The new installment of the 25 O’Clock Podcast features Philly keyboardist, vocalist, songwriter and collaborator Sonja Sofya, who has a lively and wide-ranging 90-minute conversation with host Dan Drago.
Of course her great Patterns We Know LP, released in the fall, is discussed, as well as the work with fellow Philly artists like Ross Bellenoit that went into completing it. Sonja shares her background in studying music at a rigorous academic level during high school and college — she admits she did not have stage parents but kinda wishes she had. She and Drago contrast classical and pop approaches to writing, and how the ideal lies somewhere in between, balancing studiousness and accessibility. Steely Dan is brought up as an example of this middle ground, and they share a laugh over the divide: people are either Steely Dan lovers or haters (they’re both lovers, I’m not). The same can also be said, they note, for Lady Gaga (which, vice versa).
But the conversation gets super interesting when Drago makes an offhand comment about the “amount of quality female-fronted music coming out of the city the past few years.” Sonja returns to that phrase, “female-fronted,” a little bit later in the show. “You feel like that’s a recent phenomenon?” she asks, turning the tables on her host, and there’s a very uncertain pause that follows. Sonja is not attacking Drago, per se, though she does challenge him; Drago in turn doesn’t get defensive, though he does offer an explanation of his statement.
What ensues is the best possible scenario to come of a somewhat awkward moment; not an argument, but a dialogue. Sonja reflects on the reductive nature of “female music” as a concept — it puts the musician in a category of other, rather than equal — while also acknowledging that female identity and visibility is important in a music scene, given the overbundance of cis/hetero white male music (she says she goes through phases as a listener of actively avoiding dude rock) and the way musicians are treated differently depending on their gender identity (she shares stories about sound engineers and show runners ignoring her in favor of talking to her male counterparts).
It’s an illuminating, and very necessary conversation — and definitely a reward for listening all the way through the podcast. A bonus for those who stay tuned to the very end: a wonderful solo Nord performance of “Faith.” Check it out below, and catch Sonja Sofya at Ortlieb’s tomorrow night; tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.
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