She is an entity, a self-advocate. She is mindfully uplifting. She is Sof. New Jersey’s newest pop powerhouse wants her listeners to take good care of themselves, as she continues to share a common theme throughout her lyricism – conscious evolution. The New Jersey-based artist is more than just a streamlined artist. Sof has fully delved into music production, becoming an even-more present entity in her own recording process than she was before. She shares dreamy synths and poppy hooks, intertwined with an awareness that only truly seasoned artists can uphold. The woman behind Sof is Sof – and she’s fully ready to share her universal identity with you.
I feel like Sof as an entity is fluidly representative of where you’re at in your life. Before this, you went by your real name, Sofia Nicole, which evolved into Sof. Do you think your overall artistry is based on evolution?
I think in some ways it is, yes. I’m always growing and changing and trying to improve myself as a person so that naturally plays a big role in my music and songwriting process too. But I also have so much doubt and I’m not always self-assured or unconditionally confident. I think my music reflects who I am in every aspect. It reflects my flawed human experience, trials and tribulations, and good moments too. It’s not always easy to be honest and it can feel scary at times, but I try my best not to sugarcoat things.
As Sofia Nicole, you became very familiar with the local New Jersey music scene, playing shows that spanned across the state. The local NJ scene is well known in the industry, and can be quite inspiring, but many artists don’t feel at all influenced by where they live – do you find yourself inspired at all by it, or do you feel indifferent?
It’s funny because when I think of the “New Jersey sound” my mind automatically goes to Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi, but I don’t think that’s really applicable anymore. When people think of New Jersey they usually think of Asbury Park and the accompanying rock sound, but I know so many artists who all have such different sounds and styles and even different parts of New Jersey have music scenes that vary sonically. I’ve definitely been inspired by other artists I’ve shared stages with but I’ve never particularly felt like I was a “New Jersey artist,” per say. I feel like I’m an artist hailing from New Jersey, but the various music scenes here haven’t always felt like an exact fit. I think I’m meant to be a west coast gal. Maybe one day.
Now, you go by Sof, and have for a few years. What prompted the change? Did it feel like a significant change?
Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of being a pop artist. When I first started playing shows and writing music, all I had was my acoustic guitar, so I got really stuck in what my friend Russell and I call “guitar world.” When you write to one instrument it’s so easy to get stuck in a certain sound. At the time, I was this frilly, cutesy, teenaged acoustic singer-songwriter, so the name Sofia Nicole fit. But as I started venturing into adulthood and writing in the studio instead of to one single instrument, I realized that my name had to match my growth and sonic change. Everyone in my life calls me Sof, so it felt really natural. It’s me in the truest sense, so I’m really glad I made the change.
You released a cover of Britney Spears’ “Criminal” on YouTube a few years back, and recently dropped it on streaming platforms. The cover itself went viral on YouTube, has thousands of videos on TikTok (all shamefully uncredited, which I’d also love to get your take on), and now has racked up hundreds of thousands of streams. What about that cover do you think is resonating through listeners?
Ugh, knowing that there are so many people out there who have heard my cover and have no idea that it’s me singing it really gets to me. I try not to think about it too much, but I feel like I’ve tried everything. TikTok doesn’t have a support contact number or anything so I can’t claim it or report it to anyone without just getting the sound removed. I’m also such a small artist so I have absolutely no leverage. I’ve thought about making a TikTok letting people know that it’s me singing it, but you know the TikTok game— you can pour hours of your time into making a video and then it will get 100 views. It can feel soul-sucking.
I think people resonate with how emotional the cover is. The original song is super poppy and fast-paced, but my version is slowed down and really places focus on the lyrics. It’s also produced and arranged a lot differently, so I guess people just really connected with the way I chose to tell this story.
I really want to hear more detail about your single, “fruit water szn”. What exactly is fruit water szn, and how did that concept translate into a percussive pop track?
“fruit water szn” stems from an inside joke. Whenever I’m doing really well— feeling mentally healthy, working out, eating right, etc.— I find myself drinking fruit-infused water, so I say it’s “fruit water season” because I’m in my epitome-of-health-era. I really wanted to write a song that encompassed that feeling and I had it as a song idea in my notes app for years. The first day my producer, Russell Hayden, and I met, we wrote it together and we’ve been working together ever since.
You’ve progressed from acoustic-based poppy rock to massive synth and percussion experimentation, and you’re also now involved in production. I’m curious if this shift feels more natural than your previous style.
One hundred percent! Being more involved in the production process has been instrumental in honing my personal sound and style, as well as evolving my songwriting process. I feel so much stronger as a writer than I ever did, and being able to speak “producer” to Russell has really allowed me to feel like an artist in every sense of the word. Production is a whole other world and I still have a lot to learn but I’m really enjoying the process.
“Movement,” which was released before “fruit water szn,” really seemed to cement your sleek, sassy, tongue in cheek pop style. What was it about “Movement” that felt like the right move at the time of release?
I actually wrote “Movement” in March of 2020 and it just sat for a while. I had some ideas for where I wanted to go with it production-wise, but I couldn’t quite demo the song in the way I envisioned. After Russell and I met and wrote “fruit water szn”, I knew I wanted him to produce “Movement”. What’s funny is we started working together on “Movement” exactly a year after it was written. I just wanted it out so bad because I believed in it and I was tired of sitting on it. I also felt like it would be the perfect precursor to fruit water szn.
Is Sof a movement?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t think so. I personally see Sof as the cool, badass version of myself that isn’t afraid to express her emotions and let her guard down when Sofia is typically more reserved and closed off. Sof is Sofia uncensored.
These two singles stem from a string of other singles. Was releasing a handful of singles the original plan for 2021, or did the pandemic throw your plans for a wrench?
I actually started writing for a debut EP back in 2018, so originally the plan was to put out one single and then a 4-song EP. Clearly that changed over time. A lot of things threw a wrench in my plans— the pandemic of course, but also changing producers, working with different writing partners over the years, and making the tough decision to scrap songs that I just didn’t feel were ready or right for the project. It’s been 4 years in the making, but those 4 years were crucial in figuring out who I am as an artist, writer, and person. All the obstacles that life threw at me ultimately allowed me to create better music and I’m so excited to share it with everyone. Soon.
Your debut EP, dawn, dropped recently, and you’ve already teased new music. Do you feel like a consistent flow of releases keeps you on your toes?
I think taking breaks can be equally as important as releasing music consistently. Things ebb and flow. Right now I’m at a place in my life where I have a lot to write about and I haven’t shied away from doing so.
dawn feels like a true metamorphosis. Did you aim to tell a story of evolution, or did dawn take its form naturally?
Dawn, to me, feels much more like a look into my own personal duality than a story of evolution. In a lot of ways I feel like I have grown and changed over the years, especially in the time that I started this EP vs when I finished it, but at the end of the day I am just a very flawed human being with a fragile ego and uncomfortable emotions that I try my best to run from.
What’s next for Sof?
Dawn was just the beginning. New music coming in April and announcing something even bigger very soon!
Official Music Video – “I Had A Dream”