Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with DC’s Sofia Campoamor. Together we discussed their relationship with music, their songwriting process, their EP “Parts Apart”, and their upcoming album “if you knew, i couldn’t tell.”, and so much more!
1. Mustard is thankful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
I’m pretty tired today after putting on an album release show, but I’m happy to be talking to Mustard!
2. What was your relationship with music growing up?
The highlight reel includes me imitating Andrea Bocelli at age 4 for anyone who would listen, falling in love with musical theater at age 9, and turning to songwriting as a teen to help process difficult thoughts and feelings. I was fortunate to have wonderful music teachers and a family that encouraged performances at Friday pizza nights.
3. Is there a song or album that you have a close connection with?
The song “Fear” by Ben Rector has meant a lot to me over the past five years. I first spent time with this song during a summer when I was often alone and often anxious; the lyric “I learned to dance with the fear that I’d been running from” was a joyful aspiration that became more true as time went on and I found more peace within anxiety and loneliness.
4. You first began writing songs to make school projects more fun. Could you share a school project you helped enhance with your songwriting? Was your teacher supportive?
For my 6th grade science class, I had to do a presentation on the element platinum, and I put all of the required info into song. My science teacher was so supportive, and I still remember a lot of the details about platinum.
5. Mustard has a love of theatre. You’ve been an Assistant Musical Director, worked tech, and performed a part of Yale’s College Arts. How did your time with Yale’s College Arts program help develop you as an artist? What was your favorite production to be in? Do you have any fun tech week stories?
Doing student-run theater (and a cappella) taught me about the resourcefulness and behind the scenes efforts needed to put up art of any kind. As an independent artist now, there are so many steps beyond writing and recording music that go into getting it heard, from managing schedules to creating graphics to spreading the word. One of my favorite performances was as Cineseas in a drag reimagining of Lysistrata; the delightful exaggeration of that role left me with a greater sense of freedom and possibility around how I move through space and experience my gender in the world.
6. Before becoming the first woman member of the Whiffenpoofs you were a member of Mixed Company, Yale’s first all-gender a cappella group. How was your time in Mixed Company? How did it lead to the Whiffenpoofs?
*Mixed Co wasn’t the first all-gender a cappella group at Yale (but definitely my favorite!)* I loved my time in Mixed Company and made some of my best friends there. We also did a lot of learning—my sophomore year we produced an album with all new arrangements that we engineered ourselves, we booked tours and. We did all kinds of music and had all kinds of voices in the group, so by the time I auditioned for the Whiffenpoofs my junior year I’d grown so much as a singer from working with the other members of Mixed Co. There was also a strong tradition of non-male members of Mixed Co auditioning for the Whiffs in protest in the years leading up to the gender restriction being lifted, so that directly led to my year being considered for the first time.
I loved my time in Mixed Company and made some of my best friends there. We did a lot of learning that prepared us for senior a cappella groups and for later artist projects. My sophomore year, we produced an album with all new arrangements that we engineered ourselves. We booked our own tours and figured out how to get along on the road. We had to navigate many creative and business decisions as a team. We did all kinds of music and had all kinds of voices in the group, so by the time I auditioned for the Whiffenpoofs my junior year I’d grown so much as a singer from working with the other members of Mixed Co. There was also a strong tradition of non-male members of Mixed Co auditioning for the Whiffs in protest in the years leading up to the gender restriction being lifted, so that directly led to my year being considered for the first time.
7. One of your Mixed Company members, Jacob Miller, said “there are few people in the world who can write lyrics the way she does.” Could you elaborate on your writing process?
The most important part of my writing process is showing up as often as I can, ideally showing up curious and ready to listen to whatever a song is telling me. I’ll usually be writing at an instrument, though I’ll collect phrases in my notes app. Most of the time, words attach pretty quickly to music, and then the two go together. The text will usually shape the contours of the melody. This year, however, I’ve been playing more games! I’d play the NYT Wordle game or the Spelling Bee and then use my guesses and the word of the day to write the first verse of a song. That helped me surprise myself and break out of the limitations of my own perspective (or occasionally serve as a kind of inkblot test for what was on my mind).
8. Who (or what) influences you?
Who: Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Indigo Girls, Brandi Carlile, Jensen McRae, Donovan Woods, the wonderful musicians in my band. What: Books, usually fantasy novels.
9. July 26th, 2020 saw the release of your EP “Parts Apart.” that feature themes of distance, love, and change. What parts had to come apart to put this EP together? Could you share more about the process behind this EP?
I wrote this EP as my senior thesis in Music. I spent the first semester creating as much material as I could, not just writing a new song each week but revising an old one and trying a new arrangement, so lots came apart there. The second semester I spent paring down to the songs that were working the best—and midway through, COVID hit, so the final songs that made the cut were the ones that would sound okay recorded in pillow forts in my parents’ basement, with a few friends sending files from their own spaces to me. Three out of the five songs that stuck were also written during periods of long-distance relationship—so a lot of parts had to come apart!
10. Tomorrow will see the release of your album “if you knew, i couldn’t tell.” What can fans expect from this record?
Dreamy guitars, vocal layering, a forest, friendship, longing, journeys, avoidance, honesty, a few cries and hopefully a laugh or two.
11. A human gets invited to see you perform. What kind of show can they expect?
Lots of vocal harmonies, a few alternate tuning, friendly banter, at least one collision with the mic and at least one song about a bird.
12. Where can readers listen to your music?
On their preferred streaming service, as well as Bandcamp and SoundCloud