Toughness is vital to this series, and musician Sophie Hawley-Weld has it in droves.
As one-half of white-hot musical duo SOFI TUKKER, the New York-based songstress has proven a pillar of resiliency, a stoic lightning rod that absorbs adversity and harnesses it to grow a thicker skin. Performing alongside longtime collaborator Tucker Halpern, Hawley-Weld, who was once confined to a wheelchair for four months, tours the country with two goals in mind: inspiring women and emboldening fans with her plucky, charismatic brand of music. Flaunting a quirky, endearing vintage fashion flair and a brazen attitude that evokes the feelings that come with middle fingers without explicitly brandishing them, this artist is an absolute firecracker.
Take, for instance, the band's September 2017 single "Best Friend," a spunky horn-laden ode to PIC's everywhere. You know when you hear a really catchy song in a commercial and you desperately flail around with your phone, trying to Shazam the track before the spot ends? It was probably a SOFI TUKKER tune.
However, they are no flash in the pan. In addition to touring with ODESZA last year, Sophie and Tucker have performed at Coachella, Lightning In a Bottle and Lollapalooza, among many other celebrated music festivals. They also recently threw down at popular Las Vegas festival Life Is Beautiful and are set to take the stage at San Diego's CRSSD Fest. Anyone who has seen them live can attest that they bring a special kind of energy into the live arena, highlighted by bouncy sonics and a kinetic stage presence.
I recently had the privilege of chatting with Hawley-Weld about her advice to young women in the music industry, SOFI TUKKER's origins and learning how to walk again.
EARMILK: How did the SOFI TUKKER project come to be?
Sophie Hawley-Weld: Tucker and I met at college and started working together, at first with him producing bossa nova songs I was writing. During our last week of college, we wrote "Drinkee" together, our first completely collaborative track. That’s really when SOFI TUKKER began. We moved to New York immediately after graduating and just went for it!
E: Tucker is an incredible producer and artist as well - when did you two realize your chemistry? Was there an "a-ha" moment?
SH: Honestly, the moment we met was like an a-ha moment! At the time it just felt really organic and natural. I was playing a set with a jazz trio and Tucker came up and started remixing one of my songs on the spot.
E: I feel like those Apple syncs have been critical to your growth as a global act - what was the reaction like from your friends and family when they saw them?
SH: I think there were a lot of double takes. For better or for worse, some of my friends and family I think just thought, “Oh, Sophie says she is in a band. Cool.” But when they started to hear our songs on the radio and on TV, they were like, “Oh shit, this is legitimate.”
E: Can you describe what was going through your head when you first heard one of your songs on the radio?
SH: First thought: “Hmm. Why is this familiar?” Second thought: “Oh my god, this is so cool, where’s my phone? Must take a video of this moment to prove that it is happening.”
E: You've spoken publicly about times of struggle, specifically being confined to a wheelchair. How do you go about overcoming moments of weakness?
SH: I’m a very spiritual person, which to me just means that I’m kind of obsessed with the big picture. As a really active person, being in a wheelchair was uncomfortable. Not knowing if I’d be able to walk and run again was very uncomfortable. But within that context, I just tried to have a lot of faith. I had faith that it was a sacred moment meant to teach me something. I got to spend a lot of quality time with my mom and dad right before the band started and we got super busy. It was the ultimate calm before the storm. Tucker and I would Skype every day and I think it built a foundation for our friendship that was really important. And then I had the opportunity to rebuild the very foundation of my body. Learning how to walk again was really humbling and ultimately I think just makes me not take my physical health for granted, which in turn makes me very vigilant about taking care of myself while on the road.
E: What is your advice to a young woman who may be struggling to find her way in the music industry?
SH: Surround yourself with friends, mentors, and coworkers who lift you up and share your values. It has helped tremendously that everyone on our team is a feminist. That’s as much a prerequisite for the job as anything else.
E: Which women in the industry inspire you the most?
SH: My dear friend LP Giobbi. She is one of my favorite DJs and producers and she is really paving the way for other female producers. She has been really bold and vocal about her feminism in a space that is so male-dominated and she isn’t trying to blend in with the boys. Instead, she is fully her sparkly self and she’s actually starting a movement called “Femme House” to make space for more women in dance music. She’s also teaching production skills to young girls. She’s badass. And I love her music. And I love her.