Sophia Bacino strides into Pannikin Coffee & Tea carrying a ton of energy, and you are immediately drawn to the young, college-bound musician/songwriter. And music is what brought Bacino to our attention, as she was the winner of the 2019 singer-songwriter contest at the San Diego County Fair. We’ll get to that a little later.
Wearing her Pink Floyd tee, we immediately get along in our conversation talking about music, during which she shows me a better way to record conversations on my phone — I love the youth. Bacino has lived her entire young life in La Jolla’s Mt. Soledad area, attending All Hallows Academy and the Academy of Our Lady of Peace schools. She started writing songs at the age of 8, inspired by musical artists Taylor Swift and Coldplay. She also credits her music teacher Jamie, which guided her musical happiness — and still visits her once a week. That teacher-student relationship opened her up to thinking of “music as freedom.”
Finding comfort in her songs, Bacino creates stories where you can find empathy in her lyrics; a place where the listener can live in others’ shoes, and the “listener becomes the character.” Bacino recalls a performance at Lestat’s where afterwards a girl came up to her, telling Bacino that the song embodied exactly what she was experiencing; the words had spoken to her. That’s why she writes, because “someone needed it.”
Bacino’s sophistication in her thoughts comes through in her music. Listen to her songs such as “Indigo,” “Ghost,” and “Hypocrites” and you can sense the intellectual storyteller bringing imagery to life. Many of her songs are about love, and while Bacino admits she may not be very experienced in that area, her lyrics and music artistically combine to create the feeling that it’s personal. You can really sense her sophisticated style when you watch her music video “Indigo” on YouTube. She may only be 18 years old, but her storytelling shows her maturity.
Performing in local venues throughout San Diego since she was 13, she gets the full support of her family, with her parents and brother acting as her roadies. Her “Papa Don” was also a musician in a gospel band, so there’s music in her genes. Bacino doesn’t like to have a set playlist, but instead looks to the audience to decide on which songs to play. She “feels the energy” at the time and continues her performance by establishing a “beautiful connection between the audience and performer.”
The genuine connection Bacino creates with the audience was probably the key factor in helping her win the singer-songwriter contest this past summer at the San Diego County Fair. Having to wait until she turned 18 to enter the annual event, she competed against over 100 entrants, which were not limited to San Diego area residents. Bacino became one of 10 finalists to perform a couple of original songs. Thinking only her submitted song “Walking On A Wire” was to be performed, she immediately sensed that her song “Indigo” would work for the contest’s audience. And her instincts were spot on. Since she had the foresight to listen to the audience, they reacted favorably, which I’m sure the judges picked up on since they announced Bacino as the winner soon thereafter.
Winning the contest, Bacino received a nice big trophy and a $3,000 prize, which will come in handy as she is packing up to attend UCLA this week. Bacino will be majoring in ethnomusicology, which is the study of the music of different cultures, especially non-Western ones. While attending university and living in Los Angeles (as a mom of college-aged kids myself, I warned her about the perils of living in the big city), Bacino plans to continue writing songs, performing, and getting involved in the LA pickup music scene. Through her connections, she looks forward to being part of that beautiful musical community, supporting each other with their goals.
Bacino is in a “nice, genuine place” and we’re looking forward to more opportunities in listening to her magic, as she grows with her music. Be on the lookout.
You can find Sophia Bacino’s music on YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes. You can also follow her on Instagram at Sophia.Jo.