Born to Russian-Irish parents in Boston, Sloan grew up taking piano lessons -- and after she watched The Wizard of Oz for the first time, she started singing, too. “I was always that kid in math class writing down lyrics instead of paying attention,” says Sloan, who after high school attended the Berklee College of Music for one year.
While Sloan was away at Berklee, her parents painted the outside of their home -- and had the word “Dork,” with an arrow pointing to Sloan’s bedroom window, scrawled across their house as a gag. Amused, Sloan posted a photo of it to Reddit. “I blew up,” she says. “It became No. 1 on the homepage.” Capitalizing on her viral moment, she shared a SoundCloud link to her music and shortly after was discovered by Warner Chappell, with which she signed a publishing deal at 19. Six months later, she moved to Los Angeles.
Once in L.A., Sloan started co-writing for artists like Camila Cabello, Charli XCX and John Legend. During that time, she self-released her first song, “Ready Yet,” and debuted the EP Sad Girl. “I started releasing my own music independently because I wanted a blueprint of who I am in the world,” she says. When she realized she couldn’t sustain her career alone, she started her label search, signing to RCA in April 2018.
RCA Records president of A&R Keith Naftaly says he saw breakthrough potential in Sloan because of her “heartbreakingly vulnerable” vocals and “self-deprecating sense of humor.” Both are on display on Sloan’s third EP, Self-Portrait, which is all about self-acceptance. “This EP is more about being OK with the fact that I have a lot of anxiety, and that I don’t want to go to parties,” she says. “I don’t want to be the person I always thought I had to be.”
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 19 issue of Billboard.