Sophie May’s music isn’t just good—it’s fist-pumping alone in the car, ratty hairbrush as a microphone, tear-inducingly good. Her debut EP, titled You Do Not Have to be Good, encourages you to be whoever you want to be.
The 23-year-old, U.K.-based artist’s rise has been meteoric. She learned to play guitar at age 19 and posted snippets of original songs on TikTok at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, she has over 200,000 followers on the platform.
May began by posting 60-second clips of songs she wrote during lockdown, giving listeners just a taste of her indie style that is reminiscent of legends like Joni Mitchell and Carole King.
Fans soon flooded her account, commenting prompts to inspire May’s songs and hoping the artist would write lyrics based on their experiences. One commenter wrote, “Wait, can you write a song about diving into something head first that you know will destroy you? ha.” May made an improvised TikTok video based off of the line.
May often edits her clips in new ways and sometimes creates something unique to the lyrics of whichever song she is recording. In a clip reminding fans that they can pre-save her song “Bruises & Scratches,” she drew the man the song is about by tracing his silhouette without lifting her pencil off the paper.
Not beholden to every TikTok trend, May sets herself apart from other social media creators with her songwriting skills. Before learning to play guitar, May thought she would study English literature. Her close analysis and writing skills are serving her well in her lyrical pursuits.
Her debut single “With The Band” is about feeling like a self-obsessed rock star’s groupie, grasping at metaphorical straws to get the attention of someone who is self-absorbed. The song currently has over one million streams on Spotify.
“Schoolgirl’s shoes on Velcro floors / He could mumble all his words, he’d still be man enough,” May sings.
Her lyrics are detail-oriented, rhythmic, emotionally vulnerable, and relatable. Her melodies are impossible to get out of your head, and intricate harmonies only add to this wonderful problem. Indie-rock influences and an experimental acoustic guitar add rhythm and dynamics to a more traditional base in folk music.
Some of May’s songs exude a melancholy nostalgia, while others, like a song only released on TikTok called “Marianne,” could be labeled as more classic rock songs. Others could fall into the category of “angry girl music,” popularized in the ’90s by singers such as Alanis Morissette.
May continues to steadily build her fanbase with her authentic storytelling as a powerful anchor. She’s even gotten attention on social media from Billie Eilish and BRIT award–winning artist Celeste.
May’s honesty and hands-on approach to her music, producing artwork and music videos herself and putting out content that feels authentic to who she is, sets herself apart from anyone else on the Instagram grid and TikTok algorithm.