All of the stars aligned for Sasha Alex Sloan as she unveils debut album “Only Child”

PHOTOS: David O’Donohue
INTERVIEW: Jasmine Perrier

This feature is taken from our “ONCE UPON A TIME…” series which introduces a booklet carefully designed to highlight one talent’s journey, available in digital and print worldwide

“I keep bumping the day back, but it’s gonna happen eventually,” Sasha Alex Sloan told us this summer about her long-awaited debut album. We marked our calendar for October 16th. Here we are, a couple of months later, with Only Child that she finished up from her new home in Tennessee — for the delight of our ears. “I’m excited to have the album out in the world. I’ve been sitting with the material for a while now and I’m anxious for people to finally hear it,” she added as we got closer to the release date. Since going on her own as an artist, the 25-year-old singer-songwriter has been taking over the music scene with her high-profile collaborations and climbing up charts with her brutally honest and relatable songs. Here, Sasha reflects on her personal and musical journey, from her debuts as a full-time musician to what led to who she is and what she does now.

Born to Russian-Irish parents in Boston, Sasha Alex Sloan — whose real name is Alexandra Artourovna Yatchenko — has been singing for as long as she can remember, growing up with a lot of pop and country music playing around her. “My mom’s side isn’t musical in the sense of professionals, but they all love music and my grandfather plays the violin,” she says. “Then my mom had this piano in our apartment in South Boston — I started playing it and singing” At 19, she signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell and decided to drop out of her music business studies to pursue “this one chance” in the industry. “We are gonna try this out — if it works, it works. If it doesn’t by the time I’m 25, I’m coming back home and finishing college,” she told herself before moving to Los Angeles. “I was so excited to move in there, but it was harder than I thought it would be. I didn’t know anyone in LA, or anyone legit in the business. I was alone and I couldn’t even buy a drink because I was 19.” When she started her new life in California, Sasha was working at the front desk of a gym every day, keeping her hopes and dreams in mind. “I remember listening to Spotify playlists, and being like, ‘If there’s ever a day, that I don’t have to work at this gym, I’m writing songs that are making this playlist, and I can pay my own rent, I would be so happy.’ Slowly but surely it happened and I started getting songs on those playlists as a writer or an artist even.” One highlight of her journey that she still cherishes today was when she got her first apartment. “I’m officially a full-time musician,” she thought at the time. “I was 21 or 22. It might even still be cooler than winning a Grammy, if I ever win a Grammy.” [Laughs] 

Since then, Sasha went from writing for notable artists such as Idina Menzel, Camila Cabello, and John Legend, to releasing her first two EPs Sad Girl and Loser in 2018. “Helping people write songs really made me not be scared to go fully into ‘sad girl’ territory,” she says on what encouraged her to put out her own music. “I don’t think the music I release would be the same if I didn’t have that experience beforehand.” Much to her surprise, her career took a new turn with her breakthrough track “Older” about her parents being divorced. “I had no idea that was gonna be my biggest song because it’s so niche. [Laughs] I thought, ‘This is cool because this is who I really am.’” When describing her evolution as an artist, she states, “I’ve definitely grown a lot. Now I’m at a point where I’m a little less scared and more like, ‘This is my project — I’m going to make music I like.’” Sasha’s signature relies on her pure and soft voice featured on raw songs that feel like a shoulder we can lean on. “I think I’m also more emotional than I thought I was because I like to hide behind humor.”

Accepting the fact that I’m not gonna be on stage in a bikini, ever, and I write music that’s truly who I am is something that I’ve taken away from everything I’ve done and also just my goal with every EP and album
via @sadgirlsloan

For Sasha, Only Child remains “the most creative work [she has] ever done,” as she gets to share the most real and authentic version of herself. “Sequencing Only Child was tough — I wanted to make sure it was multi-faceted and had a flow while telling a story at the same time,” she mentions when explaining that she decided to narrow the album down to 10 after writing about 30-40 songs. Defining the opening track “Matter To You” as bittersweet, she reports, “I thought it was a nice intro to the album because it’s somewhat hopeful which is new for me. I feel very small a lot of the time and being in love with the right person has helped with that. Initially I wanted to put ‘High School Me’ higher up on the tracklist because it’s one of my favorite songs on the album but it felt like the perfect closer. I’m talking to my old self, but in a lot of ways I’m talking to me now. The last lines of that song are, ‘Wish I could go back, tell her it’s okay’ — which I really, really wish I could do.” On the influences behind the album, she describes, “In the beginning of the process, I made an inspiration playlist which was really helpful. The artists include The Killers, Regina Spektor, Macy Grey, Jewel, Robyn, Eva Cassidy, etc. I added a lot of songs that I loved as a teenager and it got me in the right headspace. Initially there was no deliberate direction but it evolved naturally as I kept writing.”

She unveiled the first single “Lie” in August, a song about the denial and fallout of a failed relationship, which came with a space for fans and Sasha to have a dialogue. “It’s been amazing getting to read their messages and hear different stories from people all around the world. The messages have been incredibly touching and it’s been the biggest highlight of releasing the album.” It was followed by “House With No Mirrors,” which offers a reflection about overcoming insecurities and starting to feel at peace with yourself. In the one-shot music video, Sasha embraces “two of her biggest fears on camera” as she commented it — a concept that pushed her out of her comfort zone. “I really do hate being on camera so videos and photos are always my personal nightmare,” she confesses. “I think my previous EPs have given me the confidence I hadn’t had in the past. Seeing people connect with my vulnerable songs helped me decide to put myself out there even more. I felt like it wouldn’t be fair to hold back and even though it was scary, and gave me some pretty crazy anxiety, I decided to go for it.”

Because 2020 has been an unexpected train wreck, Sasha explains, “It’s felt a little weird releasing music while the world is on fire. I had to make the entire record at my house which isn’t how I had envisioned it but it worked out,” before specifying, “Photoshoots and videos have been more stressful than usual. Safety is obviously the number one priority so having to think about that while being on set and trying to make sure the video or photo was coming out the way I wanted proved to be a little difficult at times. I think the biggest challenge has been staying positive. I’m naturally a glass half empty kind of gal so this year definitely hasn’t helped.” What’s coming next for Sasha and the Only Child era? “It’s funny, I don’t really set goals or milestones for myself. I like to keep my expectations low.” [Laughs] Ultimately, she would love to keep releasing music she loves and gaining new fans. “My motto is like, ‘If I can get a fan a day, then I’m doing something right.’” Just like her favorite artists impacted her, she hopes to do the same for her audience. “I want to have that type of impact in a sense that anyone who listens to me, or comes to see me live, feels like they know who I am and they can have a drink with me after the show. Hopefully [I will] be able to tour the record once it’s safe enough to go back out on the road.” In the meantime, Sasha reminds, “Only Child is my debut album and I hope you don’t hate it!”

Only Child is out now



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