Interview: Sasha Sloan Talks “Lie” & Debut LP ‘Only Child’
Over the course of three, exquisitely-crafted EPs, Sasha Sloan has carved out a niche as music’s saddest songsmith. But there is another side to her. When she’s not writing songs about trauma, loss and dysfunction, the 25-year-old is penning bangers for artists like Camila Cabello, Charli XCX and LANY. Those worlds finally collide on “Lie,” the lead single from Sasha’s much-anticipated debut album. She is finally ready to combine all facets of her artistry, confident in the fact that her singular worldview will make any genre detour her own.
I recent caught up with the singer/songwriter to find out more about “Lie.” Sasha revealed that she has been sitting on the song for three years and only happened upon it again by chance. The bittersweet bop then passed her two margarita test (if she still likes it after two drinks, it’s release-worthy) and made its way on to the album. Other topics of conversation included releasing an album during a global pandemic, filming a music video with COVID cops on set and the broadening her musical horizons on Only Child (due this fall). Catch up with the breakout star in our Q&A below.
I’m obsessed with “Lie.” I love happy/sad songs. What’s it about?
It’s mostly about being in denial and not being on the same page as my partner at some point. It’s also about not being able to handle the truth, which I can’t. I live in denial in a lot of ways, which is something I’m trying to get better at as I become an “adult.” You know when you know something’s not right, but you just can’t admit it because you don’t want your heart to get broken? It’s that feeling. It’s about going through a rough patch and not knowing if you’re going to make it out on the other side.
It’s pretty upbeat, at least production-wise, for you.
I actually wrote the song three years ago. [King Henry] works with a producer in Ireland called Emi Dragoi, who sent him the first version, which was a lot slower. Then I just started free-styling the hook over the beat. He produced it out, but it just didn’t feel right. We just threw it to the side. Then I accidentally played it for a friend and they were really into it. I had just forgotten about it. So Henry and I did about 13 revisions to it until it felt like me.
This is how I test my songs. I have two margaritas and then I listen back to it. If I like it with two margaritas in me and it makes me feel something, then I’m ready to put it out. That’s my new test. That’s basically how we decided to go with “Lie” as the single. That song has taken years to get right.
Why is “Lie” the perfect introduction to Only Child?
It just feels right coming first. This whole album is more eclectic than anything I’ve ever done. Each song lives in its own world. That was something I was scared of doing originally because I was like, “Okay, what genre am I?” Then I was like, “Regina Spektor doesn’t really have a genre, but every song sounds like it’s her… they just live in a different space.” For “Lie,” I feel like it’s my pop-leaning song. There’s one or two other pop-leaning songs on the album, but the others are a lot more intimate. I felt like coming out of the gates with something that’s a little easier to digest and then hitting them with the rest.
So, how do you feel about releasing your debut album in the middle of a global pandemic?
I keep saying it’s so on-brand for me to release my debut album in literally the worst time since I’ve been alive. [Laughs]. I was like, “Wow, this checks out for me.” Every time I’m on tour, I’m like, “Who’s ready to get sad?” Now everyone is actually sad. I think that’s part of why the album took so long to come out, because COVID was happening in March. We were like, “Fuck, what do we do?” It stalled us a little bit. I didn’t know how long it was going to last.
Then at one point, I was just like, “Fuck it. Let’s just finish this album, put it out. Why not?” Yes, we live in a digital world — luckily — and I’m just trying to create as much content as safely as I can. I just got a touring, well, a routing schedule sent to me for August of next year. I’m like, “Wow. A lot of digital content will be happening between now and then, that’s for sure.”
What can you tell me about the “Lie” video?
I actually shot two music videos this week. I was really scared to do that. I almost didn’t do it because a music video can be relatively elaborate, but everyone got tested before and we have had a COVID cop onset. He walked around taking everyone’s temperature and making sure we were socially distanced. It actually felt very safe. You had to eat lunch in your car. It was definitely very stressful for me, but this added a whole new layer to it.
So for the “Lie” video. I actually wrote my own treatment, which was really fun. It will be released a couple of days after the song just because COVID is slowing everything down. It’s kind of about cat-fishing. Did you watch that show? So when you’re in a relationship that’s dying and you don’t feel good about yourself, you go online and pretend to be someone else. It’s also a social commentary on our world right now. I tried to incorporate those two things.
With my videos, I’m trying to make them say something and also make you feel a little uncomfortable. Especially with a song as happy-sounding as “Lie,” it needs to have a little creepy edge. I’m excited to see the first cut. I’m supposed to get it today. Everything has been a challenge for sure but it’s been doable.
Do you take a different approach when you’re writing songs for an album as opposed to an EP?
Definitely. I think those EPs were me figuring out who the fuck I am. [Laughs]. Sad Girl was released and I had no fans, which was really scary. It’s like standing naked on stage and saying, “I hope you don’t hate this.” I think it all clicked for me when I put Loser out and “Older” resonated with people. From there, I found my groove. Self Portrait was well thought out, but it wasn’t as well thought out as the album is. I think I’ve always hid behind humor because I hate myself.
With Only Child, I really feel like it’s Sad Woman Sloan instead of Sad Girl Sloan. “I wasn’t afraid to be myself and lean into my Americana and pop roots. I’ve always been trying to figure out how to blend the two. On this album, each song is a different part of who I am. I love all different types of music. I wasn’t afraid to lean into that more and just not worry about categories. I just want to make the small fan base I’ve built happy. Having fans actually changed the way I wrote too because I felt like I could be more myself if that makes sense.
Are you an only child?
I am, yes. I think it’s why I’m jaded. I grew up way too fast. I’m pretty cynical, all that good stuff that only children come with. It took me forever to learn how to share. I honestly don’t know if this album is good anymore or not. I’ve just been sitting on it for so long now. I have no idea if it sucks ass, so I’m definitely nervous but also excited.
I’m sure it’s great. What kind of themes do you cover on the album? Has the hell-scape of 2020 infiltrated your writing?
I wrote a bunch of songs during quarantine, but only two made the cut. There’s a song on there about how I just want the world to be different. I saw this little kid in a grocery store and I was like, “I wish I was eight years old during this.” You’re young and you know things are bad, but you can’t understand how bad they are because you’re protected. So I wrote a song about missing that innocence. It’s called “Santa Is Real.” I just want to go back to that time when I didn’t know how shitty things were.
There is a song about hating my body and going into depth about body dysmorphia and all that shit. I previously wrote a song called “Version Of Me,” covers the same topic. However, I go into a lot more detail on the new song. It’s a huge part of who I am, unfortunately. I feel like I wouldn’t be doing myself justice if I just wrote an album of love songs or breakup songs. I have a song on there called “Hypochondriac.” It’s just about how I used to treat my body like shit. I didn’t take vitamins. I didn’t work out.
Then I fell in love and it made me hypochondriac. Now, I actually want to live longer and I want to actually care about of myself because I’ve found someone to share my life with. The album feels more multifaceted than anything I’ve done before.
I’ve spoken to a lot of artists, who said that 2020 has made their art a little bit darker. With you, it’s almost gone the other way. Is that because you were so dark to begin with?
Yes! [Laughs]. Heavy lyrics with really dark-sounding production can be a little too dramatic for my personal taste. My favorite songs are ones that are deceptively dark. Like “Pumped Up Kicks” or “Call Your Girlfriend.” Like if you heard one of those songs in a grocery store and weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t know it was sad.” If you actually take a second and listen to the lyrics, it clicks and you get a whole new perspective on the song. That’s what I wanted to achieve.
I like pretty-sounding music. I love the Kacey Musgraves record. Nothing on that album sounds heavy. I think there’s definitely a balance to that for my personal taste. I don’t really have any ballads on there. I also love to think about production and just ways to make it sound different and cooler. I could just put out a 10-song album with me and a guitar. That’s how I wrote every song, but I think production is super important. That’s something else I really thought a lot about making this album.
Did Henry produce every song?
He did, yes. We made it in quarantine, so it sounds like cohesive body of work. We didn’t have access to a giant studio and a bunch of different players. We were just working with what we had, which I think accidentally made the record way more cohesive than it would have been. The Killers were a big inspiration, so was Eva Cassidy and Jewel.
I saw you tweeting about Taylor Swift’s folklore. What’s your favorite song on the album?
I think “my tears ricochet.” I also love “cardigan.” I listened to the album when it came out like the rest of the world. It’s unfair how talented she is. She’s such a boss in the sense of business as well. She’s such a role model for me because it’s one thing to be a talented songwriter but then it’s another to navigate the business especially when you’re that massive. Maintaining that star power is not easy. It takes a lot of smarts as well as talents. I’m just glad my album didn’t come out the same week or else I would have probably killed myself.
Tell me about your Kygo collaboration.
I wrote that at a Kygo camp with Scott Harris. I forgot about it and then they told me that it was going on the album. They were trying to get someone to feature on it. Then, they asked if I wanted to stay on it. It worked out because I realized that my album was taking a little longer. I was like, “Let’s do it.” It all worked out. Also, I hadn’t any put music out in like a year so it reminded people that I’m still here.
Such a pleasure talking to you. I can’t wait to hear the album.
Thank you so much. Stay safe out there.