This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, the songs they want played at their funeral. In this edition, we speak with the 25-year-old singer-songwriter Sasha Sloan, whose debut album, Only Child, has solidified her status firmly within the new crop of alt-pop stars. From her home in Nashville, Sloan spoke with Interview about leaving California, loving Amy Winehouse, and staying her own worst enemy.
SARAH NECHAMKIN: How’s it going?
SASHA SLOAN: It’s going.
NECHAMKIN: Where are you?
SLOAN: I’m in Nashville.
NECHAMKIN: I love Nashville.
SLOAN: I know. I loved it so much that I moved here. I’m originally from Boston, but I lived in L.A. for seven years, and I just moved here a month ago.
NECHAMKIN: In the middle of a pandemic? I guess it’s a good time to leave California.
SLOAN: Right? I mean, I feel like it’s always a good time to leave California, but that’s just me.
NECHAMKIN: Do you have a favorite Nashville artist? Who do you connect Nashville to in your mind?
SLOAN: I grew up on Americana music. It’s what my mom always played around the house. It’s funny how much your parents influence your early music taste, at least for me. I actually think she lives in Seattle—not that I’m her stalker, but I kind of am—but Brandi Carlile embodies the Nashville vibe for me. And The Chicks. I grew up on that kind of music, and Brandi Carlile has been such a huge influence for me in so many ways. My music doesn’t sound anything like hers, but her first album was one of the first CDs I ever bought, and her song “Throw It All Away” was the first song I learned how to play on guitar. And she’s just such a huge influence just in how she runs her business, the touring. I’ve seen her live probably six times. Last time I saw her live was at The Greek, maybe two years ago. I just remember her coming on stage and me sobbing, which is so not like me. I had been in the business for so long at that point that I didn’t think music could like move me in that way anymore. But I just started crying.
NECHAMKIN: My roommate was actually watching the Brandi Carlile live stream that she does. Have you seen it?
SLOAN: Mmm. Yeah, I have. She’s iconic. I feel like there are so few artists these days who are better live, and she’s one of them.
NECHAMKIN: Was there, likewise, an artist or several that you associated with California when you were living there?
SLOAN: That’s tough just because I feel like everyone in music goes through L.A. or lives in L.A. Every genre exists there. But when I first moved there I was like, “Californication.” “Hotel California.” I was just such a tourist.
NECHAMKIN: Joni Mitchell.
SLOAN: Exactly. But now I just associate it with more pop music, because everyone writes and records there. I think of The Weeknd when I think of L.A.
NECHAMKIN: Who have you been listening to these days? Is there a particular album that you’ve been playing on loop?
SLOAN: I’m kind of a freak in the sense that I don’t really listen to music. So this might be a horrible interview.
SLOAN: I get obsessed with songs. I don’t really listen to full bodies of work on repeat. I think the last album that I listened to over and over on repeat was Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves. And that album I know top to bottom because we constantly had it on in the house. But it’ll be random songs that I rediscover, like “Between Me And You” by Brandon Flowers. That song has just been on loop. The song “2016” by Sam Hunt also has been on loop. But when I’m just chilling around the house, I think because I can’t really shut my mind off ever, especially lyrically, I’ll find a chill piano-only playlist on Spotify and I’ll have that going on through the Sonos. Or electronic music, like The Blaze. That’s very emotive sonically, but there are no lyrics. That’s what I’ve been listening to in quarantine.
NECHAMKIN: Is there a song that you find always puts you in a good mood, or that you keep returning to when you’re down?
SLOAN: I think songs that put me in good moods are just really good songs. And usually, for me, those are really nostalgic, sad songs. Eva Cassidy always makes me feel super calm. And old Regina Spektor music that I used to listen to, those always put me in a good mood for sure. I don’t think it’s your typical upbeat song with me—it’s more the nostalgia factor.
NECHAMKIN: Do you have a dream collaborator?
SLOAN: Yeah. I always feel so stupid answering these questions because I’m like, “They probably don’t want to collaborate with me.”
NECHAMKIN: But that’s the point, it’s a dream.
SLOAN: This is really sad because she’s passed away, but my dream collaboration is Amy Winehouse. I mean, obviously, it will never happen. But she is probably my favorite artist of all time. She’s just an incredible writer.
NECHAMKIN: Would you say that there’s any particular Amy Winehouse song that you gravitate toward? If you met someone who had never listened to her music before, which one would you point her to?
SLOAN: It’s so hard. I would probably say “Tears Dry On Their Own.” Or “Love Is A Losing Game.” “You Know I’m No Good.” Even her first album, Frank, was just so good. “Fuck Me Pumps” is amazing. I mean, you can’t really go wrong.
NECHAMKIN: Are there any songs or artists that you would put on a playlist, for, say, a big house party? Even though that’s obviously not a thing anymore.
SLOAN: It’s known within my friend group that I’m never allowed to have the AUX, especially if anyone’s having fun. Any time I would have people over and it was getting rowdy, I’d always go to this playlist on Spotify called ’90s Smash Hits. Like “Say My Name,” “No Scrubs,” “Bye Bye Bye,” and “Genie in a Bottle.” “All Star,” by Smash Mouth—I play that just to torture my boyfriend sometimes. That’s my vibe to party to.
NECHAMKIN: Do you have a romantic, get-in-the-mood playlist? Or, on the other side of the coin, a breakup playlist?
SLOAN: For breakup playlists, basically anything Sam Hunt. There’s this song he has called “Drinking Too Much,” which is an incredible breakup song. What else? Brandi Carlisle. She has this song called “That Wasn’t Me,” and I was just a total asshole to my mom when I was 17 and that song came out. I remember crying to that song because it’s just about not being a great person. And then, in the chorus it’s like, “When I am a good person, when that’s what you see, that’ll be me, that’s who I really am.” I’d probably put that song on there. Oh, and the entire Back to Black album. And romantic—I don’t listen to music when I do that stuff. It’s too distracting.
NECHAMKIN: Who was the earliest musician to influence you? You said your parents listened to a lot of Americana.
SLOAN: I think that my earliest favorite song of all time was “You Were Meant for Me” by Jewel. I remember just belting that song, and my mom always called it Sasha’s song.
SLOAN: That’s still my go-to karaoke song.
NECHAMKIN: That was my next question.
SLOAN: If karaoke ever makes a comeback, which I really hope it does, my go-to karaoke song… the list is too long. It depends on what the vibe in the room is. Because doing karaoke as someone who actually sings is actually awkward sometimes. I remember, I karaoke-d on New Year’s Eve right before the world shut down. And I went for “Party in the USA.” That is a go-to for me. Or “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. “Where Is The Love” by The Black Eyed Peas.
NECHAMKIN: I’m going to add that to my list for when we eventually can do that again. Do you sing in the shower?
SLOAN: Not as much anymore, actually, but I used to all the time. I used to have a little radio in my bathroom and just belt. It was usually musical theater stuff because I’m kind of a nerd. Something from Evita or Jesus Christ Superstar, all that stuff. Grease, so good. I was obsessed with Grease as a kid.
NECHAMKIN: Me too. What was your first concert?
SLOAN: My first concert was a Britney Spears concert in first grade. I remember it like it was yesterday because confetti fell from the ceiling and it was the coolest night of my entire life. I was obsessed with Britney Spears when I was a little kid. I wanted to look like her, I knew every lyric.
NECHAMKIN: Do you have a favorite movie soundtrack?
SLOAN: Shrek is my favorite soundtrack. Or Moulin Rouge. They’re tied.
NECHAMKIN: If your life were a TV show, what do you think would be the theme song?
SLOAN: “My Own Worst Enemy.”
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