Seattle on Sunday, September 2. Sloan also performed her new song “The Only,” which came out yesterday. “I’m shitting my pants about it,” the singer-songwriter said to the crowd, expressing her excitement about the track’s release. “The Only” will be included on Sloan’s upcoming EP, set to be released in November.

Sasha Sloan took some time aside at the 2018 Bumbershoot to speak with the Emerald before her set. The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Self-described “sad-pop” singer Sasha Sloan sings on the Mural Amphitheater stage. Day three of 2018 Bumbershoot closes out the festival weekend on Sept. 2, 2018. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Emerald: First thing’s first. How did you get your start in music?

Sasha Sloan: Professionally, I started when I was 19. I got signed because of Reddit. I love Reddit and I had a post go number one on the front page. It was a photo of a house. My parents painted our house and when they got to my window at the end, they wrote “dork” in massive letters and arrows pointing to my window. It blew up and then I posted my Soundcloud to it. Someone in LA found it and then I got signed as a writer when I was 19. I moved across the country from Boston to LA and then started grinding from there.

E: How do you differentiate your style from what’s “you” as opposed to the music that you write for others?

SS: I still write pop music for me. It’s definitely not like I’m reinventing the wheel. With me, though, the lyrics are honest to how I’m feeling. When you write for other people, you’re usually thinking for the radio and a lot of that has to be uplifting and fun and have hope in it. For me, my music is about my problems with anxiety and all of that shit. Hopefully, I’ll have happy music at some point, but for the most part it’s sad-pop.

E: In that case, is the songwriting process cathartic for you?

SS: I just don’t even think about it. It’s second nature at this point. I’ve been writing for so long sometimes I’m like, “Alright here’s another song, I hope someone likes it.”

E: When you’ve been writing for so long, do you still keep the same inspirations or do you find new ones that come to you as you motion through your life?

SS: I’m always finding new ones, but you can dwell on one experience and have a couple songs come from it, which has happened to me. The song “Ready Yet,” I wrote about my dad. I wrote a bunch of songs about him but you kind of just pick the one you like the most. Life is constantly changing. I’m only 23. I’m constantly becoming a new person and I’ll wake up one day and be like, “Oh shit, I like these shoes and not these shoes anymore,” and you change, so it’s all new.

E: You’re a voice for women and sad girls. Who are some powerful women or other sad girls that are inspirations to you?

SS: I grew up listening to Regina Spektor, I was obsessed with her. I’ve seen her live like eight times. Brandi Carlile. I just saw her at the Greek Theatre [in Los Angeles]  and she blew my mind. She’s one of my idols. I think if I ever met her, I would throw up. It’s that intense. I love Joni Mitchell. I’m a total sucker for singer-songwriters. Ingrid Michaelson. Pretty much anything from 2009 that was an indie female singer-songwriter, I was living for.

E: After you got your start, was there a moment where you realized your career would take off?

SS: I think a lot has happened this past year. My life has changed so much, but you kind of don’t realize it until you wake up and take a step back. Holy shit, a lot has happened. When I wrote “Ready Yet,” that was the first song I had ever written since moving to LA and I knew I could not let this song go. Once I wrote that, I was like, “Okay, I think it’s time for me to put out music.”

That’s when I really started to become myself. As a writer you wear a lot of different hats, and now I can just be me. I write better now because I’m not thinking “What would Kelly Clarkson want to say,” it’s “What do I want to say.” Then artists gravitate towards it even more because you’re writing real shit. People are just people and they feel the same things you do.

E: What’s it like to work alongside producers like ODESZA and Kygo and hear your voice in their music?

SS: It’s pretty wild. Songwriters will go in and write a hundred songs for their album and then nine or 10 make it. I go in, just wanting to have a fun day. If we write a great song, that’s great. And if it makes the album, that’s amazing. But I usually just walk in with absolutely no expectations and just to have a good time. For both [“Falls” and “This Town”] to have come out, it’s like hitting the lottery for me. It was honestly so random and they both came out and at around the same time. It’s just really cool. When I moved to LA in the beginning, I never would have imagined how that could happen. Not only are ODESZA amazing, but they’re like the chillest dudes on the planet. They are so fun. “A Moment Apart” is a great album. Regina Spektor is on that album so that was a massive deal for me to be on a record with her. I was like, “Maybe she saw my name.”

E: This last question is a fun one. We’re here at Bumbershoot, which I just learned three days ago is another word for “umbrella.” A lot of Oregonians refuse to use umbrellas. If it’s pouring rain do you use an umbrella? Yes or no?

SS: I’m going to have to go ahead and say fuck Oregon, I’m using an umbrella.


Follow Sarah Northrop on Instagram: @sartakespics

Photo Editor

Sarah is the photo editor of the Daily Emerald. She is well-versed in photography, feature writing and all things visual tempo. Sarah shoots almost every type of subject and specializes in concert photography and photojournalism.

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