Miss Grit, aka the Korean-American musician Margaret Sohn, makes relatable songs that masterfully dissect the feeling of self-doubt with scalpel-like precision. Her forthcoming Impostor EP is an astounding collection of her technical prowess as a guitarist, her gifted ear for melodies with staying power, and her immensely evocative lyricism. Throughout, she deftly traverses between genres, moods, and experiments.
As a kid growing up in the Michigan suburbs, Margaret Sohn dreamed of being a guitarist in a band, playing music that someone else wrote. As she studied music technology at New York University, she began to dream of creating effects pedals for a living. Her realization that she could manipulate music led to her simultaneous first attempts at songwriting and producing.
On the heels of her debut EP, Talk Talk, which NME called an "essential listen" and "a truly awe-inspiring first work," she returns with a collection that's more cathartic, resolute, and fully documents the array of talents she brings as a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and producer. Her second EP, Impostor, is a polished collection of six songs. Drawing from a myriad of influences, the EP explores the titular "impostor syndrome" that so often characterizes the insecurities of the early 20s. Part of that uneasiness for Sohn was her initial success with Talk Talk and the feeling "she was someone who was impersonating a musician." Her solution? Producing the EP by herself at Brooklyn's Virtue and Vice Studios so that she "couldn't feel like a fraud" if she was the sole creator.
For Sohn, songwriting and production go hand in hand with most of her songs built around an element or instrument that strikes her. "Don't Wander," the EP's hypnotic, ethereal opening track, began with the "glitchy guitar tone" that sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, especially when layered over her increasingly distorted vocals.
"Buy the Banter," meanwhile, was written around a dirty, aggressive bass line that quickly pulls the listener from the dreamscape of the opening track into a harsh reality, where "power waits for nobody" and anyone who craves it must "play their game or you'll dissolve to nothing," as Sohn sings.
The songs on Impostor can drastically shift from delicate to explosive and the sheer power from her voice and guitar is tangible. Just take the inventive "Dark Side of the Party," with its fuzzed-out riffs and synth theatrics. It's an anthem feeling out of place at a smug party full of surface-level conversations and ulterior motives. She sings, "I can't tell hearts apart from spare parts/I try, I try, I try/Why can't I?." Sohn explains, "you'll meet people who are basically the antitheses of impostor syndrome who think they know more than they do and are devoid from self-doubt. They deflect other perspectives as opposed to allowing others' perspectives in."
The EP's theme also addresses Sohn's life-long navigation through the racial impostor syndrome she experienced as a half-Korean girl "trying to fit into the white space" of the suburbs. Not even a move to New York City could ease her internal conflict between "basic white girl" and her Asian-American identity.
"Blonde" synthesizes these two kinds of impostor syndrome, with Sohn quietly singing, "I wish I was blonde," over a minimal, ringing guitar riff. The song grows more complex over a nearly six-minute timespan, crescendoing to crashing drums, heavy riffs, and Sohn yelling "And I've got nothing to say" over it all. Just as quickly, the song doesn't break down as much as it collapses into a simple bassline, the same guitar riff from the beginning of the song, and Sohn's pitched-down voice slowly fading into oblivion as she repeats over and over, somewhat ironically, that she's got nothing to say.
"I've gone my whole life feeling really uncomfortable defining myself," Sohn says. "I realized that a lot of the time, I'm more comfortable with other people defining me and making up their mind about who I'm supposed to be." Writing this EP, she claims, helped her understand that futile pattern.
For Sohn, Miss Grit is a way for her to create a defined version of herself that doesn't need to be realistic. Expressing herself through her powerful, confident music while still being vulnerable about her insecurities is a dynamic that characterizes her work, with all of its cathartic pushes and pulls of emotion. Ultimately, Sohn says, the Impostor EP is about feeling self-doubt, working through it with music, and letting it all subside.