Interview by Lauren Tepfer
Sofia Wolfson is a 16 year old singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. Her debut album Hunker Down was just released this January and it is absolutely PHENOMENAL. But music isn’t her only extracurricular, by any means! When she’s not songwriting, Sofia’s into exploring museums, scoring films, collecting records and playing at clubs all over LA. I first came across Sofia after reading her piece in the Clover Letter and soon after following her on Spotify, I became absolutely immersed in her musical genius. To get a better idea of Sofia’s vibe, picture this: if HAIM announced that they were in search of a fourth member to join their girl squad, no one would be better to take the spot than Sofia Wolfson! I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Sofia about her music, inspiration and everything inbetween, so read on to hear her genius!
Hi, Sofia! Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed for Sonic Blume. I LOVE YOUR STUFF SO MUCH. I think my favorite song from the album has got to be Older and Changing. I AM OBSESSED. I also really love Hello Operator. And Head in the Future. And Icicle. And the entire rest of the album. Could you tell me a bit more about how you got involved with music?
Thank you so much! My dad is a musician so I’ve always been surrounded by great music. I’ve been singing since I was little; my favorite activity was learning all the words to a Beatles song and busting out my little blue guitar, pretending to play along. I started taking guitar lessons when I was in 1st grade, which led me to start writing songs a few years later. The songs were first about funny topics: for example, my 4th grade hit was about the writers’ strike my dad was involved in, with lines like “I’ve been striking for the whole day, waiting for the studios pay.” As the years went on, the songs became more serious and I played my first show during freshman year. The album came soon after, as I started recording it sophomore year and it was released earlier this year.
What was it like recording your album? Did you enjoy the process?
It was an incredible experience. I not only got to work with some adult musicians that have played a huge role in my life, but I also got to bring my friends into the studio to lay down some tracks. The whole process was so much fun, especially getting to hear the songs during mixing and mastering, as everything came together. The project really started as an EP; I was thinking maybe 5 songs. It ended up growing into a full album with a full band, which was more than I could have imagined. It’s just crazy to have these songs you come up with in your room, just you and a guitar, come to life. It was totally different than the demos I make in my garage because it was more about getting a few solid takes, opposed to getting to edit as much as I wanted. I hate to admit it, but when I work alone, I become a little bit of a perfectionist; logic’s tools when mixing perpetuate my obsessed behavior to get it right. But making the album in an actual studio forced me to give a great performance, instead of relying on dozens of takes. Both processes are great, both are very different.
My favorite part about your music is how lyrical it is. Do you write your own music?
I do write my own music. All of the songs on the album I wrote. Lyrically, I’m really inspired by artists like Joni Mitchell and The Band, as I love to create vivid images when I write; it’s almost easier for me to have a clear picture opposed to being too abstract. I’m also very inspired lyrically by people like Ryan Adams and Phoebe Bridgers, as I think more than just poetic language, it’s really important to say how you feel in a song. Musically, I draw inspiration from a lot of folk and pop. A lot of my chord structure is simple, like old Everly Brothers tunes, but I also love to learn new chords from the Elvis Costello and Joni Mitchell songbooks to throw in there. I also find that I am inspired by artists that don’t sound anything like me, like Lucius for example, as I get inspired by their rhythm, even though our vibes are completely different. Some other people I’ve been listening to lately are: Blake Mills, The Milk Carton Kids, Courtney Barnett, Hiatus Kaiyote, and Wilco (to name a few).
That’s amazing! Do you tend to write songs that are a reflection of your own life or do you just imagine different kinds of stories?
On certain songs, it’s nice to escape and write someone else’s story. But even a song that isn’t directly about me has some sort of emotion I was feeling when I wrote it. Songwriting does come easier to me when I am writing about my life; it’s kind of my journal in that sense. Songs have also been this unique way of communication when I’m not really sure how to say what I’m feeling through words. I wrote when my grandma passed away, I wrote when I was experiencing heartache, I wrote on my birthday when I was scared and excited to grow up, and so on. Even if the song is seemingly someone else’s story, I still find how it connects to me.
I love that so much! I can relate a lot when it comes to my own art. What is your favorite song you’ve written (story you’ve told)?
It’s hard to pick a favorite because I’m really critical of myself. But Older & Changing is always a crowd favorite at the shows, and Hello Operator really came to life in the studio. I’ve also been writing a lot lately and I’m happy with these new tunes, which I’m hoping to record soon.
How has living in LA influenced your work?
Being in LA is great because even though I’m under 21, there are a ton of places I can play. I’ve met some really incredible musicians and made some great friends. There’s such a stellar community of young musicians that I get to play with. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
So exciting! What made you want to stick with music? Was there a specific moment in time where you felt like this is something you’d like to be involved in forever?
If you trace it back early enough, I probably knew I wanted to stick to music the first time I saw The Last Waltz, the documentary on The Band’s last show (I think I was about 3). I still watch that movie to this day when I’m losing hope, it’s one of my favorites. More seriously, I think I knew the night of my first gig. I was insanely nervous. It was the first time I was playing not just for my friends, not just for my family, but for a whole audience. I felt so comfortable on stage: though I was scared prior, it felt so natural to share the songs. An even more specific moment would probably be when I played a show a few months later and a friend came up to me and thanked me. I asked why and he said it was because there was a certain song I played that was exactly what he wished he could say. That was a super powerful moment for me, it made me feel like my songs were helping others too.
That’s awesome. The power of music! Speaking of anxiety, I read your piece in the Clover Letter about overcoming stage fright — it was amazing! You are a really great writer. Is writing something you would consider pursuing in the future?
Thank you so much! It is something I want to continue. Aside from songwriting, I write a lot of poetry, as well as other pieces. My dad is a writer and teaches creative writing, so I’ve always turned to writing for expressing ideas. I’d love to write more pieces like the one I wrote for Clover and I’m thinking it might be something I’m interested in studying.
What are some words of advice you would give to someone who is an aspiring musician?
Write a lot. The more you write, the more you learn about what sound you like. The more you write, the more you learn about what works and what doesn’t. Keep listening to artists you love, and keep checking out new music. If you feel comfortable enough, try performing live. Having an audience can be a great learning experience. Make friends with other musicians! They can serve as great inspiration and can push you to do better. ✿