I should’ve known a FaceTime call with Ivy Sole wouldn’t just be any regular interview. In fact, the Charlotte native took me with her as she walked down the street to get food near her home in Philly, where she’s currently attending The Wharton School at UPenn.
Our chat came up after my editor noticed she and I are on the same lineup for a show coming up at Neighborhood Theatre on Oct. 26, and he figured, who better to do an Ivy Sole interview than the contributor who will be sharing a stage with her?
The Homecoming Stop, our first time on a bill together, is part of a six-city tour for Ivy’s latest project Candid, which includes performances in places like Brooklyn, New York; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta. Throughout the tour, she’s brought out other acts like Bathe, Yani Mo and, for The Homecoming Show, yours truly.
Ivy has performed this year at festivals including Afropunk in NYC and Firefly Musical Festival in Dover, Delaware. She’s currently preparing for Pitchfork Music Festival in Berlin in November.
During our chat, we cackled about the last time we saw each other, which was at a Player Made show at Snug Harbor in 2019. While we talked, I had to continuously double back to the questions I had planned to ask her as we kept getting distracted with catching up.
The rapper, singer, producer Ivy Sole released Candid in February (on my birthday too! talk about a present!), which she explained is her ode to living life as her best and truest self, accepting the past and being present with self … so much so that she got “Candid” tattooed on her chin. She has been on a journey of self-discovery, coming out as non-binary. She now uses she and they pronouns.
I watched her roll out Candid via Instagram with Spotify billboards and visualizers. Ivy is currently nominated for a UK Video Music Award for her “Talk That Talk” single. As it turns out, being candid is Ivy’s strength.
Autumn Rainwater: So what is the premise behind the Candid project? Where’d the name come from?
Ivy Sole: You know, parents be lying to you … But not because they want to but because they feel like they have to … And I’m finally old enough to where my parents aren’t lying to me anymore (laughs) and that I can receive candid answers from my loved ones about themselves, my childhood, the world and even about myself.
It seems to be a common theme amongst our peers where experiences in your childhood appear in adult life present-day, mostly linked to generational trauma and the layered Black experience.
Maybe I would’ve had more empathy for my parents if I knew the whole story.
Right, and because I have perception now, I have more empathy for my parents now because … honestly, what did they know?
They don’t know SHIT! (laughs) But they think they know it all!
They don’t! And I think they were onto something with some things like, “You don’t know what love is,” and they were right in a time … but because they didn’t either!
Ivy and I had similar experiences with our upbringing in the church and how we identify in the world present day as opposed to high school. I found solace in speaking to being Black and identifying as queer and the challenges that come with that in family dynamics.
Ivy Sole: I identify as non-binary and I was introduced to the concept of non-binary and trans identity in high school, and I was like, “No, not me … it doesn’t make sense, my church said that you’re born in the body that you’re born in. Fuck that shit. I’m about to marry a man anyway,” and I did not feel like I had the space to be cool with it until I left home and it still took time.
Not even actively seeking it or embodying it, just being cool with it, and now I can do that in my music. I don’t have to be or sound like anything I don’t want to sound like.
How has leaving home and relocating to Philly helped you as a Black queer artist, or inspired your sound, rather?
I think one of the beautiful things about Philly is queerness and Blackness are one in the same. My closest friends are gay and they told me if I had to lose my (given) family that I would be OK, but I’m glad I didn’t have to … Also, there’s a longstanding tradition here of soul music that nurtured me before my arrival.
And there is a history of North Carolinians finding their way north — like John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Romare Bearden — and enmeshing themselves in their new place, and I’m stoked to finally be bringing back what I’ve become back to the crib.
I recently re-listened to Candid with fresh ears for the first time since its release. “Call Me” is a standout track that has an early-2000s sound that parallels the visual to a tee, and a Lil’ Wayne interpolation in the hook as you sing, “Call me, so I can make excuses for you”. I also love the melodic changes in “Dangerous” and “Easy To Kill” makes me want to kick through someone’s door. What’s your favorite song on Candid?
Currently, it’s “What You Deserve.”
Is there any specific reason?
I like the storytelling in the song … Also, I added additional production and subtleties to it. Lee Clarke is an amazing producer and artist who I’ve been growing a relationship with and his approach to this record and my storytelling on it feels like a strong match.
I also love the subtleties in the additional drum programming that Ethan Tomas, my manager and creative partner, added.
How do you feel about performing old music? Sometimes I want [past singles] “Lonely” and “Growing” to go away … I love that people love those songs because they were true to me in a time and in ways. “Growing” is still a song I love and identify with — I have it tatted! But how ironic that I want to be released from “Growing” because of growth? (laughs) It feels against the law to say that.
No, no … that’s wack. It’s like I have no agency … I lose all my agency when people say, “Do ‘Dreamgirl!’” I don’t know how it happened, it got released to Spotify in a time where … I guess that’s what people wanted to hear and people keep discovering it and keeping it alive because I think it’s about to hit 10 million streams and I literally am sick of the song. (laughs)
So how do you combat that, performer to performer?
I rap new shit over old beats all the time, and I really fuck with doing covers a lot. People generally don’t expect it and you know, if people know the song they’re gonna be excited to hear it. I’ve done a verse of Jill Scott’s “Slowly Surely” and Erykah’s “Window Seat” before. People love it.
What has been the best part of this project for you?
My favorite element of this project was actually creating the narrative podcast. It’s an audio film where I had a bunch of friends read a script as an addition to the project itself. We also recently had a pop-up where I brought the homies together for an art exhibit. The music videos and covers and social media posts are cool but those two were a highlight for me.
What sets Candid apart from all your other projects?
Well, I can’t decide what people like, but honestly, I feel like this is the best music I’ve ever made.
Become a Nerve Member: Get better connected and become a member of Queen City Nerve to support local journalism for as little as $5 per month. Our community journalism helps inform you through a range of diverse voices.
This work by Queen City Nerve is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.