If you plan to add an artist to your playlist for the new year, make sure it’s 20-year-old UPSAHL. Her relatable approach to her music and lyrics makes UPSAHL a must for an upbeat listening sesh that is sure to put you in the dancing mood. In spite of her moody voice, her lyrics and background beats are uplifting and create a familiar vibe that can be enjoyed anywhere and anytime.
How did you get into making music?
I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona in a very musical family. My dad was always in punk rock bands, all throughout me growing up he was going on tour. So, I was always around different musicians and a lot of them were in the punk rock or alternative genre and because of this, I grew up listening to a lot of that. I was fortunate enough to have a band room in my house so I literally had every instrument at my disposal from the time I was born — it was just kind of natural for me to start learning piano and guitar, and I started taking piano lessons from my grandma and my dad taught me guitar at the age of four.
I started to write those really awful songs you write when you’re 10 and think are so good. My parents put me into this amazing performing arts school in Phoenix called the Arizona School for the Arts when I was 10 and I was there until I was 18. It was just this past year that I got to move to LA and do music full time so it’s been really fun.
Coming from a musical family, do you remember your first big memory of music and then thinking ‘this is what I want to do with my life’?
I remember growing up and every photo of me is sitting as a baby watching my dad play the guitar. In all those little things you fill out in school where it’s like “when I grow up I want to be a…” all of them were a musician or singer. But, I think a really big moment for me, because as a musician, you’re going through the motions — writing all this stuff and releasing it, people are listening to it and you’re playing shows — but once you start to get someone who knows music and the industry on board say “no, you actually don’t suck, we can do this” is really amazing as an artist to get that sort of confirmation. Honestly, this past year has been amazing for me. When I met my publisher David Greg at UPG (TKTK) and he signed me for songwriting I was like “okay, I’m not crazy, I can keep doing music.” It’s all been one huge thing, but this year was one huge transitioning thing, but I’m really thankful for it.
At 20, do you ever feel as though your age is a deterrence?
100%, you can use it as a deterrence, but I think you should embrace it and use it as a challenge. So, you’re walking into this room with these established people that are double your age and you feel like you have something to prove. It makes me work a little harder because I feel like I’m trying to hang with the cool kids, so I’m always faking it and it ends up actually working. It’s definitely hard, but I end up embracing it and just roll with it.
With the visuals and songs you’ve released, to me, they have a cross-generational theme. Why make the music you do and how do you then translate that to on-stage performances?
I’ve always tried with my writing to pull from things that I’m experiencing at the time or things that I see my friends experiencing and people I’m around, so I feel like my writing perspective, right now, is very much from a late teen perspective. I’m navigating new relationships and, for instance, with ‘The Other Team’, my crush was gay and it’s like “oh sh**, okay moving on…” The next song I have coming out is called ‘Drugs’, which is this commentary on party culture and kind of the vibe in LA. I’ve always tried to pull from my personal experiences as I get older. I just turned 20, which is very exciting, but as I navigate my twenties I feel like my writing perspective is totally going to evolve.
I just want the live show experience for people coming to see it to be very exciting, very fun and dance-y. Most of the new songs are pretty groovy and upbeat, so I just want it to be really fun and I think that’s a good reflection of people my age. They’re there to have a good time and if people can relate to the lyrics that means everything to me.
Who are you influenced by?
I loved Lorde since she released her first album so she’s definitely a big influence, but I love — like I said I grew up listening to a lot of alternative music — so like Weezer was and still is one of my favorite bands. Their album Pinkerton was the soundtrack to my childhood, but I love Weezer and Spoon. as far as modern influences I really love Billie Eilish, she’s super inspirational just because she’s so young like me and completely taking over music, but she’s super in control of her brand and I love that. I love Anderson .Paak and I’ve been getting into a lot of OutKast recently, Mac Miller. I don’t have one specific genre, but once I find a song I love I kind of start to dive into the artist and try to find the coolest people from there.
Which of the songs do you connect with the most?
All of them have different personal connections to me, I feel like ‘Drugs’, which is coming out next year, I have a really strong connection to. I feel like other people will as well because we’ve all been in a situation where you look around when you’re at a party and think “why am I here” and you start getting into this existential crisis.
As far as the ones that are out right now, I would probably say my song ‘Rough’ which is the one we haven’t pushed a ton, but I jsut remember the day I wrote the song and I left the session thinking, “oh my god I’m obsessed with this song, I’m just in the best mood.” It’s about being, and whether if it’s romantic or a friendship, telling the other person they can’t go around not appreciating you for what you’re doing for them. It’s this anthem of knowing your worth and being a badass — that’s kind of what I’m all about.
Regarding ‘Rough’, when listening to it, the track sounded musically different. Was that something you knew going in or was that decided along the way?
‘Rough’ was the kind of thing where I was with a new producer and he started doing this cool electric guitar thing with this hip-hop trappy beat and I was obsessed with it. Now I’ve kind of used that as a bit of a point of reference to draw inspiration from music and production wise for my newer songs.
That song was also a turning point for me producing wise, I don’t produce but I like to know what to reference when I’m in a session with producers, but that song really opened my eye to the possibilities for my sound and hopefully, there will be more of that in the new stuff.
Can you tell us a bit about ‘The Other Team’ and the creative process behind it?
I wrote ‘The Other Team’ about a year ago, last October. It was my first writing trip to LA, when I still lived in Phoenix, and it was the last session of the trip. I went into the session and all I had was the little vocals chop at the beginning as a voice memo, and I was still new to sessions so I thought you had to have a lyrical concept ready when you go there and this was the one day I didn’t, so I just rolled in. There was these two amazing writers/producers named Mike Wise and Togg from Toronto and we built a beat around that vocal thing. I don’t even remember how it came to me, but I blurted it out like “okay this may be really stupid, but I think we should write a song about falling for a gay guy.” At first they laughed about and I thought “okay, yea nevermind.” Then we thought wait actually let’s roll with it it’s so funny.
I think everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, have fallen for someone we can’t have and in my case it was me falling for someone who was into guys, but I feel like my gay friend, who I am referencing in that song, would fall for guys who are into girls. It happens to everyone and that’s why I think it’s so fun because someone can relate to it in one way or another.
I read that you have an EP coming out in 2019, what can you tell us about it so far?
Right now, we’re just trying to piece everything together from me writing every single day. I have a lot of songs to sift through and decide what I want my first big statement for the EP to be. It’s been a cool year of experimenting with sounds and I think I finally figured out what I want to be releasing. It’ll be five songs and it’ll be following the release of ‘Drugs’ right before I go on tour. It’s really fun and there will be a really dope ballad on it that’ll be really fun — I haven’t explored that whole territory with my singles yet so that’ll be cool. I’m so excited to put a bigger body of work out rather than just a single.
Last thing: dead or alive, who would you love to collaborate with and why?
I would probably say Anderson .Paak. I just watched his SNL performance, I love that he is multi-talented. He’ll literally play drums on a whole track and he’s a rapper, but he has such a cool voice. That’s so far fetched, but maybe one day.