Interview: Sophie Holohan
Written by Kiersten Gerard
Sophie Holohan is a college freshman looking to forge a path into the music industry. With the help of Tik Tok, her positive attitude, and her excellent writing she is well on her way to take the industry by storm! We had the opportunity to chat about comparison culture, the process of a lyricist, and making music with strangers.
You’ve recently begun studying at Berklee College of Music. How has it been transitioning into college during the pandemic?
It’s been great so far. The Fall semester was completely online, it was an interesting experience navigating ensemble classes where you’re supposed to be making music together. Now I’m in Boston and it’s a hybrid style of classes. It’s been really great getting to meet people who are also super passionate about music. It’s been really amazing to expand my music taste. That’s my biggest takeaway so far. I love it.
What was the recording process like for your first two singles, “Orange,” and “Electrify”?
“Orange” was the first single that I released and I wrote it when I was 16. My dad and I produced it together at our home studio. It was a really fun collaborative process to work with my dad and bond over music. It’s very different from the stuff I write now but I look back at that process fondly because it was a learning experience. For “Electrify,” I actually created that one with two other people who also go to Berklee over the summer before we started here, and we had never met before. My (now) friend Brandon had reached out to me saying something like “You seem really cool, I’d love to work on something together some time” and from there we started Facetiming. Out of the blue he mentioned that his friend Nick had a track that he wanted someone to write over and he asked if I’d be interested. So my friends created the instrumental and I wrote the lyrics. It was really cool being able to collaborate with people because I hadn’t done that a lot before. In the recording aspect it was similar to “Orange,” I recorded the vocals at my house. Then we just sent stuff back and forth and just bounced stuff off of each other. It’s crazy because all 3 of us are best friends now but I had never talked to them before that project.
What inspired you to write Orange?
Throughout my life I’ve struggled a lot with comparison in terms of music and body image so I wanted to write a song that reminded me and other people that your success or what you look like doesn’t take away from anyone else’s success and vice versa. We live in a world right now where because of technology everything is so in your face all the time. Everyone’s best moments are projected to you constantly and I wanted to write a song where I could remind myself that it’s apples and oranges. It’s not about other people’s best moments, you can compare them to your worst moments. It’s not an equivalent comparison.
Who is your biggest songwriting inspiration?
I have a few. When I was growing up Adele was a big inspiration for me because she’s really vulnerable in her lyrics in a way where you can feel the pain in her voice. That’s really impacted the way I write because I like to be honest in my lyrics. Another person would be Taylor Swift, I love her. I listened to her so much when I was growing up and the wittiness in her lyrics really inspires me. Recently Billie Eilish has been a big inspiration for me. She has this type of truthfulness in her songs like “i love you” but also those witty sassy type lyrics in songs like “bad guy” and “My Strange Addiction.”
What is the first song you remember writing and what was it about?
I’ve been writing songs for my entire life. A long time ago, I think I was 5 or 6, I remember writing a song about being a shining star and darkness or something, something dramatic like that. Even when you feel alone you’re a star, that kind of thing. That’s the earliest one but I really got into writing when I got to middle school.
If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?
Probably FINNEAS. I would love to collaborate with him because he’s such a genius in both the production side and songwriting side. Singing and working with him would be a dream. I just want to see inside his brain.
Do you have a specific process you follow when you’re writing?
I have these things called “song seeds.” Basically when I’m going about living my life I’ll hear a phrase or a conversation with a friend and then a little idea will pop up in my brain. At that moment I’ll write it in my notes and that’s usually how a song starts out. I usually have that concept, almost like a thesis for the song and then I’ll create a song based on that idea. After I have that little seed I’ll figure out some chords, then a melody, and then the lyrics come naturally after that.
When you’re writing lyrics is there any specific thing you write about often?
A lot of my writing has to do with things that are common experiences but aren’t really talked about very often. Recently I wrote a song about codependency which I feel like people don’t really talk or sing about even though it’s such a shared experience. I also recently wrote a song about the feeling after you come out of a depressive period and wishing you were sad again because you didn’t have to try as hard or live as fully.
Do you have a favorite place to write?
I usually do it in my room. I like to be alone when I write most of the time. I’m doing more co writing now but when I’m writing a song by myself I just get to be quiet and in my space. Anywhere that makes me feel comfortable really.
What song has been stuck in your head lately?
It’s a song that was written by my roommate. It’s called “Michelangelo” by Megan Coffey. It’s funny, I’ll be walking around the room singing it and she’ll be like “is that my song?” and I’ll be like “...yes.” It gets stuck in my head all the time, it’s a great song.
Do you have any specific songs you turn to for comfort?
I have this playlist on Spotify called “gut punch in the rain” and that’s got all of my good cry songs. I think when I’m in a place where I need comfort a good cry is important. There’s an artist on Tik Tok named Madeline The Person and she just released a song called “As a Child.” It’s such a good healing/comfort song I’ve definitely been turning too recently.
If you had to describe your life in one song what would it be?
I’m in a very strange place in my life right now with adjusting to college and being a new adult and all that. There’s this song by COIN called “Let It All Out” and that's kind of where I’m at right now. I’m figuring out who I am. Letting out old ideas of who I was and bringing out the new versions of who I could be in the future.
Any future release plans?
I’m really hoping to release an EP sometime this year with some of the songs I’ve put on Tik Tok. I’m definitely going to release that song about codependency for sure. I’m working with a producer and I’m pretty excited.
What advice do you have on songwriting and life in general?
Don’t judge whatever comes out of your head. If you think too much then you’re never going to write anything. Let the words flow freely without judgement. Sometimes I’ll be writing a song and I’ll think it’s terrible, but then when I finish I end up loving it. If I had cut it off at the beginning because I thought it was bad, that song never would’ve been created.
Anything to plug?
I just released a song with my friend Brandon called “October Skies”! So check that out.
Follow Sophie on Instagram and Tik Tok @sophie.holohan