Sasha Sloan's Guide to Becoming a Sasha Sloan Fan

Dari Kreitenberg
Sasha Sloan

"I just accepted that I make car music, and I don’t make club music, and I’m very okay with it," says the singer, whose new EP 'Loser' is out now

It’s an overcast November afternoon in Manhattan, and singer-songwriter Sasha Sloan is perched on a leather couch at Billboard’s offices, predicting her incoming “quarter-life crisis.”

“Somehow, when I was 16, looking at a 24-year-old was like, ‘Oh my god, they are so old,’” she says with a laugh, pulling at the sleeves on her zip-up puffer jacket. “Now I’m going to be 24. You can’t fuck up that hard [anymore]!”

Maybe, but she needn't worry. Since moving to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a songwriter five years ago, the South Boston native has built an impressive resume: Her debut single, “Ready Yet,” has been streamed more than 19 million times on Spotify. Today, she’s following up last year’s sad girl EP with a new EP called Loser, which is full of moody instrumentals and sincere lyrics that speak to a range of early-twenties anxieties, from the changing relationships to family to the loneliness of settling in a new city. “I think sad girl was me trying to figure out who I was, and testing the waters,” she says. “Loser is more of me. It’s multi-faceted. They’re both equally as vulnerable — that was my main theme.”

Outside of her solo work, she's also co-written hits for Camila Cabello (“Never Be The Same,” “OMG”) and lent her vocal chops to electronic acts including Kygo (“This Town”) and ODESZA (“Falls”). Sloan, who was a first-year music business student at Berklee College of Music when she signed to Warner/Chappell as a songwriter, says it took her years to build up the confidence to put her own emotions on the page. 

“When I started putting music out, I thought it was going to be too emo and sad. But I think I just accepted that I make car music, and I don’t make club music, and I’m very okay with it,” she says. “I think people are craving honesty. Fans connecting to music about not having the best self-esteem and feeling insecure and being the weirdo at a party... that makes me feel more confident in me.”

Now, Sloan is gearing up for her first North American headlining tour, which kicks off in March — the same month she’ll celebrate her birthday. (Yes, she’s a Pisces through and through). Below, Sloan tells her story through her songs, from her cringe-worthy first attempt at songwriting to her most revealing new lyrics and the one co-write she wishes she could have put out herself.

The First Song I Ever Wrote:

I grew up in an apartment in South Boston, and it was just my mom and I. She had this piano she got off of Craigslist. I remember being five years old, teaching myself how to play. I was probably just smashing the keyboard. But all I wanted to do was write, so any time I was practicing piano, all my classical music, I would just start writing instead. I started buying the chord books at Guitar Center -- Queen and Elton John.

My first song I ever wrote was when I was 10, and it was called “Pitter Patter,” and it was about stubbing my toe, and I cried about it. [Laughs] The “pitter patter” were the tears. I was playing in this talent show, and I was going to sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” and my mom’s like, “You should play the song you wrote.” So I played “Pitter Patter,” the worst song of all time, to my entire school. Everyone responded so positively, probably because I was 10 years old and it was cute, but it gave me the confidence to keep writing.

The Song I Would Tell New Fans to Listen to First:

“Ready Yet,” because that’s the first song I ever wrote that I wanted to sing [myself]. It’s like my first child. I have a very complicated relationship with my dad, and the night before I wrote that song, we were talking. We just haven’t really gotten along over the years. He was apologizing for some stuff, and I was apologizing for some stuff, and he was saying, “I’d love to reconnect.” And I remember just being like, “I’m not ready yet.” My little songwriter brain was like, “'ready yet' -- that’s a cool concept.” I had a session the next day with the producer King Henry. He played the intro; he had it already written. I was like, “Please let me write to this beat, I’m obsessed with it.” And it just came out. I feel like I blacked out when I wrote that song. It was pure emotion, and then it was done. It was the first time I wrote where it felt very therapeutic. Afterwards, I felt a release of anxiety.

The Song That Makes Me The Most Emotional on Stage:

“The Only.” I wrote that when I first moved to L.A. I was 19 and didn't know anyone, and all my friends were in college. I just packed up my bags and found an apartment and was working at a coffee shop and trying to be a songwriter, and I didn't know what the fuck I was doing. And I was so lonely. I couldn't get into bars; I didn't have a fake. I had no clue how to be an adult, and I could barely drive a car in L.A. I was used to driving, like, suburban roads. There were two years where I didn't have a social life, and it really took a toll on me. Every time I perform “The Only,” it takes me right back to those years. And it’s all good now -- at the time I knew it would get better, but it was really rough. That song really hits home for me.

The Song That Best Showcases Me as a Lyricist:

I’ve always really cared about lyrics. My method has changed, because I started songwriting for other people. Before, I think I had some natural ability to write, but I didn't know how to make a great song. In L.A., the songwriting community taught me how to shape it and think about it more as a math equation.

“Older” is one of my favorites. It’s about my parents. I’ve been trying to write that song for years, and it was really hard to find the right tone and the right emotion without sounding too bitter. My dad had me at 24. We have the same birthday -- I was born the day he turned 24. And I cannot imagine having a baby at 24. You don’t realize your parents are just humans until you get older, and you’re like, “Well, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, so they didn't, either.” And then you just realize no one really knows what the fuck they’re doing.

The Song I Wish I Could Make One More Change To:

This is the most niche thing of all time, but whenever I do “Chasing Parties” live, I do this one ad-lib that isn't in the track, and I really like it. And then every time I listen to it, I’m like, “Fuck, I wish I did that ad-lib!” It’s just an “ooh” part at the end. I always do it live, I always love it, and it feels empty now when I listen to it in that one little part toward the end of the song. I write all these songs and then perform them live after, and then when I perform them live I hear so much shit that I didn't hear in the studio. So there’s always little tweaks here and there. For me at least, the thing with music is it’s never done. You can keep going back and making it perfect.

The Weirdest Sound I’ve Snuck Onto a Song:

Very quietly, in “Chasing Parties,” there’s an ad-lib of me saying “fuck.” It’s almost muted, but every time I sing a vocal, I always end every take with “oh fuck,” because I always think it’s bad. I think we accidentally left it in. I was like, “Just keep it in there.” If you listen very closely, you can hear it. I always sneak little things like that in there.

The Song I Wish I Could Take Back And Release Myself:

When I write for other people, I’m just wearing a different hat, and then when I’m writing for me, I’m just me. I think the only song -- and I’m singing it, but I would’ve loved to put it out myself, too -- is “This Town” with Kygo. But it still feels like my song in a way, because I was singing it, so it’s okay.

The Song I’d Blast At a Club Tonight:

It depends how fucked up I want to make the vibe! [Laughs] I can’t tell if I want to be funny or just a massive mood kill. “Normal” would be pretty funny. Everyone would be like, “What the fuck,” and they’d actually have to talk to each other.

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