INTERVIEW: Sasha Sloan

Sasha Sloan introduced herself to the world as the self-confessed “sad girl” in 2017 with the confessional ‘Runaway’. Her honest and vulnerable indie-pop immediately resonated with listeners as she opened up about anxiety, depression, heartbreak and family issues. Her EP’s ‘Sad Girl’, ‘Loser’, and ‘Self Portrait’ highlighted her strength as a songwriter and fused a hilarious wit with candidly poignant anecdotes. But when looking back at those releases she realised that she relied too heavily on humour as her safety blanket, and that sometimes there was no joke that could be made to make something any less vulnerable. 

Heading into the release of her debut album ‘Only Child (out now), she was actively aware of this safety net she had created, and challenged herself to write away from that comfortable structure. The result is her most honest, vulnerable, heartbreaking and authentic material yet. Each song takes you into the frantic mind of the Californian singer-songwriter who overthinks everything and sometimes forgets to believe in herself. But this album also captures an impressive maturity that hears her singing about love and hope for the first time, and finds pride in who she is and how far she’s come.

To celebrate the release of ‘Only Child’, I sat down with Sasha Sloan over Zoom and went track by track and dived into the creative process, feelings and stories behind this album. Check it out BELOW; 

THOMAS BLEACH: The album opens with the hopeful and romantic ‘Matter To You’, which is something that is very new to your songwriting, as you’ve always prided yourself on being a “sad girl”. Why did this song feel like the perfect opener to the album, and the first thing that you wanted people to take notice of?

SASHA SLOAN: I felt like it was a nice intro in terms that it’s bittersweet, and it shows that I’m not as sad anymore. I’m still half glass full, but I know that the glass is half full if you know what I mean *laughs*. I also just love the guitar stabs, and thought they were such a nice way to open the record.

I feel like the new me is the depressing love song about still feeling super insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but feeling somewhat important because you found someone who loves you. 

TB: The title track ‘Only Child’ then intimately hears you imagining what your life would be like if you had a sister or brother instead of being an only child. How much do you actually think being an only child has affected who you are as a person and the way you approach songwriting and music? 

SS: I think being an only child, at least for me, it made me grow up super fast. It was basically just my mum and I, and she treated me like an adult since I was a kid. I think I was jaded super fast because of it. When my parents got divorced, I was super young and I was the only child during that, and there was no one else for me to turn to and play with. I was right in the middle of it, watching it all unfold, and it was super dark. I think it made me selfish, which I had to get over, and it was hard. 

I just have this really cynical outlook on life, and everyone kept calling me an “old soul” but I think they really just meant “an only child” *laughs*. 

Songwriting and artist wise, it’s funny because I think about this a lot. When I grew up we didn’t have a lot of money, and my mum did everything she could for me to have piano lessons and singing lessons. It was a luxury, and I don’t think I would be doing music if I had a sibling because I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do it, and my mum wouldn’t have been able to support me in the beginning. So I think it’s allowed me to actually do this for a living. 

TB: It was really interesting listening to this song, because I’m not an only child, but through your vivid lyrics I was able to think of my childhood and relate to the feeling of loneliness. I have twin sisters who are a year and a half younger than me, and to be honest most of my childhood I felt like an only child as I was always segregated from them as they just wanted to be with each other. So I always wished from an older sibling, and imagined what it would be like if I had one. 

SS: I always wanted an older sibling too! I was always jealous of my friend who would fight with their older siblings because I never got to experience the all out brawls you have with you siblings, and then it would be okay right after. 

I didn’t necessarily want an older sister, but I wanted an older brother because all of the kids that got picked up from school by their older sibling was so much sicker than being picked up by your mum. It’s kinda isolating being an only child. Like I don’t want kids, but If I ever one I will have to have two just so I’m not a hypocrite unfortunately *laughs*. 

TB: ‘House With No Mirrors’ is your most personal track yet, and hears you opening up about an eating order that you developed during high school. As someone who is so candid, vulnerable and honest with everything she does, this still felt so much heavier and intimate. Was it hard to let go and release this song?

SS: Oh yeah! When I posted it, my hands were sweating. I was on my phone, and when I pressed post I just put my phone down and laid on the couch and was like “oh god”. Another part of me releasing music is that everything is covered up by like a “lol”. It’s like, “here is something personal, lol”. And for that song, there was no “lol” to cover it up. It was just an open wound. 

It was really stressful putting it out, but I knew I had to because it’s something that is a huge part of my life, and I felt like I wasn’t sharing that with the world because I wasn’t ready at the time. But also a lot of younger girls follow me, and I just feel like social media is really fucked up. There were times on tour that I wasn’t eating because I was so stressed out, and I looked sickly and unhealthy, and people would comment on my Instagram saying “skinny queen” and “omg you look so beautiful, you’re so skinny”. So releasing ‘House With No Mirrors’ is like lifting a weight from my chest, because at least if you hear the song and you see that I look like that then you know that it’s not a good thing, and you shouldn’t try to look like that. It felt like I needed to do it. And it’s a lot easier for me to sing about than talk about it. 

TB: Social media is SO toxic. I’m so glad that growing up I only had Bebo and MySpace, and that I’m an adult now as trying to navigate this, cause it’s a lot!

SS: For me it was AIM and Facebook. Not great, still toxic, but not nearly as toxic as that *laughs*. 

TB: ’Lie’ was not only the anthemic lead single, but it was also the most pop/commercially driven track on the record. Was it intentional to let ‘Lie’ be the only one of it’s kind?

SS: I honestly have such a love-hate relationship with that song. It was written three years ago, and it was meant to go on the ‘Loser’ EP but I was like “ugh, it feels too pop”. And then it was meant to go on the ‘Self Portrait’ EP but I was like “it feels too pop still”. So I played it for a friend because we were talking about songs we had written, and demos we had sitting around, and he was like “I love this song”. And I was like “you know what, I love this song too”. But I just could never nail the production. It went through SO many years of being reworked. Even when we started working on it for this album it went through 12 different versions. So it was kinda like that song that was a nightmare, and once it was out I was like “thank god”. 

Honestly, it was the one “more pop leaning” song that I wrote that I still felt was authentic to me, and I could stand behind. I wrote like 30-40 songs for this album and picked 10. A decent handful of those were really similar to ‘Lie’, and I nearly put more of them on the album because I wanted ‘Lie’ to have more friends, but those songs weren’t talking about things that I care about right now. But I still connect with ‘Lie’ deeply, and that’s why it made it on the record. 

TB: ’Hypochondriac’ was the most surprising song on the album because when I read the title I expected a self-deprecating song, but it ended up being a love song. Can you explain to me the creative process behind this song?

SS: That was the first song I sat down and wrote after I decided that I was making an album. Before I met my boyfriend I was a total piece of shit. Like, I still kinda am, but way more. I smoked a shit tonne of weed, I didn’t drink any water, never took vitamins, and I honestly just didn’t care what happened. I wasn’t suicidal, but I just didn’t think about it. I then met my boyfriend and I grew up a little bit, and then I did a total 180 and became a hypochondriac *laughs*. 

I started to play the guitar part, and I was like “what if we wrote a love song about being a hypochondriac?”. He was like “I love it”, so we sat down and just wrote it about each other which is quite corny, but whatever *laughs*. It’s one of my favourites on the album because it’s quirky, and it just feels like me. It actually almost didn’t make the cut because everyone I played it to hated it on my management and label. 

TB: Really? It was one of my favourites straight away when I heard the album!

SS: Thank you! Yeah, they were like “is anyone even going to know what the word hypochondriac  means?”. And I was like “maybe not, but they have Google? So like… I’m going to put it on the album” *laughs*. 

TB: ’Is It Just Me’ then brings back that classic Sasha Sloan by making some grand little comments like that you think “PDA is creepy” and “religion is a business”. But you also said in the song “the show Friends was overrated”…. Sasha, do you really think this, because you realise we have beef now?

SS: *laughs* I’m sorry! I don’t know, Friends has never been my thing. I grew up with a Seinfeld lover, and I feel like you can’t have both. And I know it’s probably the most controversial thing I’ve ever said, but I didn’t say it wasn’t good, I just said that it was overrated *laughs*. Take it with a grain of salt, everyone *laughs*. 

TB: Another song that surprised me with its lyrical exploration and direction was ‘Santa’s Real’. And there are some really strong lyrics that I feel capture the essence of the song like“I thought monsters lived under the bed, but that’s before I knew they walk the streets instead”. So what is your favourite lyric from this song? 

SS: I think that one that you just said, or at the end; “where nobody ever gets drunk and gets behind the wheel. I wanna live in a world where Santa’s real”.

With that song I really wanted to prove to myself that I could still write a song by myself because it had been a while. My boyfriend and I were grocery shopping and I saw kids in line behind us and they were wearing masks but they were still fucking off and playing, and I was freaked out because it was the start of COVID and quarantine. I turned to my boyfriend and was like “how sick would it be to be a kid right now? You know shits fucked up and you have to wear a mask, but you don’t know, particularly in the US, just how fucked up things actually are”. That’s kinda where the inspiration for the song came from. 

It was originally going to be “Santa isn’t real”, and I was trying to write a dark sad girl Christmas song, but it changed into ‘Santa’s Real’. 

TB: ’Someone You Hate’ gave me big Kacey Musgraves vibes. What were your sonical references for this song?

SS: We worked on a couple of songs with this producer from Ireland called Emi who found Henry via email and reached out and was like “I’m a huge fan of yours”, and now he just sends Henry beats. We sat down to listen to them and there were these guitar chords that I just instantly fell in love with, and I was so inspired. 

I had the title ‘Someone You Hate’ laying around for a while, and it’s actually about written about my ex boyfriend. I was creeping on his Instagram the day prior, and exes are weird because I don’t miss him in the sense that I want to get back with him, but I’m just curious. Like, what are you doing? How are you? We used to be best friends, and now we never talk. It’s been years.

The whole song is really autobiographical. He moved to LA from Boston for me, which is about a 6 hour plane ride, so it’s quite the move. The first verse is “Told your mama I’d take care of you. Loaded up the car, drove into the dark”. And I remember leaving for the road trip and his mum looked at me and was like “are you going to take care of my son?”, and I said yes. And then “Billboard signs and skylines painted blue. We made it home, but I felt alone” is about living in LA and falling out of love. So yeah, that song is really important to me on the record.

I grew up listening to a lot of Kacey leaning music, like Americana and folk were my bread and butter. I really wanted to meld my genre into that more because that is what naturally comes out. So I was like, “fuck it, I might as well really be myself”. 

TB: ’Until It Happens To You’ is one of my favourite songs on this album. The lyrics “Somebody loses their somebody every day” and “But you’ll never really know what it’s like. Til you wake up to some rеal bad news”, hit me in the FEELS. So can you explain the creative process behind this song? 

SS: My boyfriend and I are really good friends with his old landlord, and he has a really big family that were all really close, and one of his cousins was always around and we spent quite a bit of time with them. One day we had woken up and she had got Leukaemia, and things weren’t looking good. They kept getting worse until she passed away earlier this year. My boyfriend and I kinda looked at each other and we could offer sympathy, but we couldn’t offer empathy. We were having this conversation of like “what do we say? What do we do? How do we try be there for someone and try to comfort them without feeling what it’s like?”. It’s kinda empathy vs sympathy is the whole motion. 

That was probably the most emotional song on the record to write, and he still doesn’t know that it’s about him and his cousin. But it’s honestly one of my favourites on the album, not only lyrically but also with the production. It was written on an acoustic guitar, and I wanted it to feel like an emotional rollercoaster so that’s why it gets so big at the end. 

TB: The closing track on the album, ‘High School Me’, is a letter to your fifteen year old self and shares how proud you are of how far you’ve come from then. As a listener it feels like the perfect closer to this record. But does it feel like it’s closed off that chapter for you now because you’ve given something to your old self therapeutically, and completed such a huge life goal?

SS: Yes and no. I feel like so many of my insecurities now are rooted so deeply in my high school experience. And I honestly feel like that’s where Sad Girl was born, in the hallways of Hopkinton High School. *laughs*. I really love ending the album with “wish I could go back and tell her it’s okay”. I feel like that lyric kinda ties the whole album together. 

It is closure but it’s also not because, the pre says “I won’t say it all gets better, but fifteen doesn’t last forever” and I think that’s the most true part of the song. I think I will be insecure until I am 72 *laughs*. I don’t know if that will ever go away, but it has gotten a lot better. It’s very emotional for me because in high school I was the outcast, and all that cliche stuff. So to be putting out a debut record is my high school me’s dream come true. So that song does make me really emotional, and I guess there’s some closure in that. 

‘Only Child’ is out now!