Builders Series

Musician Sophie Hawley-Weld Shares How Being in a Wheelchair for 4 Months Changed Her Life

Sophie Hawley-Weld, part of the popular musical duo Sofi Tukker, talks about inspiration, breakdown and looking forward.
Musician Sophie Hawley-Weld Shares How Being in a Wheelchair for 4 Months Changed Her Life
Image credit: Adam Jones
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Founder and CEO of Grayce & Co
6 min read
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Editor’s note: Builders Series features no-holds-barred in-depth interviews with female leaders in different industries to give you insight into what successful women have done to push through feeling stuck, frustrated and uncreative in order to build incredible brands and businesses.

One of my favorite parts of Builders Series is getting into the nitty-gritty of what it truly takes to build something -- and Sophie Hawley-Weld, part of the popular musical duo Sofi Tukker, illustrates this beautifully. A lot of work happened to make Sofi Tukkera a success (which has included viral tracks, a Grammy nomination and several key commercial plays).

For our Builders Series Hawley-Weldwas opened up about her early goals, her drive and even her self-doubt.

Read on for a mega-dose of verve and inspiration.

What have you built and what inspired you to build it?

I’m creating music in a band that I love. The most meaningful, profound, life-changing experiences that I’ve had have always been around music. I think I knew that from an early age that music was the placeI felt the most alive, and I’ve always wanted to immerse myself in it. For the longest time, I had thoughts like who am I to be a musician?’, but eventually, like in the Marianne Williamson poem, I said to myself ‘who am I not to be?’

Were you a born builder or did you learn how to build?

I was born a builder. My mom always likes to tell me that I was doing cartwheels in her stomach before I came out. I’m always trying to build, trying to grow and trying to do. It’s almost to a fault. I can be so busy doing, going and creating that I don’t build a foundation that will support me. It happens all the time. I need to slow down. I have to surround myself with people that will help me to think before doing.

Related: Refinery29's Co-Founder Discusses the Tough Women Who Inspired Her, Surviving Gunfire on the Job and Finding Strength in Vulnerability

Who was the first woman you looked up to and why did you want to be like her?

Randomly, the first person who came to my mind is the female soccer player Charmaine Hooper. I grew up in Atlanta when women’s soccer was really big there, and she was an amazing player for the Atlanta Beat. I was really into soccer, and I actually got the chance to meet her and have a training session with her, and she was so cool, so good at what she does, and so fun, and -- no pun intended -- had a kick to her step.

What would you say has been the greatest risk you’ve taken so far?

Moving to New York to perform music. It was always something that I wanted to do, but I was scared of actually doing it. At some point, I actually started saying 'I’m going to be a rockstar' when people asked me what I was going to do. Who says that? But I kept saying it, assuming that people would think I was kidding, but I wasn’t. It felt silly at the time, because I had nothing to back it up. It was a huge risk, but it somehow paid off. 

Was there a time when you had a breakdown and what helped you to move forward?

When I moved to New York, I I ended up in a wheelchair for four months and had to move back home. It became forced foundation building. During that time, I got to know my parents better, and I got to know Tucker better, because we talked on Skype every day. I also learned how to use Ableton software, which has enabled me to produce when I want to. The entire time I was in the wheelchair I remember thinking ‘this will pay off, this will pay off, trust, trust, trust’.

Related: Brit Morin of Brit + Co Talks About Why She Launched Her Company, How to Overcome the Highs and Lows and Ignoring Negativity

What makes you doubt yourself and how do you manage it?

I think like a lot of artists I oscillate between extreme self confidence and total self doubt. There are days where I’m like 'I can do anything,' and there are days when I can’t get out of bed. 

The first performance that we ever did was a year and a half ago, and I hated it. I got off stage, and I went home and called my mom and asked her if I had made the biggest mistake in trying to be a musician. Sure enough, the second performance we did, I loved. I think what makes the difference is that Tucker and I realized that we didn’t have to put this facade on of being cool and having it together. We learned how to be ourselves on stage. So now I love performing, and it's my favorite thing.

How do you know when to leave someone or something?

I might be too good at leaving things -- sometimes you have to stay in it

When was your bravest moment and how do you practice being brave?

There are small moments of bravery that happen every day. Like, with writing songs, the best ones are vulnerable -- and sometimes I write a lyric, and I’ll be embarrassed to say it out loud. Speaking between songs has been one of the scariest things for me. I think it takes a lot of bravery to say what’s on your mind in front of thousands of people and hoping that it doesn’t come out wrong. I try to trust that when I open my mouth, the right words will come out. In those instances where they do come out odd, I’m grateful that Tucker will spin it and make it funny. He has my back and I have his. That makes bravery even easier.

Knowing what you know now, was it worth it?

Of course! Oh my God, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. I feel like I’m getting stronger and better every day. I feel very nourished right now, so I’m like BRING IT ON.

What do you see yourself building next?

I see SOFI TUKKER turning into something larger than Sophie and Tucker. I’m really excited to build the band and the business in such a way that when people hear the music or see us live, it gives them a sense of themselves, liberation, joy and total unbridled connection. I can’t anticipate where that will take us, but I’m open to the different manifestations of this. The important part to me is that it becomes larger than us.

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