The trend has continued with their younger counterparts, as rising singers such as Sophie Ann transform their deepest feelings into their strongest sonic and lyrical pillars. After making waves in the local music community, the Los Angeles-based artist is now sharing her story on debut album Just Me.
The nine-track record, which dropped Tuesday (Feb. 11), reflects Sophie’s various cycles of love, heartbreak and freedom. “I love [how defiant pop singers are] so much,” Sophie, who grew up listening to disco and singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Elliott Smith, tells Billboard. “It gives me freedom to be whoever I want to be. I think feminism can mean something totally different for every single woman.”
For her album release, Sophie Ann opens up to Billboard about the stories behind the record’s most personal tracks and how songwriting serves as a healer.
How did you find your passion for music?
I had grown up being in musical theater and had always written songs when I was a kid — my dad got me really into it. I never had a diary, so he taught me to use songwriting as an outlet. I never really took it seriously until high school, where I was part of the gospel choir and still stuck to musical theater. I went to school for acting originally, and it was there that I realized what was missing was the music. I ended up transferred into [Berklee College of Music in Boston] and the rest is history. I’ve been writing ever since.
What made you decide to officially jump into the music industry?
I was hesitant at first because songwriting was just a hobby and my way of getting my emotions out. Once I went to school for it, I decided that it was my path. Ever since then I’ve been completely focused on it. I’m enjoying being independent right now, there’s no rush for [signing to] a label. But when the time is right, I’ll definitely do it.
On “Rinse Repeat,” there is a lyric that stands out to me: “I sleep in your shirt, make believe it don’t hurt/ Can I see you tomorrow?”
That song is really, really personal. It’s about holding on to a breakup and continuing to see that person, even though you shouldn’t. It was definitely a hard one to write, and every time I listen to it, it’s definitely emotional.
The piano riff on “Bad Attitude” reminds me of Elton John’s “Bennie & The Jets.” Was that the inspiration?
Yeah! We listened to that song the day we wrote “Bad Attitude” and was drawn to the piano part. That’s so crazy that you noticed. [Laughs.] As for the song, I was at a point in my life where I was realizing that I am who I am. When I go back into dating, I’m not really gonna change anything about myself. Men would tell me that I have a bad attitude because I wanted to do my own thing, and not in the way they wanted to. So I pictured “bad attitude” in air quotes because, in my opinion, it’s not bad. It’s just me sticking to who I am.
“I Don’t Wanna Know” is my personal favorite because it really dives into classic ‘00s pop sounds.
This song is about going through a breakup and trying to block the person out. You don’t really want to know if that person is missing you or thinking about you because you have to move on. And knowing that will just make it difficult.
“Flawless” feels like a self-love anthem.
I don’t think I had a theme in mind while I was writing the album — it all just came together. But this one is really special because I’m a serial dater; I’m usually always in a relationship. At that point in my life, I realized I’m just fine on my own. I’m still single and I feel free. I don’t feel like I need to be with anybody or feel incomplete having somebody.
What do you want fans to take away from the album?
I really want to focus on getting the album out there. I worked really hard on it and I just want people to hear what I have to say. The most important thing to me is having people relate to it and feel like maybe one of my songs could help them in some way or they connect to it. If anybody is going through a tough time, whether it be a breakup or just feeling alone, I want them to know that they’re enough by themselves. At least for me, I like to nurture other people. Sometimes I feel like that’s missing in my life, but I have to remember that I should be taking care of myself instead.
Your songwriting on this record is incredibly vulnerable. Were you hesitant at first to expose all of these emotions?
I always pull from personal experience, whether I’m writing for myself or another artist. It’s really the only way I can write a song that’s meaningful. I wrote the song “You Can’t Just” in about 30 minutes in my room. I think when I’m alone, I write the fastest because it’s just like word vomit. (laughs) All my feelings come out at once.
When I write with other people, it’s more adapting to their situation. We usually talk for about an hour to get to know each other. Then I’ll ask them if there’s anything pressing them in their lives. It’s usually easiest to write about something that’s on their minds in that moment because I can draw lyrics from an honest and vulnerable conversation. But writing for myself is really special because there aren’t really any guidelines.
It sounds like writing is a healing process for you.
I’m not afraid to show my insecurities and weaknesses as a person. Every song isn’t necessarily a self-love anthem; sometimes my songs are showing me in a really vulnerable place. There isn’t always a happy ending, and I’m okay with that because it was how I was feeling in the moment. It’s another reason why I am so excited for [my album] to be out. It’s the last step of me moving on and just releasing everything that’s happened to me in the past couple of years.