Get to know Atwood Magazine‘s writers in our special column where they become the interviewees, sharing their personal playlists and talking about their experiences covering music!
Boston-based writer Sophie Severs grew up thinking she’d be tap-dancing on Broadway — and boy, was she wrong! A twist of fate led to a change in passions, and this ex-theatre kid has happily gotten comfortable being off the stage, taking her rightful place as a listener in the audience.
Stream: Atwood Writer’s Playlist: Sophie Severs
Meet Our Writers: Sophie Severs!
Where are you from and where are you based?
Sophie Severs: I’m originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I’m now based in Boston, Massachusetts for college! I am definitely more of a city-girl, but since I grew up in North Carolina I’ll never ever turn down a good hike or stroll in nature.
How did you get into music writing?
Sophie Severs: It’s a long story. I was originally a big musical theatre kid, and spent my entire childhood thinking I was going to be an actress on Broadway. Though, when I was a junior in high school I realized that I was not cut out for show business, and decided to take a look at other career options.
It was around that time that I was enrolled in a class about music writing at my high school. However, when taking said course, I realized I knew nothing about popular music, as I had spent nearly 16 years of my life on a steady musical diet of showtunes. I know the words to “The Impossible Dream” from The Man of La Mancha by heart, but when it came to The Beatles I was at a loss of words (or perhaps more appropriately, lyrics). With that being said, you can probably guess that this music writing class was a bit of a doozy for me. When my teacher would bring up iconic names in music like “Bob Dylan” or “The Rolling Stones” I’d stare blankly, almost-too-eagerly nodding as to make up for my immense lack of insight.
From there, I was determined to improve my musical vernacular, and started a ‘365 day playlist,’ where I’d comb through dozens of songs per day and add one that had especially struck me to the playlist each day — starting with The Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” It just so happens that COVID-19 hit around this time, so I ended up having a lot of time to peruse through Spotify’s streaming library. It has been five years since I started, and it’s still going strong, as I’m currently on my 5th playlist.
When I got to college I still had no idea what I was going to do career-wise, but saw that I could join a club on campus where I could write about music that immediately piqued my attention. My first article for said club was about Daniel Johnston and the concept of ‘outsider music’ — after that, it was safe to say that I was immediately enamored with music writing. From there, I changed my major to journalism and joined a bunch of different music-oriented publications as a staff writer. I eventually stumbled across Atwood after researching Ok Cowgirl for an interview for another publication and read Mitch Mosk’s incredible piece covering their debut EP, Not My First Rodeo. After reading that article, I knew that I wanted in and submitted an application to write for Atwood. Much thanks to Mitch for allowing me to write for such an amazing publication, it has been a truly life-changing experience so far; I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to gush about all of my favorite artists, and am continuously surprised that people want to read all of my silly little thoughts on music.
Who was your very first concert, and who have you seen most recently?
Sophie Severs: I’m not entirely sure what my first concert was — if I had to hazard a guess, I think it would have been something folk-oriented since I grew up in North Carolina. Maybe the Steep Canyon Rangers at the Blue Ridge Music Center in Galax, Virgina. I went with my family and one of my dear childhood friends, and I distinctly remember weaving the songs into a really confusing and nonsensical narrative that my friend and I still laugh about to this day.
I went to a house show in Boston a couple of weeks ago. The city has a really lively DIY scene, and there is almost always something going on at the various house show venues in the Allston neighborhoods. At the show I went to, I saw Max Morton, Anna Schon, chrysalis, and JOBIE (who I actually do press for)! I maintain a playlist of my favorite Boston-based artists that you can check out here — take a look and you’ll realize that Boston’s music scene is absolutely STACKED!!
Who are two or three of your favorite up-and-coming artists right now?
Sophie Severs: As I mentioned in my last answer, I do press for JOBIE so I’m a little biased, BUT I truly feel as though she is going to go places. Her music is incredibly heartbreaking. In listening, you can hear influences from Phoebe Bridgers and Lizzy McAlpine, but in all honesty I feel as though JOBIE’s artistry is in a league of its own. She has synesthesia, so making music is quite literally like painting on a blank canvas — it’s safe to say that she has mastered color theory, because her music is exquisite.
After the house show the other night, I watched someone come up to her and tell her that hearing her music made them feel truly seen; they gushed to her about how they wanted to see her play again and asked her for her Spotify handle. JOBIE provides listeners with much-needed company in life’s most isolating moments. I recommend listening to “grendel” to get a taste of how soul-crushing her lyricism is — the track is a narrative of JOBIE’s experiences as a child with undiagnosed autism and the alienation she felt from her peers. Absolutely breathtaking.
Another artist that I’m super pumped about is chrysalis. They are one of my dear friends, so I suppose that I’m a little biased by shouting them out here too, but oh well, this is my “about me” piece and I’ll do what I want! Anyways, chrysalis is a true darling who writes mentally devastating music. I discovered them last year by scrolling through Instagram, and fell in love with their track, “margarita sugar.” Listening to chrysalis is like being punched in the gut over and over again. They have a true talent for writing irresistibly catchy earworms with extremely depressing lyrical implications. They’ll be coming out with their debut record later this year, and you can get a taste of what is in store by listening to “Denver,” a breathtakingly gorgeous track that touches upon the feeling of wanting to be someone’s home away from home.
What’s something you’ve learned from working as a music journalist?
Sophie Severs: The music industry is TOUGH. Musicians have to put up with an abundance of things that go on behind the scenes, and it is often forgotten that they, too, are human beings. I think the music industry is extremely wonderful, and am so grateful that it exists, but it doesn’t change the fact that there needs to be a lot more support for artists — especially independent artists who are doing the whole shebang by themselves.
In an article I wrote for Atwood covering 2021’s Tiny Desk Winner, Neffy, I stated the following phrase: “Navigating through the music industry is comparable to wandering through a labyrinth — just when you think you’ve made it to the center, you realize you’re actually stuck in a dead end and have to rush to retrace your steps.” I have to give past Sophie credit, she really hit the nail on the head with that metaphor. I have hope for a better and more equitable music industry, and am dedicated to working toward it.
What’re your favorite moments covering music? Can be from interviews, reviews, in-person events/shows, anything.
Sophie Severs: Talking with Madison Cunningham was by far one of the best 30-minute time spans of my life. She is such a legend and answered every question I had for her with such eloquence and grace. It’s artists like Madison who make me truly excited for the future of music. I love her I love her I love her!!!
If you could ask one question to any artist or band, who would it be and what would you ask?
Sophie Severs: I’d ask Joan Baez if she’d be my best friend.
What are you most looking forward to this year, music-wise?
Sophie Severs: I’m looking forward to discovering the next artist that makes me stop in my tracks and play their song on repeat until I can’t listen to it any longer. The act of finding a new artist that will become a staple in my listening rotation is perhaps the most amazing feeling in the world; it’s like meeting your long-lost soulmate. Check in with me at the end of the year and we’ll see who I’ve stumbled across.
Can you please explain why you chose the top 5 songs on your playlist?
Sophie Severs: Here’s the full run-down of my top five songs:
- “Across the Universe” – I’m a pisces moon, and that means I get sad sometimes (who doesn’t!?). This song is my rock, my true north. It tells me that everything is going to be okay; no matter how bad the circumstances might be. I owe a lot to this song and the courage it has given me.
- “Picture Me Better” – Weyes Blood is INCREDIBLE. I am in love with everything this woman does. This is probably the most heartbreaking song known to man, though. And boy, do I love it!
- “Be My Baby” – I share a favorite song with Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys! I don’t know what it is about this track — maybe it’s Ronnie Spector’s bright vocals or the snappy percussion — but whenever this song comes on I can’t help but dance.
- “At Seventeen” – You’re probably noticing a pattern here. I have a tendency to listen to emotionally-catastrophic songs. It takes a skilled songwriter to be able to tap into these specific feelings, and Janis Ian does it so-very-eloquently within this track. How absolutely devastating are these lyrics: “To those of us who knew the pain / Of valentines that never came / And those whose names were never called / When choosing sides for basketballI”? I mean, OUCH!!!
- “My Sweet Lord” – You can always catch me headbanging to George Harrison (my favorite Beatle). Hare Krishna, indeed.
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Connect to Sophie Severs on Instagram
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