Sasha Sloan on Songwriting for Superstars and Building a Solo Career
The hitmaker for artists like Camila Cabello and Dua Lipa also has advice for women artists making their way in the biz.
It’s only March, but Sasha Sloan has already had a whirlwind 2018. The Boston-born singer-songwriter, whose co-writing credits include Camila Cabello's dreamy "Never Be the Same," embarked on her first tour when she hit the road with Joywave earlier this winter. She's released four singles so far in 2018, including the insistent "Normal," which has racked up 7 million plays since its release in February. On March 21, she released a collaborative Spotify Single with up-and-comers Nina Nesbitt and Charlotte Lawrence, co-writing the swirling "Psychopath" and transforming the pop chestnut "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" into a storming anthem. We chatted with Sloan, who was in her recently adopted home of Los Angeles, via phone.
Spotify for Artists: You worked on the first collaborative Spotify Single with Nina Nesbitt and Charlotte Lawrence. What was the vibe like? Had you met either of of them before?
Sasha Sloane: No, we'd never met before. We all met one day in the studio and wrote a song together, and it was really fun and painless.
You collaborate with a lot of other female artists—Charli XCX, Camila Cabello. What's the vibe like when you're in the studio with other women?
I haven't had a bad experience yet, to be honest. Especially now, women are supporting each other, where in the past it might have been more of a competitive thing. But now there's just so much room for different types of artists. I always learn from other girls when I work with them, and it's always really fun.
What's your songwriting process like?
It depends on the session. If I'm with an artist and I'm writing for them, then I kind of just take a back seat and let them lead. I'm there to edit more than anything because it's their song.
[When I write for myself, I] usually start with lyrics. A lot of people usually start with melody, but for me lyrics are really important. Then I'll shape the melody around that. But sometimes it just comes all at once—if you're lucky. And sometimes nothing comes, and that's okay, too.
Your songs are so vulnerable. How do you summon that kind of emotion when you're writing, and recreate it onstage?
When I'm writing, it just kind of comes out. Sometimes I don't even really know I'm feeling something until I'm writing about it, and then I'll write the song and be like 'Oh, shit. Yeah.' That's kind of what's happening in my life right now. I just finished my first tour, and I'd never sang songs that were so personal to me live before. It was really interesting. It gets easier, but performing a song that's really personal for the first time for an audience can definitely be super nerve-wracking. I just like to talk about it when I'm on stage and be like, 'Here's what this song is about.' That helps.
How was touring for you otherwise?
I went on tour with Joywave, as an opening act. It was definitely interesting—it was a month-long tour, and I went all over the US. [At first] I felt out of my element, because I'm so used to being in the studio. But by the end of the tour, I just loved being onstage. So, it was really great.
How long have you been in the business—three years?
Yeah. I moved to LA when I was 19 and I was signed as a writer. I kind of hated writing for other people at first. The first year I didn't really do much. I just kind of sat around and refused to do sessions; I was a bit of a jazz nerd, and I didn't like pop music that much. Then I started doing sessions and finding a crew of people that I really like to collaborate with. From there, it's all just kind of naturally evolved on its own.
How do you think being a young woman has affected your journey through the business?
It's definitely harder. I remember saying 'Oh, I think I'm going to put my own music out,' and one producer was like, 'You're a little old, aren't you?' I think I was 21 at the time.
And I said, 'I don't know. I don't think so.' You get scrutinized a lot more, and that can be really tough. But you also have a lot of opportunity. It's been great having a great network of other women around me who are really supportive. Every female artist I've worked with—Camila, Dua [Lipa], Charli—they've all been so nice about me pursuing my own music. At the end of the day, it's really great. There are just some assholes along the way, you know? But that's just life. And it's not a problem but there's definitely just some assholes along the way, you know?
Totally. Aside from that, what would you tell female artists to keep in mind as they make their way through the business?
My biggest piece of advice would be to just not lose yourself. Whatever you like is good. People are going to have a lot of different opinions, but you just need to stick to being yourself, because at the end of the day, people [will be attracted to] what makes you special. Just listen to your heart. It took me a while to figure that out.