Ivy Sole Will Accept Nothing Less Than Liberation

“I don’t want the change to be piecemeal.”
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bittersweet landscape collage (photos by Amandla Baraka)

In 2018, Philadelphia’s Ivy Sole, 27, released a “big-ass love album” entitled Overgrown. The smooth record stole hearts and propelled Ivy to well-earned critical acclaim. Overgrown was a wonderfully honest and vulnerable affair, was Ivy Sole pushing herself to break down the walls we’re all trained to put up around our hearts.

“I think it takes a level of vulnerability to talk to yourself honestly about different forms of love,” Ivy said back in 2018. “It’s that much more difficult to speak honestly about some shit that you haven’t completely reconciled within yourself.” During our 2018 talk, Ivy assured me she had more to do and further to evolve than Overgrown, but attested the album was the fullest picture of herself to date.

The year is now 2020, and it feels as if love has escaped us, and yet, at the same time, it feels as if love might be stronger than ever. Love—like all things—is all about search and perspective. But these thoughts are nothing new to Ivy Sole. Back in 2018, Ivy said the following to Vinyl Me, Please: “I know bad stuff happens every day, and I know that things are bound to happen in the future, but I think that a small group of people—with time, energy, effort, and real, positive passion—are capable of changing the course of any group of people, no matter the size, even if it was a country.”

Yes, the country is changing. Uprisings and organizing at every level are slowly but surely reshaping America’s relationship to the structures upon which it was built. To that, Ivy Sole releases her latest song, “Bittersweet,” an uncompromising call for liberation. Ivy doesn’t want a faux piecemeal liberation. She does not want something at the cost of something else. There has to be a way towards freedom without caveats. This is the truth Ivy Sole seeks. As always, Ivy Sole sounds musically incredible during her pursuit.

Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.

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DJBooth: How have you been keeping sane these past few months?

Ivy Sole: I’ve put myself on a pretty consistent schedule. I’m active in the morning, physically active—whether it be a run or yoga with meditation. Then, I try to give myself two or three to-do list items, tops. I’ve also been holding it down in therapy and trying to limit my internet time to build with people virtually, but off of Twitter and Instagram. Despite life being weird, it has been an inspiring time. It’s always about taking the good with the bad.

Two years ago, you described 2018’s Overgrown as “one big-ass love album.” Do you feel like love has kind of evaporated in 2020, or is it stronger than ever? Is it a matter of where you look?

I feel like I’ve re-acquainted myself with love. It’s difficult for any of the things we want—our careers, our relationships—to exist in the same way, but the transformation of things doesn’t negate the impact of things. I’m experiencing love in a lot of ways I wouldn’t have beforehand, and I’m being open to receive it in ways I haven’t been in the past. Love ain’t dead! Love is very much alive. That’s why a lot of the movement, whatever you wanna call that, is so poignant because we’ve been stripped of the things we thought we loved. Now, we have the opportunity to focus on the things that truly keep us alive.

You’ve released your first song, “Bittersweet,” since Overgrown. What drove you to drop now of all times?

Me and my manager have been hesitant to release any music to distract or make light of what is happening, and this is prior to George Floyd and how that has changed the COVID era. To be honest, I was gonna drop an album this year and decided to hold off on that to sit with what is happening right now. I don’t want to “lend” my voice to the movement. By virtue of being an abolitionist and endeavoring to be a radical thinker, anything that I would release was going to add to that conversation. With “Bittersweet,” I wanted to release something that spoke directly to it rather than shying away from it.

“Bittersweet” finds you rightfully uncompromising in your desires for liberation. Can you speak to where you were during the writing of this song?

I started writing it just on some, “Damn, I miss the feeling of summer.” This summer feels bittersweet to me. I can’t touch and be touched the way I’m usually experiencing summer. Summer is such a sensory period—it’s hot, you sweat, you’re in the park, on rooftops. I was on some nostalgic shit with the first verse, and then the George Floyd uprising happened, and I was like… At this point, everything is changing, so I don’t want the change to be piecemeal at all. I don’t want the minimum. That’s what the powers that be tend to expect us to accept. I’m in a headspace where I finally have a taste of what it could be like to be free, so I just refuse to settle in any way, shape, or form. All of us deserve that. More and more people are starting to realize they don’t have to accept what they’ve been given.

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Back in 2018, you told me: “I’m my best version of myself when I’m working on music.” What version of Ivy came out during the making of “Bittersweet?”

Whoo! You know… Slick talkin’ Ivy came out on that second verse. Like I said back in 2018, and it holds true today, I truly am a lover. I’m a fighter, for sure, but my natural inclination is towards loving and showing love. So, to be physically distant for safety reasons, that took a toll on me initially. I’ve slowly but surely been reimagining my relationship to touch and to community. The Ivy that has measured anger, but a very specific outcome in mind, came out on this track.

Proceeds from “Bittersweet” are going directly towards Black women experiencing housing instability or facing eviction in NY/NJ/PA. Why was this cause important to you?

As someone who has experienced housing instability in the past—my family has experienced that—I know how devastating it can be not to be sure about where you’re gonna rest your head. Beyond that, I think… What is very confusing about this time is how our government and country can acknowledge a problem, but do nothing about it. In New York, there’s an eviction freeze, and that’s a band-aid on a very, very serious problem. The prescribed national remedy to this virus is to stay at home, and if you don’t have a home, you can’t be safe. The fact that a rent freeze didn’t happen was bullshit, to be honest. I don’t know the exact numbers, but it’s upwards of 20,000 or 30,000 people facing eviction over the next three months if our government doesn’t get its act together.

I would hate to see Black women with children, Black trans women, Black nonbinary femmes, and people, in general, losing out on the ability to keep themselves and their families safe.

For Ivy Sole, what is freedom in 2020?

Freedom is a brand new world. The implementation of our wildest dreams—be that financial security, universal healthcare, protecting Black trans women and men—and for there to be no people hungry or [homeless], and no people taken from us by the police state. 

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