UPSAHL unveils new album
Sitting down with Rollacoaster, the singer opens up to the new album, finding the courage not to care about other people’s opinions and what she’s writing now that she’s happy.
From the Fall / Winter issue of Rollacoaster. Order your copy now.
Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, UPSAHL grew up influenced by the punk scene her father was a part of, bands that regularly crashed into her living room floor, and artists like Weezer and OutKast. It is perhaps his punk roots that explain the shameless side of his music. Because of course, she co-wrote songs for artists like Dua Lipa and Madison Beer, released several chart-topping singles, and made viral hits on TikTok, like “Drugs” which has been featured in over 2 million videos, but even after such a success, it music remains refreshingly unfiltered. Take “Drugs” – a track that many artists in today’s “RP-ified” musical landscape would be reluctant to release.
“I was very scared to turn it off,” UPSAHL admits, “but after a lot of arguing with my parents because they weren’t thrilled, I was releasing a song called ‘Drugs’, and then a lot of thinking, a light bulb exploded in my head.
I was like, ‘If I don’t say what I want, I don’t fuck a few people with my music and I don’t apologize, so what’s the point in making music anyway?’ I was like, ‘This is what music is. This is art. It’s controversial and you do and say whatever you want.
This honesty is inherent in UPSAHL’s debut album Lady Jesus, an autobiographical journey of her first grief. Sitting down with Rollacoaster, the singer spoke about the new album, finding the courage not to care about what other people think and what she’s writing about now that she’s happy.
How are you doing? How has the past year been for you?
I’m fine! My new album Lady Jesus just fell a week ago and it’s a cool feeling because
this whole past year has led to its release. I am delighted that the shows are returning, and I am delighted to travel again and to London. I just feel like I’ve reached the closing moment of the full circle of quarantine. Life is back to normal and it’s a good time for me to release my album.
How did you first come to music?
My dad was in punk bands throughout my childhood, so I would always look at him like, “Sounds sick. I wanna do this.” I remember seeing him interacting with the punk community and we always had bands crashing on our living room floor when I was a kid because they had a gig in Phoenix and didn’t want to have a hotel. . I saw it all and I was like, “I have to be a part of this. I want to do that. ”And then because my parents are both so musical, we had an orchestra room in the house, and I had access to guitars, piano and drums since I was born, so I naturally started to orient myself towards instruments. When I was five years old my dad started teaching me guitar and my grandmother started teaching me piano so it all turned out very naturally. Music very quickly became the biggest part of me. As I got older it became more and more clear to me that there was no other option for me, I was no good else and I had to make the music work.
Congratulations on the release of Lady Jesus! How would you describe the album?
I feel like sound is the highlight of all of the different types of music that I grew up listening to. I grew up listening to a lot of Weezer, No Doubt, Gwen Stefani, OutKast, and then I got into MIA and Radiohead, and you can hear tracks of those influences throughout the album in terms of sound. Conceptually, at the start of the creation of this album, I had just gone through a breakup and I was like, “I’m going to write the saddest album of all time.” I had the first songs which are now on Lady Jesus and I was like, “I know how the story begins, but how does it end?” Then I remember one day I was on a writing trip with friends Johnny and Will, who I did a lot of the album with, and it hit me out of the blue. I was like, “Wait, I’m not sad anymore actually. I just held onto that sadness – I’m fine now, I’m done with this guy. I feel like I’m being reborn. J I looked at Johnny and Will and I was like, “Can we write a rebirth song? I feel like I’m a new bitch. That day we wrote the song ‘Lady Jesus’. and that’s when the whole album made sense in my head. I was like, “Oh my gosh I told my journey from point A, which is the song ‘Douchebag’ and the breakup, at point Z which is ‘Lady Jesus’, and how well I’m doing now and how I feel about myself now, so yeah, it’s a very autobiographical album.
It’s incredible. Do you think writing it changed you and made this process easier?
For sure. I feel like when you go through a breakup, and especially since it was my first real heartache, you get all these feelings that you didn’t even know existed. Every day I felt something new and I said to myself “it sucks so much”. My saving grace was being able to wake up feeling kind of a middle way and then go to the studio and write a song about it. It was also the first time in my life as an artist that I had a team of writers and producers to work with on a project. I have had the opportunity to work with people I love and respect so much, and they have acted as a therapist for me every day. It was great.
Is songwriting a form of therapy for you?
Definitively. A perfect example is the song “Lunatic” which is on the album. I wasn’t even going to go to the shoot that day, I was so pissed off at the world, but I was like “no, instead of crying home alone all day long, I should just go” . I walked in and spoke about what was making me angry and angry and sad and we ended up writing “Lunatic”. Fast forward a few hours later and we jump into the studio, like “Yes!” We just did the best song! My whole day has been turned upside down so
I have the impression that yes, music is really that for me. It’s my way of working through my shit and then you have a song of it. It’s a win-win.
Do you think you need to experience love and heartbreak to write good lyrics? Do you think that makes you a better artist?
Yeah, but I don’t think you need to define love and heartbreak in a romantic sense, to be a good artist. I feel like there are so many things that can break your heart every day, like you can lose friends or family. I don’t think it has to be romantic. Before I fell in love, I wrote songs about other aspects of the human experience and was heartbroken in other ways. But definitely going through a breakup and having all of these feelings was the best thing for my writing for sure. I was talking to my manager the other day – I was like, “What the fuck am I going to write now that I’m happy?” I need to screw my life up a bit for the next album! It was funny, I had a full realization like, “Wait, for the first time in my life I’m happy, content and good. And I have nothing to write. So we’ll see …
So what are you writing now that you’re happy?
I’m writing about being in love with myself, which is a really big topic in my life right now. Meeting again too which is an absolute crap show but it gives me good content for the songs. I handle all the drama for all it’s worth. Before I fell in love and lived off shit, I was writing about what I saw my friends go through, and I still do, and I take a lot of inspiration from my friends. I write about a lot of random stuff that I haven’t written about in a long time, it’s a lot of fun. The music I make is mostly very happy, obviously there is my own little dark and fucked up touch to everything but yes the songs are happy. It was a fun time making music for me.
Tell us about your writing process for Lady Jesus.
Honestly, most of the songs on the album were very everyday and spontaneous, I was just going up in the studio. I think it’s the magic to get to do
an album with your friends. I was driving around, we were just hanging out together, complaining about my life, and then somewhere in the conversation, someone was saying something and we were all like “Wait, that’s a title” or “It’s a. lyrical cool ”. It sounds so cheesy, but someone would take a bass and start playing a bassline, then someone would start messing around on the computer and all of a sudden we’d have a chorus. All of the songs on the album and all of my favorite songs that I’ve written really feel like you go from a simple conversation to a power outage and then you come back and you’re like, ‘Wait, we just came off. write a song and that’s kind of good ”. This is how all the songs on the album were born, they very naturally came out of a simple conversation that we had.
I wanted to ask a question about “Drugs”. I’m curious because so much of the music on the charts is now so “PRified” and in the video the drugs are literally sparkling – beautiful, even. Were you afraid of being accused of glamorizing drugs or setting a bad example for your younger fans? Were you afraid to turn it off?
Yeah actually. It was a very difficult song for me to release. I remember writing it with Sean Kennedy and KillaGraham, and I loved the song. When we wrote it I was like, “This is fucking rad. This song is special. But when I sent the song to my team, the original email was like, ‘obviously I I would never release this song myself… it could be for another artist. But I really like this song ”. I was really like “there’s no fucking way I choke”. Then they were like, “No, it’s actually a little sick. You should turn that off.” I had to dive deep into myself and my art because I was so scared to take it out, but after a lot of arguing with my parents because they weren’t thrilled, I would release a song called “Drugs”, and after a lot of thinking, a light bulb lit up in my head. I was like, “If I don’t. Don’t say what I want, I don’t piss off a few people with my music and I don’t apologize, so what’s the point of making music anyway? ”I was like,“ That’s what is the music. That’s the art. It’s controversial and it’s you who do and say whatever you want. So I released the song. Honestly, releasing this song is the reason I feel like a lot of people who talk to me about my writing now are saying “you don’t apologize, you just say what you want.” “drugs” was a turning point for me as an artist and as an artist. tan t as a writer. As difficult and scary as it was to release the song, it changed my life and my perspective as an artist.
Carlos duro yague