by Katie Fielding
Tufts first-year Sofia Wolfson may have begun her venture in the music world by playing a ukulele cover of a Haim song in the 9th grade, but the singer-songwriter has come a long way since. One album and an EP later, Wolfson has found her sound in lyrically driven melodies with understated production, drawing inspiration from Joni Mitchell, The Band, and Margaret Glaspy. The result is music that is easy to listen to while still maintaining depth.
Growing up in a music-loving family in Los Angeles fostered Wolfson’s love of music. “I never had baby music or baby movies,” she laughed, swinging her legs back and forth off the edge of my dorm room bed, “I had The Beatles and The Last Waltz.” By age 6, she was playing guitar; by third grade, she had already written a song. She attended an arts high school, and while she studied theater, not music, being a part of a close-knit, creative community contributed to Wolfson’s musical growth. It was easy to tell how passionate she is about music—she grinned through the entire forty-five minute interview. Wolfson and her father co-produced and released her first album, Hunker Down, in 2016. Comprised of ten songs she wrote when she was 15, the album is a polished collection of intimate folk-pop songs about love and growth. Between that album and her newly-released EP, Side Effects, there is clear development, especially in the production. Wolfson confessed of Hunker Down, “I was confident in the music, but once it got to the studio, I couldn’t fully express my ideas sometimes.” With the help of producer Marshall Vore, Wolfson was better able to articulate her ideas on Side Effects. Instead of leaving the songs as she and her band played them live, Wolfson and Vore worked together to further the songs in the studio. The three songs on the Side Effects EP arose out of Wolfson dealing with emotional turmoil and the side effects of her experiences, and are full of raw emotion in their lyrics. She says that she rarely sits and writes with the intention of composing a full song. Rather a line or a phrase will come to her, and she’ll write it down on her phone and build off of that. She recalled that while driving her car once, she was thinking about the prescriptions she had to pick up and the line “I’ve got a prescription to deal with your symptoms” just popped into her head. That line blossomed into “Capsule,” an entire song about grappling with the monotony of some of her relationships.
Despite getting started young Wolfson’s career has not always been easy, in part due to the difficulties of being a woman in the music industry. Even though she consistently played shows in high school, she constantly felt the need to prove herself to sound engineers, saying she had to demonstrate that she “knew how to plug in and… set levels and all that.” She also faced questions about her appearance at shows. Her guy friends could get on stage in a tee shirt with no problems, but there were always questions about her clothing choices. “I’ve found that a lot of music is what the person looks like, and that’s just not music,” she lamented.
Wolfson is now going through a transitional period in her career; after leaving her band behind in California, Wolfson has been playing solo gigs in Boston, including a show at the Middle East. She admits, however, that the transition has been difficult. “I kind of didn’t realize how much music I was playing with other people… It still feels like a lot of me is in L.A. because of the musicians there,” she reflected. This has led her to write more music because even though she’s away from the musicians she plays with, she still has the urge to play. A change as big as moving across the country has given her plenty of new material to tap into.
Wolfson continues to look to the future with her music. She plans on playing an EP release show in LA and continuing to get involved in the music scene on campus and in Boston. The positive responses to her EP, from friends, family, and local publications alike, have only further fueled her desire to get back into the studio. Signing is also on her mind, but she noted, “it’s a weird era of getting signed and people are young and it’s very competitive. The fact that everybody can produce and put out music on their own, it seems like a different ball game than in a time where music and distributing music was getting signed to a label.”
Editorial Note: Sofia Wolfson has joined Melisma as a writer and the decision to profile her was made prior to her participation in Melisma, so she was not involved in
editing this piece.