Arts, Culture & Entertainment

SC Unplugged: Singer-songwriters Sofia Silvestri and Meghan Chen discuss their recent song “FOMO”

Silvestri and Chen take the idea of FOMO from a viral TikTok video to their recent single.

A photo of Silvestri and Chen with their hands over their eyes and the word "FOMO" written on their hands.

Sofia Silvestri and Meghan Chen are freshmen studying songwriting in the USC Thornton School of Music. Both artists grew up singing and playing music from the early ages of 6 and 5. Now at university, their pop single “FOMO” discusses the social pressure and layers of emotions behind the term ‘fear of missing out.’ Silvestri posted their original recording session to TikTok which caught the attention of over 1 million viewers. With collaboration from commenters, the songwriting duo released the song within a few months. The pair discuss the connection with their listeners and self-vulnerability that comes from their song-writing processes.

Annenberg Media spoke with Silvestri and Chen to learn more about their collaboration, creative processes and release of “FOMO.”

SC Unplugged graphic by Steven Vargas.

Full transcript has been edited for clarity.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: Hi, this is Sofia Silvestri. I’m from the suburbs of Washington, D.C.. My major is songwriting, which is a pop performance emphasis, and I’m a freshman.

Chen: Hi, my name is Meghan Chen. I’m a songwriting major as well. And I am a freshman and I’m from Indiana.

Silvestri: So for me, I would say my style is definitely a little bit of everything. As a songwriter, we’re kind of trained to partake in a little bit of every single genre. But I would say my niche is kind of found in like ballads. I’m very kind of inspired by Billy Joel and that kind of like piano-based songwriting. And so for me, as a songwriter, my role can be anywhere from creating the lyrics, creating the melody, creating the bass line, creating the top line. So it’s a little bit of everything.

Chen: Yeah. So for me, it’s pretty similar. Again, to echo everything that Sofia said about songwriting, it’s about kind of creating the arrangement behind the song, but also working with the melody and the lyrics and really focusing on like that narrative arc, so to speak. I would say my style. I also kind of dabble in a lot of different things, so I’m trying to find sort of my niche right now, but I’ve definitely done a lot of - I’ve kind of dabbled in a little bit of like grunge, but I’m also leaning towards that indie side of things with a little bit of a modern Asian influence. So I don’t know if you know Ryuichi Sakamoto, but he has one of my favorite pieces of all time. And sometimes I take a little bit from those harmonies that [is] traditional to more like contemporary Asian music. And I use that in my style.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: When I was six years old, I had my first piano lesson. I’ve told the story so many times I feel like it’s written on the back of my hand. My first piano teacher, she was in a band like she was literally in a rock band and she was a songwriter. And so like one week I’d be learning Mozart, and then the next week I’d be writing like pop charts. And from a very young age, I learned the basic structure of a pop song, like verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. And from there I just kind of started writing in shows, encouraging me forward no matter how like elementary my writing was. Because, like, I look back, like I have all the songs say it, and they were really funny. Like they were really simple, but she was always there, kind of like cheering me on. And I think that’s kind of where I grew from.

Chen: Yeah, I’d say similarly, I started when I was five years old. I had my first piano lesson and for a long time I was just learning classical piano. But when I was around nine years old, I think I started beginning composing like piano pieces. And so from there, my piano teacher and my family really encouraged me to go on the composition track. So I took a lot of classical composition lessons. But I was always songwriting during that time period, and I always leaned more towards the songwriting side of things, but I was always within my training doing more classical things like classical piano, classical viola, and then classical composition were all things that I explored. But now I’m obviously on the more pop side of things and I’m grateful that all of the lessons I’ve had, they’ve allowed me to explore that side of me.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: So for me, like I mentioned before, my biggest music influence is definitely Billy Joel. I respect his writing so much and he actually, his big influences, are all classical composers. And in that same vibe, I’m also very classically trained and classically inspired. So like a lot of my songs like Debussy and Ravel, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, like I take a lot of their pieces and analyze them and then write songs over those chords, you know? So it’s definitely mainstream, wise Billy Joel, Adele, Sarah Bareilles and I love Lauv as well. So he’s a big influence for me. To find inspiration for my music, it’s anywhere between like my own personal experiences and also the experiences of others. I usually write a lot of songs that I don’t exactly particularly resonate specifically with, but I feel like it’s something that people can resonate with. And so even if I have a specific, you know, experience that I’m writing from and I always try to make it more universal, so that people can resonate with it. Because I think those are the most impactful songs are when you write from a place of emotion and other people can resonate with that.

Chen: Yeah, I’d say for me, my biggest influences, I listened to a lot of Adele growing up, so that big like piano ballad really digging into like the emotional delivery. I think I took a lot from that musically. I also became a really big Phoebe Bridgers fan very recently, so I really like to pull inspiration from her lyrics and I like the kind of abstract way that she writes. And then overall, musically, I listened to a lot of video game and film soundtracks growing up, and I think that was an influence that really affected the way my melodies would come out. So I look back into some of the video games that I played when I was really young. I loved a lot of the Zelda games and I would hear those soundtracks over and over again and a lot of the melodies I come up with - it takes me back to some of those games that I would play when I was younger.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Chen: Yeah, I think I was a sophomore in high school, or maybe I was a freshman and I went to this music business camp at Anderson University, great camp. They had us audition songs to be professionally recorded. That was part of the whole camp experience, and I didn’t actually know they were doing this until the day of. So I was going through all of my old music, which I honestly didn’t love most of it. I thought most of the lyrics were underdeveloped and not very mature, but I had this recent song I had written for a musical and it was really, really dramatic. It was a lot, but it was like it was more musically complex and the lyrics were more there. So I was like, ‘I’ll just throw that in there, but I’d sandwich it with all these other songs,’ and I was like, ‘These would be more pop, like better to be released.’ But the person I played them for was like, ‘that song for the musical, that one’s really great, let’s do that one.’ So I ended up releasing this musical theater ballad completely out of context. It was like the emotional climax of the show, but there was nothing else. It was like just this one release. And I took it down when I got here because people would ask me if I’d release any music. I’d be like, ‘Yeah, but there’s a lot of context there.’ And they listened to it and it was just the most dramatic thing in the world. But that was yeah, that was like what I’d released before I came here. And, and then it’s just been “Damn Good Life” and “FOMO.”

Silvestri: Yeah, I think like the first thing that you release, you always look back on and you’re like, ‘Oh, I would have done so much differently.’

Chen: Yeah, like, Yeah,

Silvestri: Because you grow as an artisan, honestly, that’s a good thing. And to be able to look back and be like, ‘Oh, I would do that differently,’ you know, that means that you’re growing. If you look back on something that you did five years ago and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s still really solid,’ then you need to do more practicing, like you’re not doing enough. The first thing that I released, oh my god, I released an EP. I self-produced and wrote this entire, like, worship Christian, like gospel, like EP.

Chen: Oh my god, yeah.

Silvestri: I recorded it between when I was like 13 and 14. And then I finally ended up releasing it right after COVID hit and it’s still there. It’s called “In Christ I Am.”

Chen: Go off.

Silvestri: It’s still there. And it’s funny when people ask me and they’re like, ‘What’s the first thing you released? ‘I’m like, ‘Well.’

Chen: “In Christ I Am” Mine was called, “This is How it Ends.”

Silvestri: You were right when you said it was dramatic.

Chen: I know, it was a lot.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Chen: I don’t say that I’ve necessarily changed from that musical theater style of me because it’s still in there and I still write for musical theater, but I just don’t release a single from that without any context. I think I have a better understanding of what people want to listen to as a single. So for example, I just released a song that’s called “Damn Good Life,” and it’s more of like a pop rock single, and it’s something that you can listen [to] as stand alone. And I think it’s just that understanding of what really can be released and what can be promoted and what should probably stay under wraps.

Silvestri: ‘What should stay under wraps.’ I love that. It’s like every song is valid, but some of it just should not

Chen: Some of it shouldn’t be out there, yeah.

Silvestri: For me, I would say since like my first release, I’ve definitely gone - like taken a deep dive into the realm of pop and R&B. It’s funny because a lot of the songs that I write for me and a lot of the songs that people have heard me play in like classes are all like ballads and slow songs. But for some reason, every single song that I’ve released since then are all like pop, R&B, like BPM’s through the roof. But I think with that, you can experiment with different instrumentation and different instruments themselves. So I’ve seen a lot of growth, particularly with like drum arrangements, because in pop songs like drums go hard, like there’s so many drum tracks you don’t want to know. But I think that’s honestly, like the biggest place that I’ve been able to develop in my own personal arrangement.

Chen: Yeah no, I agree. I think part of the reason that we release so much more upbeat stuff, too, is because when we came here, we’re now working with producers and when you release ballads, there’s really less they can do with it.

Silvestri: Yeah.

Chen: And I think when you want to work with a producer and make something that’s really produced, it’s so much easier to work with the upbeat stuff in my opinion. So I think that’s part of it, yeah.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: For me growing up, songwriting and music was always a part of my life. Like from elementary school I was always that girl that would play an original song at the talent show, like I was that person. But it was always an extracurricular activity. I was always very involved in school and very studious and like very type-A personality in terms of getting my work done and always being on the ball. So I think I always kind of envisioned myself doing a more like quote unquote marketable career in terms of - like I was hellbent on doing economics, like at an Ivy League school or something. And then actually it was my dad that pulled me aside and was like, ‘I don’t think you should do this. I think you should give music a shot.’ I had some mentors that actually lived out in California that were vouching for this school. And I think when I had three different people telling me, like, ‘We believe in you and you should do this.’ I was like, ‘All right, maybe I’ll give it a shot.’ And then I’m ending up here. So I’m glad I did it, too. I think I’m finding that it’s really a viable career and it’s something that you can go in so many different directions with it. And it’s not just like you have to be a pop star, you know. You go in so many different directions with that, which I think is really neat.

Chen: I think I was really lucky to know what I wanted to do at such a young age. I think, well, I had a lot of voices in my ear. One of them was my piano teacher, and I’m grateful that she pushed me in this direction. And my mom also was really instrumental in that. When I started writing music, they pushed me to continue to explore higher education in music. So when I was like ten or 11 years old, I knew which music colleges were out there to study this further. So I knew this was something that I wanted to do from a really young age. And I think I continue to want to do it as I’m going through college. When I get out of college, I’m going to still be doing music. I could see myself doing other things, but I just know that I’d always come back to this. And even if I was focusing on something else full time, I’d still want to come back to music even after that was over. So yeah, I’ve had family who’ve been like, ‘Maybe you should be like a doctor.’ Mostly the Asian side of my family has really been pushing like the doctor.

Silvestri: I hate it when family members do that.

Chen: I know they really like to do that.

Silvestri: They’re like, ‘Oh, a songwriting major?’ Yes! A songwriting major.

Chen: It’s been a lot of like, ‘what if you just, like, did that on the side?’

Silvestri: Right.

Chen: Like, ‘you can always just have that as a hobby,’ which is, again, like a valid thing. But I think this path is also really great as well. We’ll see.

Silvestri: Just wait!

Chen: We’ll see how it works out.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: So yesterday we were in class and it was all the songwriters in my year. We have this one class that we share, which is like singing songwriting. So we do a class with Jeffrey Allen, who’s like the best vocal teacher. Like, he works at the school and he’s great. And so he had me sing and play a song. And so I like didn’t prepare one. No one needs to know the fact that I didn’t prepare, but I was going through the chord charts that I had saved on my phone. And I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll play the song that I wrote for my mom.’ And essentially it was a reverse lullaby that I wrote for my mom. And everybody in the room was crying. And I think at that moment I was like, ‘Yeah, this is what I do it for.’ It’s like resonating with other people and letting them feel stuff that they didn’t even know that they could feel. You know? So I think that was a big like, ‘Aha, you’re doing the right thing’ moment.

Chen: Yeah, I love it when people cry. It’s like it’s really validating. I remember I went to this summer camp and I - I went to this summer camp. It was a songwriting summer camp and I was in a room with this one girl. And we’d both had a really rough day, and we just needed to like, sit down and cry. And she showed me one of her songs and it was absolutely like one of the most touching things. And then I also played her one of my songs and she knew the context behind it. There was this one person at the camp that I was like, ‘I really had a lot of feelings for. ‘And she knew.

Silvestri: Camp crush!

Chen: Yeah, yeah, so and I played it for her and I looked up and she was like sobbing. And in that moment I knew songwriting - it was really eye opening because songwriting didn’t seem to be just this, like, stand alone thing. Like once you know the story and you’re able to tell the story behind it and people connect with you and people have that empathy and put themselves in your shoes, it’s really like this otherworldly form of connection. I always think about that night because it just reminds me how much this is about communication and it’s about reaching that place that no one else can reach. So that’s a really great memory for me, as well.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: For me, I would say my biggest challenge is not overworking myself and allowing myself the space to take time to practice and to grow. I think that since getting here, it’s been kind of this like inner pressure that I put on myself to like write a song a day, release like 20 songs this year, sign to a label, get my name out there, do do do. And I think I kind of fell into that trap like first semester and just like that comparison game that you can play because like people in Thornton, they’re not only talented, they’re ambitious and passionate and dedicated and hard working. And so it’s so easy to get into that mind trap of comparing yourself and being like, ‘I’m not doing enough, I need to do more.’ But I think that’s definitely the biggest challenge that I face. Also because of my personality, I just want to do the best, so yeah.

Chen: I just want to like, steal the answer like that is so, so relatable, especially coming from where we come from. Usually I would say I’d echo most of the people in our major that where they come from, they’re the only people doing what they do.

Silvestri: They’re the best at what they do.

Chen: Yeah, they’re the best in the room when they come in here and suddenly everyone is working just as hard as them. And you compare yourself a lot. You really do. And it’s hard to just keep yourself on your own path. So yeah, I think I would completely agree with that. I’d also say for me, I think I’m in this transition right now from doing music because I’m doing the things that I feel like doing in the moment that I feel like doing them to transitioning to more of this like scheduled, I don’t want to say factory-like, but, you know, being able to manufacture something when you need to, especially in the songwriting world. I’m transitioning from writing in my room whenever I get an idea to writing in a session which is scheduled and with other people expecting you to have these ideas at a certain time period. So I think it’s that transition from hobby to professional that’s really a struggle for me right now, but something that I’m really trying to work on.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: So essentially, me and Meghan, I reached out to Meghan. I was like, ‘Hey, we should write.’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ And so we got together and we essentially wrote the song in Gateway in I think under two hours together. And I videotaped the entire thing because I had just started my TikTok page. And essentially what I was doing was recording all of my songwriting sessions and editing them down to like a minute long video and then posting that and showing people the behind the scenes of a songwriting process. So I edited it down and I sent it to her and she was like, ‘This is so cool.’ And then I finally posted it, and from there I would say it just kind of took off. It’s crazy how much traction we got and like, virality really picked it up. So then what was it like a week later? We had like a million views on it. It was crazy.

Chen: Really mind blowing for me. Well, I mean, you’ve been making stuff already that had been getting a lot of traction, so. But for me, I hadn’t even started a TikTok. And then she posted that and I was like, ‘Oh, I should probably make one now.’ So I made one on the spot. There was nothing on it, but it was really mind blowing because you don’t conceptualize that very easily. So that was interesting. But then after that TikTok happened, we decided we wanted to record the song. So we started reaching out and we reached out to one of our friends who’s a producer here named Gabe, and he was super diligent about getting us. working out into his schedule and getting this song put together, so.

Silvestri: Shout out to Gabe Yaron.

Chen: Yeah, shout out to Gabe Yaron. He was so real for that and he did a fantastic job. And I’d say the whole timeline of writing to getting the song out was like two months, maybe.

Silvestri: Oh, my god. It felt like a week. Like it felt like boom, boom, boom get it out.

Chen: It felt so fast, yeah.

Silvestri: ‘Cause with virality, you have to ride that wave. And it’s so stressful because it’s people in the comments every day like, ‘when’s the song coming out? When’s the song coming out?’

Chen: Yeah.

Silvestri: And like, it’s really inspiring because the feedback we received is like, ‘We love the song. I totally relate to this. This is awesome. Like, I love the jazzy feel.’ But then it’s also the pressure, like when is it coming out? And we’re like, ‘Oh my god, okay.’

Chen: Yeah, we also changed some stuff because of the comments too. Some of the comments would give us suggestions or like, ‘bring this thing back from one of your previous videos,’ and we put that into the final cut. But I think what people don’t realize is how long it truly takes to record and release a song, especially if you’re working with other people.

Silvestri: Other people.

Chen: Like if you’re doing it all by yourself, maybe you can be a bit faster. But this whole collaborative process really usually takes a long time, and I think we were pretty speedy about it.

Silvestri: Yeah, we were. It was stressful, but we did it.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: For me, I always kind of pushed against using social media just because growing up, I don’t really think I ever saw social media in that productive light. But someone actually in [the] concerts committee, Grant Conley, I was asking him [for] some advice. He works at a label and I was like, ‘Hey, what should I do? I’m a songwriter.’ He was like, ‘You should get TikTok and you should put your content out there and see if people really resonate with it. And if people like it, then put it out.’ You know, like just the obvious. But the steps that I wasn’t exactly willing to take. So then I kind of took his advice and I and I started doing it. And I think I got TikTok like end of September and by Thanksgiving, I had like 25,000 followers. It was really, really great, validating kind of like, ‘hey, like you have talent and people can see it. And not only do you have talent, but you’re able to resonate with people.’ Like, people really resonated with this one song that I wrote about being homesick. And it was also really cool seeing their feedback with these writing sessions because they were like, ‘This is such a magical process’; because it’s such - people don’t understand how a song comes from thin air. Like, it literally does come from thin air.

Chen: Yeah.

Silvestri: So I think using TikTok not only has been really great for my career, but it’s also been really great for me to be able to look back on and reflect and be like, ‘Yeah, this is something that’s definitely very viable.’

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Chen: Yeah, we were — so when you go into a session, there’s always something you start with. Like, ‘Do you have any ideas for what you want to write about or like a song start or something?’ And we had kind of come into it not really knowing what we were going to write about. Actually it’s in the TikTok, the moment that I was like, ‘I’ve been feeling a lot of FOMO lately.’

Silvestri: You quoted it exactly!

Chen: I know yeah, yeah, that’s exactly what I said. And we’re like, we can work with that. So we just went with the idea of FOMO and it turned out.

Silvestri: Yeah, hence FOMO.

Chen: Hence FOMO.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Chen: Oh, you know what I really love? The hook of the song is ‘I’m just a girl with a deadly case of FOMO.’ Implying that it’s like a disease. And then in that second half of the bridge, we were like, ‘been diagnosed and in need of a dose of a little piece of mind at home’ as like that remedy to the disease that is FOMO. And I thought that was also really creative. I think we really went off with that bridge.

Silvestri: Yeah.

Chen: Lyrically there’s a lot there.

Silvestri: You can see it in the TikTok. Like when we finished - there’s a portion where we finish writing the bridge and we were working on the transition from the bridge into the chorus, which is like the climax cause that final chorus, like it hits. And I added this like ginormous gliss. Like, I don’t know why, but my entire body was just like add the gliss.

Chen: Yeah, it just happened.

Silvestri: So I did out them and literally, I remember hitting the chord and then just literally screaming. It’s in the TikTok like me screaming because I knew - like, as a songwriter, you just know when you had something that’s different and in that moment I knew. And I think it’s so funny because the comments were like, ‘Why is there shrieking?’ I was just excited.

Chen: That’s so funny cause I didn’t even know I did that until now. I was like, ‘we were just like in the moment,’ but it’s like it’s the gliss.

Silvestri: It was, it was everything.

Chen: It was everything.

Silvestri: Because it was the E major chord to the gliss into the A minor.

Chen: Oh, yeah yeah yeah. I want to talk about the paranoid girl with a deadly case of FOMO.

Silvestri: Yeah.

Chen: Or was it a little bit of FOMO?

Silvestri: A paranoid girl with a little bit of FOMO.

Chen: Little bit of FOMO, yeah. Don’t even know our own song. Okay, so ‘paranoid girl with a little bit of FOMO’ at the very end because we’d taken that out originally. So when we posted the video of us making the song, it was originally including ‘paranoid girl with a little bit of FOMO.’ And then we did the final recording for TikTok, the final demo recording for TikTok, and we took that out and people wanted it back in there.

Silvestri: People were upset about that. They’re like, ‘Where’s the line? Where’s the paranoid girl with a little.’ So then we were like, ‘We will dedicate an entire tag to that line.’ So at the end of the song it just vamps, ‘paranoid girl with a little bit of FOMO.’

Chen: Yeah, and it’s got like the layers on it and then it’s got the riffs at the end.

Silvestri: It ended up being really cool. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way because it honestly elevated the song.

Chen: It really did, yeah.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: It’s really cool being able to bring people into the process of writing the song so they feel like they resonate with it more — feel almost as if they wrote the song themselves. And like I’ve done other TikToks, too where I would write half of a verse and then I’d give them like four options and be like, ‘How should I finish it?’ And the comments on those videos go through the roof. Like the interaction on those videos are insane. People will be like, ‘I like A, I like B, I like C.’ And it’s funny because at the end of the day, I can’t tally all those up, but it’s great seeing people’s feedback and understanding like, ‘yeah, any viable option that we have when we’re songwriters’ because there’s so many ways you can rhyme lines and come up with ideas. You know, every single different line people are going to be able to resonate with every single different one. So they’re all the right answers. It’s just, which one do you think fits with you, overall? And then just go with that, go with your gut.

Chen: Yeah, and I think it’s also important to note that everyone’s opinions are completely valid in the songwriting process. So, you know if somebody is listening and they are not necessarily musically trained, but they have thoughts on the song or something they really liked or something they didn’t like, at the end of the day, we write music to be heard by everybody. So if someone has feelings about that, then it’s important to listen to them because I think those opinions are the ones that really do matter.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: Before we started writing the song, we had the idea, ‘Okay, we’re talking about FOMO. What exactly about FOMO? How does it hurt you? How does it help you? What does it keep you from doing?’ And so I think that’s how we also landed on the whole, it’s like a plague. It’s like a disease. It consumes you, you know, it kind of follows you wherever you go. And so I think that’s definitely how we came up with that. And then there’s another line, ‘Oh, the girl at every party because she couldn’t say no.’ Dude, that line I remember when - I think you said that and—

Chen: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I think about that every time I’m at a party now because I’m like, ‘Why am I here?’

Silvestri: Whenever I’m on frat row. Me whenever I’m on frat row and I’m like, ‘the girl at a party because she couldn’t say no.’

Chen: Yeah, like, maybe I’m just here because I have FOMO, you know, like, ‘Wha, why?’

Silvestri: And I think it’s funny because I think FOMO is kind of such an elementary term. Like everyone, from a very young age is like, ‘Uhh, I have FOMO. It’s just such bad FOMO.’ But I think honestly sometimes it can go way deeper than that. There’s a sense of people just want to belong. They don’t want to be lonely, you know. Like when you’re scrolling on TikTok or when you’re scrolling on Snapchat, scrolling on Instagram and you see everyone’s at the same party, everyone’s doing this one thing, you can’t help but feel left out. It’s like a natural human being thing that everyone relates to. And so I think it’s really cool how you’re able to put that in a song, honestly.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: Okay, we took that photo of the cover art in my dorm room on the floor. We laid out my comforter on the floor of my dorm room and we had a drummer. Like, we reached out to everybody in the pop program. It was like, ‘Can someone take a photo of us? Like, we need it for.’ Because we were trying to get stuff out really quickly. And the only person who responded was our friend Sammy who was a drummer.

Chen: Yeah, he came through.

Silvestri: He came up to my room and I had this idea of just covering our faces with our hands and writing FOMO across our fingers and having them connect.

Chen: And with dry erase markers too.

Silvestri: No yeah. I yelled down my dorm room hall was like, ‘Does anyone have a black thick marker?’ And my friend was like, ‘I do.’ And I was like, ‘Great, give it to me.’ So, it was such a funny last minute thing. But I guess I had the vision and it worked out better than I thought I would. I don’t know. It was awesome.

Chen: Yeah, you know, because we had a lot of ideas. And again, when you’re conceptualizing that, you don’t really know how any of it’s going to turn out. And that one just hit so hard. Just, we were both I think pretty shocked when we saw it. We were like, this actually looks really good. And I think we originally were going to just use it for the Pre-save cover, and then we just decided to keep it for the album, the single cover.

Silvestri: Yeah, it was, it was awesome. $0 budget.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Chen: I just released the song.

Silvestri: Stream it. It’s really good.

Chen: Yeah, stream “Damn Good Life” And it’s that whole process is also exhausting because we did the same thing with “FOMO.” There’s so much marketing that goes into it, promoting. And then I had a show for it and I think now I’m just back in that grind of personal growth as a musician and recording more things and working with other people. So I think there might be more releases coming up in the future. But right now I’m kind of in my chill era, you know, I’m down for whatever comes up and we’ll see where it takes me.

Silvestri: Yeah, I’m gonna be completely honest. I feel like I’m in my stage of recuperation from the craziness of TikTok, because over spring break, I released two singles because of TikTok, I released “Put Me First” and “FOMO.” “FOMO” blew up more than “Put Me First”, but “Put Me First” was on the same level of kind of like virality. And I don’t think people really understand that, especially when you’re an independent artist and you don’t have a label and you have no management doing marketing is like, Oh my god. It’s so time consuming. It’s so draining. The industry you get more no’s than yeses. So it’s just like—

Chen: And you see every no as the artist, like there’s no one to block that out because you’re doing everything yourself. So yeah, it is emotionally exhausting.

Silvestri: It’s like getting the song to release is half the battle. Like the other half is like doing all the marketing and promotion, which was a big source of stress for me. I’m unable to be honest, like with “FOMO” because, you know, we had reached over a million people and over about 300,000 people actually liked the video, so they actually liked the song. And it was for me was that whole stressful was like, ‘I want these people to know that the song is out.’ So like creating all those promo videos on TikTok, even though none of them did as well as the original, it made me very stressed out and was like, ‘I want all these people who love the song to engage with it and to know that they can listen to it and stuff.’ So there’s just that whole like, It’s a little disappointing when, like, you know, that there’s people out there that want to hear it, but they haven’t yet. But I think that’s something to be said about the importance of, like promotion and marketing within your own music.

Chen: Yeah.

Silvestri: Back to the first question I was asked. In the future, I definitely will be writing a lot more. I want to get better at my own production. Growing up, with my EP, I did my production for that, but I want to continue to kind of develop that and start putting together some solid demos. I definitely see myself in the industry as a songwriter. I don’t really have any dreams of being famous. I just kind of want the respect of the industry. People like Max Martin that are amazing songwriters, practically on every big hit record that you know, but he’s living like the Hannah Montana best of both worlds. He gets to fly under the radar. The common person wouldn’t recognize him in public, but he’s one of the most respected and he has so many awards and honors. It’s insane. In the industry, so talented, so respected. But he doesn’t have to deal with the fame and the craziness of the media being on his back all the time. Would be the dream.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: When my song gets put in like a movie soundtrack, kind of like how Lady Gaga wrote for a Star is Born.

Chen: Aw, that’s everything.

Silvestri: And oh my god, I don’t think I mentioned this before. I love Lady Gaga. Like, she’s everything. She’s everything. Did you guys watch Top Gun Maverick?

Chen: Oh, yeah.

Silvestri: So she wrote the song That is the ending credits. And I listened to that song and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I would give anything to just, like, be able to write a song for film.’ Because, there’s something so different about a song playing in the background of a scene because it just makes it ten times better, you know? And so I think that would definitely like me, like going into the Oscars for a song that I wrote in a film would be that I’ve made that moment.

Chen: That’s a really difficult question to answer because I don’t know what my I made up moment would be because even when, like our song, blew up on TikTok and then like actually listened to it. Like once I saw FOMO go over a thousand plays on Spotify because that’s when the number shows what it actually is. I was like, ‘Whoa, like people listen to it. Like people listen to things that I’ve written.’ And that was a really weird thing to think about. And It almost felt like an ‘I made it moment’ because, you know, when you write music in your bedroom or like at home, you don’t really think about the fact that, like, people could even consume it. That’s like it feels like such an inconceivable milestone for me. So I think to get to a point where there are people who listen to my music and know about me as an artist and appreciate, you know, the things that I’m doing and putting out there. I think that’s just all that really matters to me. The fact that someone is touched or reached by what I’m putting out.

Silvestri: It’s always the best thing that I’ve ever felt is when someone reaches out to me, they’re like, ‘Hey, I really appreciate that song that you released. It really helped me through a moment, a dark time in my life’ and those random DMS - it’s not like they saw me in person and they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, your song is so good.’ It’s like they DM’d you. They went out of their way to just DM you. And those moments. Like there’s been times where those moments hit perfectly where I have been feeling down about my songwriting, getting in my head about comparison. And then I open my phone and I see that little blessing and I’m like, ‘Yeah, this is everything.’

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Silvestri: Songwriting is so fulfilling because it allows you to process your own emotions as well. You know, like it’s our medium of kind of therapy and it allows you to be true to yourself. I feel like I’m so self-aware because in my music, everything comes out. Jealousy comes out, envy comes out, hatred comes out, anger comes out, depression comes out, you know? As a songwriter, you have to be completely honest and vulnerable with yourself, which is honestly pretty hard to do. That’s honestly been the biggest gift that songwriting has ever given me, is the ability to be able to kind of like, be my own therapist and be able to work through my issues and not stuff things down, which I think in our society we are so trained to do. And so, yeah, I think honestly, our job is amazing. I love it.

Chen: I love it. Yeah, I would say I’d have to echo a lot of those things. Reaching other people is really, really great in songwriting, but I think the way that you reach other people is by really digging into yourself because it’s those vaguely specific lyrics in a song that describe that perfect feeling, but in a way that’s it’s not super straightforward. It hits the right niche. And I always connect with those moments, even when I write them myself. And I know when I’ve hit that part of me, when I’m unpacking that part of me that needs to be unpacked and it hasn’t been yet. That’s when I know that I can reach other people in a similar way. So I think it all kind of ties together. You’re processing your own emotions and through that you’re giving other people a medium through which to process their emotions as well.

Silvestri: Yeah, perfectly said.

[Musical Interlude: “FOMO” by Sofia Silvestri (feat. Meghan Chen)]

Host: You’ve been listening to US Unplugged, a behind the scenes glimpse into the inspirations, creative process and musical goals of your favorite Trojan artists.