Meet Sofia Aira: The Exeter University student who wrote an album for her dissertation

‘Think Folklore and Born To Die crossed with your GCSE history textbook’

For most of us third years at Exeter, our dissertation is a distant memory, which we’d much rather forget about until graduation. In its place, we have been allowing perhaps one too many nights at the Piece, multiple trips to Exmouth any time the sun comes out, and copious amounts of alcohol. But, for the more creative students, their dissertation will outlive its submission on ELE 2. I mean, when we think of an English Literature student’s dissertation, we tend to think of 8000 words about Shakespeare or some poetry, which let’s be real, the majority of people are not that fussed about. Not in this case. Sofia Aira, having just completed her final year studying English and Creative Writing at Exeter Uni, decided to write an album for hers!

It all started way back in 2018, when Sofia was 15 – she had always been writing songs, but this is when her own music was finally released. She said that: “Releasing my own music was really scary to start with and it came with quite a bit of controversy – my first ex was NOT happy to hear the songs about him at 16. In the small town where I grew up, everyone knew everyone and it wasn’t a secret who the tracks were about.”

Despite the initial tension with releasing music, Sofia said that: “Releasing music has made me who I am today – I don’t know who I’d be without my songs!” She also explained that she had a great deal of support: “Everyone and their mutuals were playing my album in my small town and it was the best feeling imaginable for me. The encouraging words from people I knew were enough to keep me motivated for years to come.”

Sofia particularly takes her inspiration from female artists: “In my opinion, female writers just have such a way with words and can capture a story so well.” The likes of Taylor Swift, as well as 70s and 80s artists such as Stevie Nicks and Madonna, are just a few of her favourites. With this combined style in mind, she released her fourth album, Love, Loss, Liars in November 2023. When reflecting on this, she said: “I’m really proud of it and it’s a real reflection of the last turbulent year of my life!”

Regarding her dissertation album, Sofia said that: “It’s centred around telling stories of love, feminism, grief, and heartbreak from women throughout history, in an indie-folk style. Think Folklore and Born To Die crossed with your GCSE history textbook.” Ultimately, Sofia values the emotions which her music communicates: “Writing is like an emotional outlet for me. It’s always been my way to process huge feelings, and it has always really helped me feel better about things. It’s like journaling – I write when I have something to say.”

Sofia has also found uni to be an incredibly supportive community for her music. She said: “I’ve recently gotten into the habit of writing a song, then bursting into my housemate’s bedroom and playing it for her the second it’s finished. She is very supportive and I love her for that! Releasing music at uni has been really encouraging – it’s so insane when I’m on a night out and somebody will come up to me and tell me they’ve listened to my stuff. I’m always TOTALLY shocked and will probably scream and buy them a drink!”

In terms of her dream, Sofia said that: “In an ideal world, I’m opening for The Eras Tour, or writing for Adele on a grand piano in my £10 million London townhouse. I’m working on it, but it’s difficult doing things as a team of one, especially during uni.” Looking forward to the future, she said: “I’d really like to move to London and work in the music industry, and keep my music going whilst I’m there. Exeter is great and the music scene is SO supportive here, but I would really love to be somewhere bigger and with more opportunities.”

In terms of the Exetah lifestyle, here’s what Sofia had to say:

Her favourite place for a gig? Sofia said: “I regularly sing at The Old Firehouse which I love, and it comes with a free pizza! But one of my favourite performances was at The Suit Sessions hosted by The Monkey Suit. It was such a great crowd, and I brought some stickers with my name on and by the end of my set, everybody had one on their phone case.”

And have a guess about her favourite club? “Timepiece! My housemate and I are there religiously every Tuesday.”

Her favourite café? “The Exeter Phoenix café. It’s such an underrated spot to study and the coffee is great” – a bit of a rogue choice, but we’re here for it!

Her most favourite part about Exeter, perhaps controversial, is the nightlife: “Exeter clubbing gets a bad rep from other universities but I’ve genuinely had the most crazy nights of my life here.”

And finally, Sofia’s least favourite part about Exeter is the Exetah: “The culture can be very Exetah sometimes, but once you find your people, you’ll have the best three years!”

Sofia’s favourite song from Love, Loss, Liars is Sinner, and you can find her music on ALL streaming platforms.

You can keep up to date with the release of Sofia’s dissertation album on Instagram @sofiaairamusic, and Spotify @SofiaAira.

Featured image via @gigsbyhaz Instagram.

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