“I guess being me just means being sad” a reflective sounding Sasha Sloan giggles halfway through our interview.
The Californian singer-songwriter has branded her music and image as “sad girl music” and she’s unapologetic about it. She explains how opening up to the world in such a vulnerable and honest way has been really therapeutic for her. After thinking she was the only one who dealt with these problems, she was taken a back by seeing other people connect so deeply to what she had to say through her music. “I knew deep down I wasn’t the only one, but I couldn’t help but feel like that”.
With the streaming counts on Spotify comfortably sitting in the millions, she’s found a way to universally connect with the world in a honest and truthful way. We used to be so afraid of our emotions but now this new wave of artists and listeners are embracing that emotion is what brings us all together. We all go through heartbreak, anxiety, love, loss and self doubt in our own unique ways. And we all feel like we are alone in our battles, but that’s never the truth because we are all riding the waves that life brings. She wasn’t always this confident in sharing her emotions and started her career by writing for other artists. She spent her time being able to deflect her thoughts by speaking through other peoples music but confesses that she started to have identity issues over who she was as an artist.
“I looked at other artists in pop that I was writing for and thought, maybe I need to dye my hair green? I didn’t really know who I was. And then I wrote this song called ‘Ready Yet’ and I just knew I had to sing it as it was totally me and I didn’t want to give it way”.
From there this opened up a whole new world to Sloan. Originally releasing music independently she quickly gained a huge following thanks to Spotify Music that saw her going viral and playlisted with some high-profile traction. From there she was eventually signed to Sony Music where she’s continued to release her “sad girl” music and saw her connecting with so many more people worldwide. “It was really cathartic” she admits in reflection to being able to freely release her inner thoughts. “It’s almost become my own form of therapy”.
And that’s really interesting to hear because her songs are so raw and vulnerable in the way they are written as it almost feels like there’s no filter. And she sounds so confident in telling those stories that it’s surprising to hear her doubting her connection slightly. When I questioned her about her most vulnerable moment as a songwriter she immediately says, “Ready Yet was hard for me because it was about my dad and I’ve always struggled to talk about that”.
But she pauses for a second in reflection before admitting, that ‘Older’ was also really hard to release because it was a song that she’s tried to write her entire life. “I just didn’t know how to do it. I was really scared to put it out because it so vulnerable as it’s not just about me, it’s about my family too. I was like, are you guys cool with me releasing this as I’m just throwing our dirty laundry out into the world”. But she assured that they were fine with it and that her mom thought it was beautiful as it was authentically her. She also admitted that she sends her mom all of her songs as she values her opinion as she’s always supported her doing music, however she held off on sending this one to her for as long as possible because she was genuinely scared of what she would think. When you’re dealing with such personal and raw subjects like the ones she tackles then it’s not surprising that she feels a little uneasy about the material she releases so vulnerably at times. But she admits that there is another song called ‘Good Enough’ that she’s been working on since she was seventeen that she is terrified of releasing. “I don’t think I’ve ever been able to release it because of how personal and real it is to me. But I know I will put it out one day but I guess it’s all in that catch 22”. But she knows that she’s got a supportive fanbase that gets her on a deeper level which reassures her daily that she’s doing the right thing. “I question all the time if anyone is going to come out to the shows but then they sell out or are packed and it blows my mind. Like I played my first headline show last year and it was packed and it was raining and no one goes out in Los Angeles when it’s raining. So I was terrified that no one was going to turn up, but I guess sad people like the rain” she laughs. She definitely doesn’t hide that she makes “sad” pop music with her merchandise proudly playing on it with “sad girl” and “sad boy” hats and heartbreak t-shirts which are so business savvy. “When I ask the crowd if they are ready to get sad with me and they scream back yes so excitingly, I’m like are you sure? *laughs*. They scream back yes and I’m like oh god, what have I done” *laughs*.
Throughout our chat about vulnerability and mental health she stays very hopeful and when I question what she would tell her teenage self now if she could go back in time, she shows an interesting mix of emotions. “I would say just try and make it through high school and try get better grades than you did” she laughs before getting briefly serious. “And that everything is going to be fine, just relax and don’t be so hard on yourself” but she breaks the solemn moment with laughter again, “That’s pretty much what I still tell myself every day now”. But she does seem so happy and content with everything in her life right now and with her career starting to make big movements it’s no surprise that she’s so hopeful. But it also may have something to do with her partner Henry Allen (Also known as his producer pseudo King Henry) who she’s been dating for over a year now. She gushes over how she’s in love with him and how it’s created a writers block because she’s so happy. “I always tell people that I have enough mental health issues to write about forever but now it’s like because I’m in this happy relationship I don’t have too much to talk about today. So I keep having to pull from my old relationships.” she jokes before revealing what is inspiring her now. “So a lot of the songs I’m writing now are about my body issues and how I see myself which are always things I’ve struggled with. So that’s kind of where the next chapter is coming from. I’ve been struggling with that for a long time so I think it’s about time I talk about it and get extra vulnerable”. I jokingly ask her if she wishes Henry would do something wrong so she would have some inspiration to write about and she starts laughing. “oh god yeah, all the time! I’m just like can you break my heart already or cheat on me so I have something to write about. I’m too happy! Make me miserable!”. But she candidly starts to admit that their relationship isn’t perfect just like no one’s is and that they work through their differences all the time because it’s all about communication. Especially with her being an artist and constantly on the road, there are always little things that she can draw inspiration from.
When looking at her Spotify statistics it’s really impressive to see songs like ‘Normal’, ‘Ready Yet’ and ‘Runaway’ sitting at over 20 million streams each with ‘The Only’, ‘Older’ and ‘Faking It’ coming in super hot behind them. She doesn’t have any radio airplay giving her promotion, instead all of this exposure is coming from being featured on playlists. It’s the way of the future. The new generation of listeners are seeking to Spotify and Apple Music to discover new music instead of trusting in radio to deliver quality over music politics. And she loves it because it allows her to continue to deliver honest songs without worrying what would or wouldn’t work on radio.
You don’t need to have radio support to have a hit anymore because if you look at any of those statistics on her songs then you would confidently say that she has hits. She’s been able to make a huge impact by just being herself and offering her music in an authentic format. It’s completely universal and its crazy to think that 7,182 miles away in Australia a couple weeks earlier I was sitting in a cafe for 90 minutes doing some writing when two of her songs came on over the cafe speakers. But she doesn’t have a radio hit so does that really devalue her success? I have to question if that a flaw in the radio format because how can you have a song with 20 million streams playing in a cafe on the other side of the world but that’s not deemed a hit or even marketed in a way that radio could play it. Our younger generations are becoming more in touch with their emotional side and they are starting to crave more than just surface level. Instead they are wanting to get in touch with their feelings more and be more open about how things are affecting them. For so long we have bottled everything up which has seen a massive increase in mental health issues so we are trying to connect, feel and release more to grow as a society. And that is something that is being reflected massively in pop music with the likes of Julia Michaels, Emily Warren, Tove Lo, Sigrid and Lorde writing about their emotions so tenderly and openly. “I definitely see a massive shift happening and it’s for the better. I think it’s because of the internet and how open everyone is being with mental health. I grew up in a really stereotypical Irish and Russian family where we didn’t talk about our feelings and it really got to me. So now I just want to put it all out there which makes me feel better. It’s easier for me to sing about it because I struggle talking about my feelings. But there are still times that I will sing a particular lyric live and think, wow that was really hard to talk about”.
“I don’t want to be sad forever, so hopefully my albums and EP’s are my cheapest forms of therapy” she confesses. And I think that perfectly sums up her artistic growth. She understands that there is more to life than sadness and she’s learning to grow from the negatives in her life and figure out who she is as a person. And by sharing her inner darkest thoughts with the world she is helping so many other people realise their own worth and deal with their pain, which is a powerful and beautiful thing.
As we say goodbye to each other by talking about the drastic time differences she vows to to travel to Australia this year. “There are no plans set in stone right now, but I really want to come this year! Australia has always been a massive support of my music so it would be nice to finally play shows down there. I’ve just got to start planning my movies for the long flight over” she laughs. And hopefully we do see her gracing our shores soon because she is apart of a brand new wave of pop stars that are going to change the game and prove that you don’t need a radio single to have a “hit”. instead all you need is raw emotions, a lot of heart and a platform to connect with others.