Empowering artists: Sonia Espiritu

EMPOWERING ARTISTS SONIA ESPIRITU. Candid Orange

It is undeniable that the music industry has taken a massive hit since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The combination of the venue closures and cancelled tours has led to the mounting fear that the music industry has suffered irreversibly as the backbone of the industry has been crushed. 

In the UK music scene alone, “65% of music creators’ income will be lost this year”, a number that could increase to “over 80% for those most dependent on live performance and recording studio work”. In solidarity with the music industry, here at Candid Orange, we have decided to shed some light on some of the most exciting upcoming artists. We hope to create an open space for artists from all across the world to discuss themselves, their music and their inspiration. 

Sonia Espiritu

Sonia Espiritu is an indie/alt solo artist from Oakland California who has established herself making music on GarageBand to champion dynamic themes from social justice to growing up. Her homemade ‘coming-of-age’ sound brings us closer to our younger selves, with the unified message that we are not alone. In the midst of a pandemic, this message is needed now more than ever. I had the pleasure of interviewing Sonia to find out more about her creative process and what inspires her music.

“I’ve been playing guitar since I was around 6 or 7 and I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid in high school, but I’ve always been shy about putting myself out there,” said Sonia. In 2014, she began to become more invested in her music, composing ideas in-between her classes: “I started writing songs around my freshman year of high school back 2014. Just little thoughts I would have or things that would happen I would jot down in my notes app or my notebook or whatever piece of paper and pen was on hand at the time.”

Although Sonia has been writing music for years, it wasn’t until the rise of COVID-19 that she began to make her musical dreams a reality and get serious with her aspirations. However, she had a dilemma to face: “By the time the pandemic rolled around, I wanted to take a semester off school because I didn’t want to pay 4-year tuition if I was only getting a quarter of the experience, and I couldn’t work because my family is at high risk”. So, Sonia took this time to launch her career.

Who inspires you?

Starting with the release of her single Ultra Quiet in 2020, Sonia has been busy releasing 6 other tracks, with the promise of more music to come.

So, with all the time on my hands, I decided to put myself out there anyways. I didn’t want to look back and regret not trying and I’m really glad I did.

If you listen to Sonia’s music, you’ll instantly hear the indie influences, reminiscent of BLACKSTARKIDS crossed with Soakie. However, when asked who her musical inspirations are, the answer might surprise you.

“My parents make fun of me for it because we don’t make music that sounds remotely similar, but SZA is a huge influence for me. Her Ctrl album was the pinnacle of my coming-of-age years, and still continues to be.” 

SZA’s influence on Sonia’s music transgresses her emotional childhood connection. It even affects her message: “I want my music to say, ‘you’re not alone’. I’m usually addressing a certain audience, whether it be a boy or a system, but for those I’m not addressing, I want it to be like ‘You feel this way too, right? You’re just as pissed off/sad/confused as me?’ That’s probably why I put SZA as one of my biggest influences, because her music made me feel seen and included. Like ‘Oh my God, I’m not the only one who feels like this! It’s not just me!’”

Sonia’s message of being seen can be felt throughout her music. Her lyrics speak of situations that are relatable to the masses. “I think when I write these things down, it’s not the day or the physical things around me that I focus on like ‘oh it was sunny and you wore blue’ but rather the way I felt about it.”

“Can’t believe you liked the girl with orange hair and acne, thinking about that time makes me start laughing like I used to before.” – in my dreams

Sonia’s music touches heavily on past experiences and emotions stemming from her teenage years – vulnerability, insecurity, confusion: “With a lot of my songs, I try to put my feelings first and as the forefront when making them since I’m so terrible at being vulnerable in-person – like it has to go somewhere.”

Be your own producer

One of the most compelling aspects of Sonia’s music is that it is entirely homemade. Sonia uses GarageBand to create, record and mix her music – a new wave of music production that many artists are excelling in.

‘In the Box’ production has increased in popularity in recent years, allowing artists to have full control of their royalties and concept. When asked whether Sonia enjoyed this level of control over her work, she responds with “Yes. Yes, times a thousand. Earlier on when I tried doing music, I really wanted to be in a band, but it wouldn’t work out for a variety of reasons (commitment issues, different tastes, the other members thinking I’m only in it so I could date them, etc.). My friends always told me I worked better alone and once I took their advice; I couldn’t have been happier.”

However, this doesn’t mean that Sonia works completely alone, “I do collaborate with friends from time to time – like my buddy James Litiatco does bass for all my songs because I don’t own a bass, but also because he’s just better… he’s really talented.”

“I think given the way this pandemic has forced a lot of us to let go of what our lives used to be, there’s this lack of control that being a solo artist on GarageBand fills for me. Like, ‘Here’s something that I can have a full grasp on and have it exactly as I want it to be’, because it feels like I have no control over everything else that happens in my life, and I think during this time that’s why a lot of artists are taking this route.”

It isn’t just smaller artists taking advantage of being their own producer, and saving money in the meantime, “We’ve also come to a point where we see a lot of artists go the GarageBand route and be successful; Steve Lacy, Grimes, to name a couple. So, there’s the promise of doing things on your own without breaking the bank for a studio or producer and having it all work out.”

Want to hear Sonia’s music for yourself? Follow the link to her Spotify and social media accounts and show her some support!

If you want to get involved in the next installation of this series, contact us with your music at candidorangemagazine@gmail.com.