UPSAHL on her new album ‘Lady Jesus

For Taylor Upsahl, pursuing something other than music was not an option. “We had a group room instead of a living room in our house,” she recalls on Zoom during a studio break in Los Angeles. Growing up with a father who performed in punk bands was the life of the singer known simply as UPSAHL. “There was never really a time where I was like, ‘Oh, I want to make music. “There was never any other option for me.

After graduating from high school, the Phoenix native moved to Los Angeles, where she spent all of her time in sessions. It wasn’t long before she landed her first recording contract. In 2018, she became the first artist to sign with Arista Records, which reopened. What followed were two EPs – those from 2019 Hindsight 20/20 and 2020 Youth crisis – as well as a handful of singles.

It took her a minute to get to her debut album, but a major break in the summer of 2020 as she wrote her Young Crisis of life EP prompted the creation of Lady Jesus.

“I couldn’t go out and distract myself from being heartbroken,” the 22-year-old said. “So I was just doing sessions, I was writing about it all. It went from a breakup album to a personal growth album, of the “find yourself” type.

This growth was stimulating for her. The album ended up being a heavily rhythmic alt-pop record that is an amalgamation of R&B, hip hop, rock and electro-pop. Regardless of the genre, it ultimately tells the story in chronological order and takes listeners on the same kind of journey UPSAHL endured to get to Lady Jesus.

Before the release of Lady Jesus, UPSAHL said TOURNAMENT on the process of creating her new album, with whom she wishes to collaborate and reinterpret psychopath for her music video “Lunatic”.

Credit: Aubrée Estrella

SPIN: How was your first album born?
UPSAHL: I started doing Lady Jesus in the summer of 2020. I thought, “I’m going to write a breakup album. I feel like so many people went through crazy quarantine breakups including myself and I was like, “I’m about to write this ‘sad girl’ album about this breakup. . ” I started writing the first half of the album in the summer of 2020, then one day I was in a writing camp with my friends and it hit me. “I think I’m fine. I’m done now. I think I am actually the best I have ever been. I have the impression of being reborn. That day we wrote the title song, “Lady Jesus”, and I decided that day that I wanted the album to be called Lady Jesus.

Tell me about the influences behind the record.
I have the impression that the record folds a lot of genres and mixes a lot of different influences. My dad was in punk bands throughout my childhood, so I grew up listening to a lot of punk music. You can certainly hear this influence on the songs. There are a lot of live elements: guitar, bass, live drums. But then I also listened to a bunch of MIA, Outkast, Gwen Stefani, No Doubt, so that had a big influence on that.

With the pandemic, how has your songwriting process changed?
Because of COVID, my session life became very different, so I would write on Zoom or have little writing camps with my group of close-knit people who I made the album with. Most of the album was made in different writing camps. We camped at this Airbnb in LA which was really fun. We did half the album there, then we did a camp in the woods in Nashville, where we did half the album. I feel lucky to have been able to walk into the studio with the people I made the album with during such a strange time in the world. It forced me to take a step back and say to myself, “Who do I like to make music with?” It has become this core of people.

What are the recurring themes throughout Lady Jesus?
This breakup I experienced was the first real heartache I ever experienced, so I felt feelings that I didn’t even know existed until last year. Throughout this process, I was in the studio every day writing about how I was feeling that day. So that covers the anger at the whole situation. In the first song on the album, “Douchebag”, I’m obviously upset, but then on the song “Melatonin” it’s about insomnia, anxiety and depression. Then there are songs like “Lunatic”, which is about being really angry and living in that fantasy of being an ex-psychopath. There are “Notorious” and “Sunny D”, which to me are really bad, festive, confident and fun songs. There is a song called “IDFWFEELINGS”, which is about giving up dating in general. It really takes you on this emotional roller coaster that I’ve been through.

Credit: Aubrée Estrella

The video for “Lunatic” was inspired by the movie Psycho. How did this visual correspond to the meaning of the song?
I’ve been working with this director, George Gallardo, for a year and a half. He’s done all of my music videos with me, so we’re at a point where we both get along creatively. So when he heard “Lunatic” he called me up and said “Have you ever seen the movie? psychopath? “and I was like,” Of course. Classic. ”He was like,“ We ​​should switch roles and ask the woman to kill the guy. ”I didn’t think I was going to literally stab, murder this guy in this video until we were on. the set doing it. It was a bold choice on George’s part, and I’m so glad we did. I also wanted to tie “Lunatic” to Lady Jesus’ world, so we dealt with all of it. the song like this confession that I give in a chapel to bring everyone together on the album. It was also very much come full circle for me and George, especially since we were on the set of a music video the day my life fell apart and that breakup started.He was there from start to finish with me.

You wrote songs for artists like Dua Lipa and Mike Shinoda. Do you have a preference in terms of being a singer versus a songwriter?
I didn’t know I could be a songwriter for other artists until the Dua Lipa Affair happened. I wrote this song called “Good in bed”In a session for myself as an artist. Like most songs, it’s entered in a Dropbox folder never to be seen again. And then one day I got an email saying that Dua heard it and wanted to finish the song and put it on his album. And I was like, “Dua Lipa, there’s no fucking way. I’ll believe it when it comes out. Then it happened, and it kind of opened the door for me to write for other artists. So now I kind of have this nice balance of writing for my own project, and then once I’m exhausted or feel too much in my head, I can write a song for the pitch or for another. artist. It’s more rewarding to write for myself, because I write from a very autobiographical point of view, but I feel lucky to be able to work with other badass musicians.

Who do you dream of working with in the future?
My dream collaboration will always be Doja Cat. I am obsessed. I think she’s so badass. Any chance I may have in the studio or in a session with other young female artists is really inspiring to me.

Because you had a breakup before writing the record, were some songs more difficult to write than others?
All the songs on the album came very naturally. I feel like all of my best songs, I pass out and then it’s like “Wait, we have a song now. How did that happen?” The one we spent the most time on would be “Prosperous. “With that one, we wrote the whole song, and then at the end of the session, Johnny [Shorr] who produced it and wrote it was like, “I think we can do a better chorus.” I remember being so angry. I was like, “Johnny, we just finished the song. Let’s go home. “He was like,” No, we can write a better chorus. “So we sat there and made the chorus what it is now, and I’m so glad he pushed for it. because now the song is sick.

How do you feel that your file is different from your Youth crisis PE?
Youth crisis was very representative of where I was at the time I wrote it, I was going through a little crisis in life – an existential crisis. Lady Jesus is a very accurate representation of my life now, and how it is different. The tracklisting has been put in that order so you can take this trip chronologically with me. From a sound point of view, it bends the genre in a way that Youth crisis did not. It’s basically a screenshot of where I am in my life right now.

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