Interview with Sonia Espiritu
Updated: May 25, 2021
Sonia Espiritu, a 20-year-old female Mexican-Filipino indie rock/alternative solo artist from Oakland, CA, made the audacious decision to begin releasing music during a pandemic. featured in 9 independent publications.
Her music is mostly available on Soundcloud, also on multiple platforms. The song is about the injustices in the musician community regarding minors/fans/survivors being coerced into sexual favors by artists of higher status and stature, abusing their power.
What drew you to the music industry?
Sonia: I’ve always wanted to be a rockstar since I was a kid. When we would go on trips and my dad would blast his playlist with the same Top 20 songs and I would always get so excited when Holiday / Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day or Im Just a Girl by No Doubt or Last Resort by Papa Roach (yes hearing Last Resort as an impressionable 5 y/o) would come on the rotation. Something about the way the distortion on the guitars would always draw me in or the drums would get me so excited. The rest of the rotation was R&B, Pop, and Rap. I think because Rock got the least amount of representation in his rotation and that none of the artists looked or sounded like me... as a kid, you want the things you can’t have. And that marked me for life.
Who are you inspired by?
Sonia: My main influences have always been SZA, David Bowie, Julian Casablancas, and Alex Turner. They’ve been real trailblazers within their own genres and I hope to have at least an ounce of their greatness one day. Of course, my other influences are whatever I’m currently listening to and do fluctuate a lot and it’s reflected in my music. Lately, it’s been New Order, Mitski, Pasosh, X-Ray Spex, and My Chemical Romance (I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic recently).
Please explain your creative process.
Sonia: Y’know when people tell you to write down a dream down immediately when you wake up so you can remember it later? That’s most of my process. Some of my songs are inspired by actual dreams and the rest are just an emotional response from me reflecting on whatever has happened. Writing down the first thought I have and running with it. Everything else comes after.
What’s an average day like for you?
Sonia: Ever since the pandemic, this is what my days usually look like: I wake up and feed my dog every morning. Then I’ll probably make myself breakfast which is usually toast and a coffee/tea. I’ll grind out as much school work as I can at the beginning of my day because it’s my least favorite thing to do, so might as well get it over with and get it done as quickly as I can so I’m not dwelling on it the whole day. The rest of the day I leave to music and that can vary from writing to recording to self-promoting. I’ve never paid a cent for advertising and I don’t plan to anytime soon. This usually takes up most of my day until around 4-5ish. By then, I’m working out and then cooking dinner for my family. By the end of the day I spend time with my family or talking to friends. I know I live with my family, and so I see them every day, but most of the day I’m with myself, so it’s important to me to put time aside to be present with them. I know not everyone is close to their families, and so I’m very lucky and grateful to be close with mine.
Do you collaborate with others? What is that process?
Sonia: Being a solo artist, you have a lot of creative control which is a very liberating thing because no one can pull off your own creative expression better than yourself. I sing, I play all 2-3 guitar parts, I do the drums, the keys, mixing, and producing— I do it all. The only thing I don’t do in any of my songs is play bass. Not because I don’t know how to, but because I just don’t own one. I leave that to my buddy, James Litiatco. He’s also incredibly talented and he has a really great ear and taste in music. I go to him for all of my advice on all my songs— in fact, I don’t release anything unless I get his seal of approval on it. And with my last single, “trap phone” I gave him all the responsibility of producing it which he did such an amazing job on. There’s honestly no one I trust more than him.
What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? Why?
Sonia: My favorite part is the rush of inspiration. The immediate need to write something down and record it— to pursue a song to the bitter end and the urgency out of nowhere to do so. The mindset of, “this is good and I need to make it immediately before I forget or lose momentum”. I think a lot of my motivation for doing this is the momentum of getting it done and putting it out and if I slow down or get stuck or fall off for any reason, I bum myself out and it’s hard to get back on. My least favorite part is slowing down. Sometimes when I’m stuck redoing vocals or mixing a song for too long, I’ll fall out of love with it and I’ll want to throw it away. I need to be excited about a song when I put it out. Otherwise, if I’m not stoked about a release, no one else will be. And people will really see through that too. If you’re not thrilled about something you love, no one else will be too.
have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Sonia:My advice for someone following in my footsteps is to remember to do it for yourself. The best things in the world come from a labor of love and people can always tell whether you’re genuine or not. It’s very easy to forget when you’re trying to win people over and make something of yourself in one of the hardest industries to be in. But if it’s something you love doing and if you’re falling in love with everything you’re creating, it’ll show and the rest will follow. It all starts with you.
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
Sonia: I feel like I wouldn’t really be in the music business if there was no internet. In fact, there wouldn’t really be much of a music business to salvage during a global pandemic if there was no internet. It’s made it easier to share and promote music as well as make it. Some of the people I plan to work with and tour with (when it’s safe) I met through the internet. I should probably mention that because I started making music in the pandemic, that means I’ve never played at a show or had a gig. So everyone that listens to my music has found me through the internet. The internet has had a huge impact on the music business because it’s the one thing keeping the music business together.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Sonia: Be patient. It is the hardest thing for me to sit still and see the fruits of my labor bloom because I get so disappointed when I don’t see the results instantly. I think I’m just a very impatient person in general, and it reflects on the standard I set for myself when I make music. Like if it’s not immediately liked or if I can’t get this part right, there must be something wrong with me. And I know that’s not true, it’s just that things take time and some things are worth the wait. It’s definitely something I should work on.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
Sonia: The sexism, the racism, and the fact that so many individuals get easily taken advantage of. All these aspects are the reasons why I put off actually pursuing music for so long— there’s just too many horror stories about new artists getting chewed up and spit out by industry leeches and it makes me feel sick. Sometimes when I say this, people are like, “it’s the music industry, what do you expect?” I expect better. I want better. Getting taken advantage of shouldn’t be the norm.
What’s next for you?
Sonia: I have another single coming out in late May. I haven’t told anyone this, but it’s one of the songs I want to put on an album. I don’t know when the album will be because I’m saving up to actually record it in a studio for once instead of my bedroom. I also have a Riot Grrrl EP coming out at some point before the end of summer which is a collaboration with me and the lovely little badass, Lizzie Donohue.
We are so glad we could participate in this interview.
In the future, we will have so much more to see from her work.