Artist Interview: “Drama Queen” by Sophia DeLeo

Q: Your storytelling lyrics are so enticing! What inspired you to write “Drama Queen”?

SOPHIA: Well, I’ve always had really big emotions, even when I was a little kid. I’m quick to anger, quick to voice my opinions, and I cry super easily. I got made fun of a lot for wearing those feelings on my sleeve when I was younger and was often told I was being “dramatic” or a “drama queen”. So I got good at bottling all those feelings up, really as a means of self-protection. For nearly a decade I told myself that some of the things that happened to me in my childhood weren’t a big deal and that I’d just been a stupid kid. But then in 2021 I went back to therapy for the first time in a few years and we started digging up all this unprocessed trauma that I’d just kind of swept aside from my teenage years, and it really kind of knocked the wind out of me. One day, my therapist said, “You need to forgive your teenage self for all the things she didn’t know.” That really stuck with me, and that’s what this song is all about.

Q: Do you play any other instruments? What’s an instrument that you would like to learn?

SOPHIA: I took piano lessons as a kid, and I taught myself to play guitar and ukulele when I was in high school. Then during the lockdown, I bought myself a banjo and started learning that. The other instrument I’d love to learn to play is the mandolin—I just think it has such a unique sound that lends itself so well to this new folky direction I’m taking my music in, but I think I have too many instruments in my apartment to add another to my collection right now!

Q: What has been one of the most significant moments of your musical journey so far?

SOPHIA: Releasing my debut EP, for sure. I hate to say it because it was such a dark time, but if the pandemic had never happened and we hadn’t gone into lockdown, I’m not sure I’d be in the same place artistically that I’m in today. I spent all the months that I was unemployed and stuck inside just writing, writing, writing. I learned how to record and start making my own demos. I learned how to play the banjo! I just had nothing else to do, so I poured all my creative energy into making that first EP and marketing it and it was so surreal to finally feel like I had a real body of work out for the world. It was a real turning point, and from then on out, the music I’m working on has only gotten better. I’m currently working with the incredibly Jean-Luc McMurtry on my sophomore EP and “Drama Queen” is actually the title track. I’m a co-producer on all of the tracks, which is something I never thought I’d be capable of, and had the pandemic never happened, I probably wouldn’t be.

Q: Even the greatest writers can battle with creative blocks at times, how do you deal when there’s a lack of inspiration?

SOPHIA: I have a list in my notes app of different ideas for songs that come to me when I’m just going about my day but may not have time to sit down and work on them immediately. Sometimes they’re lyrics, sometimes it’s a song title, sometimes it’s just an idea of something a song could be about. I try to always consult that list first when I want to write but am maybe not feeling so inspired.

Another fun thing I’ve been doing lately is going back through my catalog of songs, taking songs I wrote when I was maybe 17, 18. 19, and trying to rewrite them, or write about the same theme with a fresh perspective. I’ve grown so much as a songwriter in the 10 years I’ve been doing this, and I had some good ideas when I was younger, but the execution wasn’t always so great…it’s fun to be able to revisit those ideas as an adult and polish them up a little bit!

Q: Did any real-life events occur in your life that inspired the song?

SOPHIA: Oh god, well pretty much all of my songs are inspired by real-life events, but “Drama Queen” was inspired by a particularly toxic relationship I was in on and off for my last year of high school. We would hang out and hook up after school, but when we were in the hallway and he was with his friends between classes, he would completely ignore me. You know, for a long time I told myself it just wasn’t that big of a deal because we weren’t technically boyfriend and girlfriend, but it was really traumatic for me. I think that’s something that happens to a lot of people, especially when you’re young and just first starting to date. I didn’t even realize any of this was going on until I was watching the TV show “Normal People” in 2021. There’s a similar dynamic between the characters in that show in the first few episodes and it was so painful to watch and then I was like “…wait a minute, that happened to ME too!” It’s just so hard to see your life for what it is when you’re living it, but it’s easier to sympathize when you’re seeing someone else go through what you went through, I think. So I guess I have Sally Rooney to thank in part for this song as well.

Q: You have worked with multi-platinum-selling songwriter Lindy Robbins and Grammy Award winner Autumn Rowe. What has been the one piece of advice that helped you navigate your way through the music industry?

SOPHIA: Oh my gosh, yes, I got to work with them during the Johnny Mercer Songwriters project this past summer. It was a week-long workshop where we just got to write and work on material with Autumn and Lindy as two of our master teachers. When we’d go into sessions and share our work with them, they gave some really incredible notes about our songs themselves, but one of the things Autumn said that stuck with me the most was “You have to be delusional to succeed in this industry.” Basically what she meant was not only do you have to believe that you’re talented, you have to believe that you’re so good, everybody else needs to know about it too. When I first started writing songs, I kept it a secret for a long time. It took me 5 years of writing to get comfortable playing my songs in front of people, and I didn’t even confidently start calling myself a songwriter until I released my debut EP in 2021! I think in this industry when you’re up against so many other amazing artists, it’s easy to feel like you’re not good enough, not special enough to make it. But the beautiful thing about writing your own music is that nobody is going to be able to write about something the exact way that you do. I think with this new batch of songs and this new EP I’m planning on releasing, I’m really starting to find my voice as a songwriter and my sound as an artist, and honestly? I think it’s going to be really good. I think I’m really good! And if that’s delusional of me to say, then I guess that’s alright.

Interviewed by Alina Tran

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