Sophia Black Interview
1. What is your name and your profession(s)?
My Name is Sophia Black and I'm a recording artist who hoards all of her music.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship?
I am Japanese-Mexican American born and raised in Los Angeles, California.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry?
Yes! My mom is a composer, orchestrator, and professional pianist. One of my favorite memories growing up is falling asleep as I listened to her compose for movies in Japan. My father is also a musician as well, he's a self-proclaimed "working musician" who does everything from producing, mixing, playing, and even touring. Every time I call him he tells me a mind blowing story about working in the music industry during the late 80s / early 90s. One of my favorites is when he worked with Prince on one of his albums, I'll have to tell you that story one day.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies.
Growing up as an AAPI in Los Angeles was a very, very unique experience. I feel very blessed to have grown up in an area with so much diversity. I lived not too far from Little Osaka (now called "Japantown" but if you're from LA, you KNOW it's "Little Osaka" ) where there was a Japanese grocery store and Japanese restaurants down the street. In one of the plaza's there was a karaoke place called "Max Karaoke" where I clocked in so many hours of belting songs at the top of my lungs for as long as I can remember. I feel like I grew up singing there and it was definitely one of my first introductions to singing live. A lot of my experience within the AAPI community in LA also surrounded the restaurant community as well. As big as LA is, it's a pretty small community so once you know one person you kind of know everyone. So growing up, my mom and I would always go to a different restaurant where we would be treated like family-friends. I have this specific memory of a Thanksgiving one year that was hosted by one of the restaurant owners, and he invited all of our chef friends to bring something pot-luck style. It was insane because our dinner featured classic thanksgiving dishes, a sushi boat (yes, a literal mini-boat with sashimi decorated on top), tonkotsu ramen, and several other Japanese dishes.
Of course, just being in America I watched a lot of discrimination growing up against not only myself, but also my family. However, it was these little moments, like Thanksgiving, that made me feel so connected to my community and heritage.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)?
If I'm being completely honest, it took me a really long time to truly feel secure in my culture and heritage. I feel like that insecurity within your own culture is something a lot of AAPI in America can relate to. Being a multi-racial person, I feel like I've been in a never-ending push and pull between all of my ethnicities. I get so anxious whenever I have to fill out something about my ethnicity because yes technically I'm american, technically I'm asian, but I'm also technically hispanic. I would get so overwhelmed that I just click "other" because I'm not any of those individually. This was persistent throughout my interactions with people my whole life. When I'd visit Japan, I was "too American" and when I'd go to school out here I was the "weird" one who would bring bentos boxes to lunch. This was so confusing to me because here were two of my most defining cultures that were simultaneously and continuously rejecting me. For many years I thought that if I just chose the culture I identify with the most, I would finally feel like I was a part of something rather than being a bystander. It took me way too long to realize that I exist as both. Once I came to terms with the fact that I exist as a person who is simultaneously within all my cultures, I felt more comfortable within each of those respective cultures that I grew up being a part of. Now, I feel more comfortable and proud of my heritage and culture more than ever.
Japanese and English were simultaneously my first languages, I would watch Disney Movies then switch over to Ghibli movies, I had to choose if I wanted a sweet 16 or a quinceañera, and the list goes on and on and on. At the end of the day, I am all my cultures and accepting that makes me not only feel connected to my heritage but also myself.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)?
Having parents who were both in music, I feel like I naturally just gravitated towards it. It was one of the first ways I learned to express myself and to this day I rely heavily on my writing to get out feelings that are parasitic to my soul and spirit. I don't think there was ever that "a-ha" moment of wanting to pursue music, but rather I just knew. Making people smile made me feel good, it made me happy to see others be happy by just being myself. I just always knew I was meant to do this. Then when I got signed professionally at 14, I became super serious about my career. I chose not to go to college but instead to invest my time into going to the studio daily to work on my music. I remember thinking to myself that "Ok, if I'm not going to college, I can't just slack off. I have to make it worth it." So I did everything in my power to make sure I was booked everyday for a session and to get there however I could. I remember the day I wrote "K I S S I N G", I took a bus to the producers house just because I wanted to write and record so badly. My music makes me feel so validated and I think I somehow knew that subconsciously, which is why I continue to pursue this career. I've been professionally in this industry for over ten years now, so the knowledge I have learned from my experiences in "the biz" is absolutely priceless.
6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now?
When I first told my parents, I remember them asking me if I was absolutely sure I wanted to be a musician. This was not because they didn't believe in me, but because they knew how absolutely brutal this industry is and how hard my life was about to become. Once I told them they were sure, they continue to believe in me and are two of my biggest champions. Without a single doubt in my mind, my parents were and continue to be incredibly supportive of my dreams. I will however say it's not the easiest to be a pop star when both of your parents are some of the most talented musicians ever, so the criticism is definitely constructive, haha.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse.
I'm sure my fans are rolling their eyes right now reading this question cause they know I haven't dropped anything since my first EP hahahah But that EP is special to me because not only become this sort of "cult classic"-esque project, but after spending a lot of my highschool life going back and forth from school to sessions it was the first few songs that truly felt like Sophia Black the artist.
Another really special song to me was a song I dropped at the beginning of the pandemic called "Animal Crossing". Aside from it becoming one my most successful songs, it proved so many things to me. Not a lot of people know this, but that song was the first thing I wrote and released after deciding to leave my former label. I had no team, no management, no label, yet somehow I managed to pitch it, get it placed, and create an entire marketing campaign for it all on my own. It proved to me that no matter where I go in the future, I'm taking my drive and talent with me and that I can trust my creativity.
Aside from that I am really excited for some upcoming collaborations I have, including a really really fun one with Polyphia.
8. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry or in general?
Honestly, I've been blessed to be surrounded by a group of people who encourage the fact that I am an AAPI. As I mentioned before, I used to feel so torn about my culture but I can count so many moments within the AAPI music community that's made me feel so connected to my culture. Even aside from the community, I've always been encouraged to use my language as a way to paint through my music. One of the biggest things I've been a part of was a song called "Ikuyo" featuring 2 Chainz and Kyle where I rap the hook in Japanese. I remember being in my car when Naz texted me the beat to it asking me for a Japanese hook. I was just about to walk into my part time job at the time and wrote it in like 15 minutes. It's moments like that that make me feel so appreciated for my culture and the fact that I made a lifelong friend out of it is priceless.
9. 9a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why?
Come again by M-Flo changed my life. Just go listen to it. It explains everything about who I am and why I write the way I do.
9b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general?
Bro, we are awesome. I feel like lately I've seen our community thrive and flourish in a way where we are proud to be who we are more than ever. I want to continue to ride that train of sharing who we are and where our parents came from with the world. I love us.
10. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate.
Xiaolongbao and Shrek
11. Any final thoughts? Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community?
Have you ever had a dream that you, um, you had, your, you-you could, you'll do, you-you wants, you, you could do so, you-you'll do, you could-you, you want, you want them to do you so much you could do anything?
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Image courtesy of Sophia Black. Photos by Darrel Jackson ( @djacks.jpg | https://www.d-jacks.com/ )