Meet Softee, the rising pop sensation whose ’80s synthy beats are a fresh sound you won’t want to miss
Welcome to AP&R, where we highlight rising artists who will soon become your new favorite.
Music has always been a part of artist Softee’s life. Piloted by Nina Grollman, the pop persona has been experimenting with sounds since her youth, recording and producing music and singing covers throughout high school.
Hailing from Moorhead, Minnesota, Grollman has been based out of Brooklyn, New York for almost a decade, where along with being an upcoming music sensation, she is also an actress on- and off-Broadway. Her 2020 debut album Keep On was primarily self-engineered and was a vehicle for introducing her original DIY pop sound to the world. After signing with City Slang Records, Softee released her label debut single “Molly” in 2022, an electric song inspired by one of her first dates with her fiancé.
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Her latest single “Come Home” carries the ‘80s pop synth beat that has become a throughline of her work — an upbeat number that makes you want to break into dance in the middle of the street with lyrics that pierce your heart.
Ahead of her upcoming album Natural (due May 16), AP spoke to the rising pop star about her inspirations, her writing process, what it’s like writing as Softee, and more.
What is the origin story of your persona, Softee?
The birth of Softee was in 2019 and that was just out of a need for a different persona. I needed something else that was not just me because I had performed thoroughly under my own name throughout the city and just never felt quite right. It felt like if I just had a different name and a persona I could do some of the things that I wasn't allowing myself to do as myself. I started producing more and more as Softee came along and found that sound. I'm also an actress and I like kind of slip into characters and do other things. I think of myself as Softee and it’s very liberating because like, these are not things I do in real life.
How would you describe the music you create?
I put a lot of my own angst, joy, complicated feelings into a pop format that's easy to understand, and gets stuck in your head. Also, I'm very non-convoluted with my lyrical approach. I'm trying to be as simple and straightforward as possible most of the time. So in some ways, it's digestible angst. It's pop music, but it's got some angst. Not in the sound necessarily but more in the words.
What artists have helped inspire your sound?
I'm a huge fan of Robyn. I'm very, very influenced by her, and what she does really well is she puts her lyrics in contrast to her music. Her song “Dancing On My Own” is the perfect example. It's such a sad song lyrically, but the music is so high, and it just wants to make you want to dance. Definitely, Beyoncé is one of my tops. I just think she's incredible, sonically. Another person that influenced me throughout my life, is Regina Spektor. It's not my approach at all but I'm inspired by her music. Her melodies are just insane and so catchy, but complex.
What’s your process when it comes to creating your music?
My song “Red Light Green Light” was unique because, in the past, I've been much more insular with my process. I tend to keep it to myself until I'm in the stages where there needs to be some final touches or, I just want someone's ear on it. But this album has been very different, collaboratively. I've been very open from the start of letting people into the process, and that's been really nice, actually.
When it comes to your writing process, is it difficult when the lines between Nina and Softee blur?
I always start from a place of truth. No matter what, it's always coming from me. Whether that is then augmented or put through the lens of a kind of character depends on the song and the vibe. But I always do start from a place of some really serious thoughts or feelings that I'm trying to put into words.
What's next for you?
I think that I have so much more to learn and so many more people to collaborate with. It feels like just the beginning for me right now.