Her dork materials: how Sasha Sloan turned Reddit into songwriting glory

Singer-songwriter Sasha Sloan has a confession to make. “I don’t really listen to music,” she says on the phone from Nashville. “I just listen to standup; I think comedians are the smartest people in the world.” It explains why her early EPs of brutally honest soft-focus pop had wry titles such as Loser and Sad Girl, and why the initial title of her debut album, recorded during the emotional rollercoaster of lockdown, was Who’s Cutting Onions? In the end, the 25-year-old went with the more literal Only Child. “It’s defined me; like my cynicism, being selfish. It also meant having no one to talk to about my parents.”

To be fair there was a lot to discuss. When Sloan was 18, she returned to the family home in Boston to find that, while painting the front of the house, her parents had scrawled the word “DORK” in big letters alongside an arrow pointing to Sloan’s bedroom window. Met initially by an almighty eye-roll, Sloan later posted a picture of it to Reddit. “The next morning it was No 1 on the front page and on BuzzFeed,” she laughs. Having written songs on piano since the age of 10, Sloan popped a link to her nascent SoundCloud underneath the post, immediately breaking Reddit’s rules about self-promotion. Days later, she got a call from the publishers Warner Chappell Music offering to sign her as a songwriter.

The deal involved leaving Boston and her music business course at the prestigious Berklee College of Music (“A real jazz bubble”) and moving to LA to write for pop stars. Early sessions were tough, often taking place not in studios but in cramped bedrooms. At one point, she found herself sleeping in her car following a messy breakup. Slowly but surely the songwriting credits started to roll in for the likes of Camila Cabello and Charli XCX, while one song, Ready Yet, about her relationship with her dad, was released as Sloan’s debut single in 2018. “That song had a lot of interest from big artists, but I said no; I didn’t want anyone else to sing it.”

Window pain ... Sasha Sloan’s parents’ house.

Window pain … Sasha Sloan’s parents’ house. Photograph: Sasha Sloan

Ready Yet set a template for Sloan’s solo material, fusing stark, confessional lyrics with a melodic sensibility honed by years on the pop treadmill. It continues on recent single House With No Mirrors, which touches on an eating disorder Sloan has battled since she was 14, and the rose-tinted innocence of Santa’s Real, inspired by seeing two kids playing while wearing masks.

Elsewhere, on the outsider anthem Is It Just Me?, a song inspired by the self-explanatory Unpopular Opinions subreddit, Sloan wades into controversy. “Weddings are outdated, the show Friends was overrated,” she sings over lilting soft rock. “I only said it was overrated, I didn’t say it wasn’t good!” she laughs now. Suddenly the comedy connoisseur kicks in: “Seinfeld over Friends any day.”

Only Child is out now

The Guardian

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