Lady Jesus is out now!
Image: Aubree Estrella
Last week, American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist UPSAHL unveiled her debut album, Lady Jesus. We caught up with the musician to chat about the release, writing for the likes of Dua Lipa and Little Mix, dueting with Lizzo on Tik Tok and so much more!
Could you tell us a bit about your background in music and what prompted you to follow it as a career?
Yeah. I mean, yeah, growing up, my dad was in punk bands all throughout my childhood. So he was like going on tour and some of the shows that, you know, weren't 21 and up, I would go watch my dad play. And I thought he was like the biggest rock star on the planet. And I thought it was so cool. I would wake up some mornings, like five years old and there would be like a random band that was touring through Phoenix, where I'm from, that would be crashed out on our living room floor because they knew my dad and needed a place to crash before going to the next city. So I just was like surrounded kind of by the punk music scene since I could remember. And I just remember wanting to be a part of it in one way or another. And there was never really a moment where I was like oh, I want to do music. It's always just been the only thing I've ever even been remotely interested in doing. Yeah.
You’ve written for artists including Dua Lipa, Little Mix, Anne-Maire and so many more incredible artists. How do you think writing for and with other artists, helped shape the direction in which you wanted total your own music?
That's a cool question. It's funny. Cause I'd never thought I would write for other artists until it kind of happened on accident. Like I was in a session writing for myself one day and I wrote this song called Good in Bed, but then it ended up in a Dropbox folder as most songs do. Then one day I get an email that's like, "Dua Lipa's cutting this, she wants to put it out". And I was like, all right... I'll believe when I... like, that's Dua Lipa. There's no way she fucks with this song we wrote. It ended up coming out and then that kind of opened the door for me to write for other artists, like that was kind of the opportunity to get in with other artists. So since then it's been cool. I feel like I've found a nice balance of when I get to write for other artists or even just for pitch in general, I can kind of let go of like the artist ego and I don't overthink it of, well, would I actually say this? Or like, is this guitar sound right for my brand or whatever? I can just work on making the song the best it can be. So I feel like that's been the biggest thing I've learned just by writing for the artist, is just like doing what's best for the song and then worrying about how I fit into it as an artist later.
Congratulations on your incredible debut album Lady Jesus! Sonically you present a genre-defying body of work, intricately weaving in threads of pop-punk, rock and dance with bass-driven melodies. How did you arrive at your overall sonic exploration?
I think this past year, when making the album, I've kind of found this crew of producers and writers that I just love and respect so much. And we've all kind of got to dive into this project together, I've just learned so much from being around them and their production instincts. It's been really cool and I feel like they get that I come from like a punk background. So we're always trying to incorporate live elements, like live bass or guitar, live drum elements and then kind of mix it with like pop or dancier sounds. So I feel like, yeah, it's been one big experiment, I guess. And then as we've just kind of all grown to know each other as like a team we've just kind of created this sound and figured out a way to combine, kind of like all of our different influences, you know, it's been fun.
Conceptually, the record essentially navigates that state of post-breakup to a place of personal growth whilst also taking aim at harmful female stereotypes, commenting on toxic masculinity and overall is a body of work that empowers women. How important was it for you to use this record as a vehicle to focus on these themes and create a powerful collection of songs?
Yeah, it was cool. I feel like for me this past year was so bad, but also so dope. Like it was the worst and best year of my life, I feel like. And so as shit would go wrong, I would just kind of be in the studio, writing about however I was feeling that day and yeah, I think it all just happened kind of naturally. Cause you know, when you go through a breakup, like it was my first breakup I'd ever been through. So I was feeling all the feelings. I was feeling feelings I didn't even know existed. I thought the world was fucking ending, and as the world was also actually felt like I was ending as well with COVID. So feelings were just at an all time high, so I just kind of would go in the studio and just like write it out and it all just kind of happened naturally. I kind of found the power in being vulnerable while making the album. So it was fun.
You've come off the back of two EP's straight into an album now. What was the creative process like, did it differ from those EPS? And how did the album overall evolve whilst you were creating?
I mean my last EP I made entirely over zoom, which is a totally different creative process from in the studio. So it was definitely really refreshing to be back in the studio to make this album. I think honestly the biggest change for me creatively is like, I've had the freedom to get more involved on the production end, and because we've had this crew of people working on it from start to finish, we've really been, you know, working on all these songs for the past year and perfecting them. And instead of just like, like taking whatever we made the day we wrote it and just adjusting things, we're going back and rewriting entire choruses and changing the production and adding a bunch of vocals. So it was just a fun process to just go back and keep revisiting songs and fucking with them until they were exactly like how I wanted them to be. Yeah, it was a really fun, just like creative, collaborative process.
So are there any songs that you, that didn't make like the final cut of the album that you think might, might pop up in the future?
For sure. I mean, if I had it my way I'd put out like a 25 song album [laughs]. There were a lot of songs. It was honestly so hard to narrow it down to 10 songs for me. There's a ballad that I didn't put on the album called Beauty and the Bitch that I really wanted to put on, but I was like, people are just coming out of like a shit year, no one wants to hear your sad bullshit. Like we'll deal with it... we'll put the sad song out later. So that was the final one that got cut, but yeah, it's so hard. Like I feel like I've made, you know, so many songs over the past year that are so important to me, but like having to cut them from the album, it was, it was a tricky process.
Which three songs off the record would you pick to play to someone who had never heard your music, to make them an instant diehard fan?
That's cool. Ooh. I would play, Ooh, that's a hard question. I would probably play Time of My Life, Thriving and either Notorious or Lady Jesus.
Are there any like lines or lyrics from the album you find at times could be stuck in your head? Or a line that you come back to? Like you're just doing the dishes and you can't get it out of your head.
Unfortunately, the lyric from Lunatic, this says "punch you in the tiny dick" is always circling around my head [laughs].. Cause it's so absurd. That's the one I think that like sticks the most is that.
You’re killing it on Tik Tok, personally I can’t get my head around it! I love the series where you almost soundtrack peoples wild stories. Which has been your absolute favourite one that’s made you go like ‘woah’?
I think I did one of Lizzo talking and I turned that into the song and then Lizzo 'dueted' my duet of her. And that was really cool! I was like, that's fucking Lizzo! Like she is an icon. So that was really cool. Cause you know, I started those as a joke. I mean they still are obviously like a joke, but to have somebody like Lizzo recognize it, it was really, really cool.
Obviously touring is a bit of a hard thing to lock in but do you have any touring plans, maybe plans to come to Aus and what would one of your live shows look like?
Yeah, we played a few California shows at the beginning of this month and that was the most serotonin I felt in the longest time. I forgot how much I missed playing live shows, but yeah, I'm going on tour with Olivia O'Brien in November, which is going to be fun, just like little US run. And then we have a bunch of dates that we're announcing, for hopefully the beginning of next year, but it's a tricky time. It's like, I can't get my hope... I'm very much just telling myself, 'I'll believe it when I'm like about to walk on stage at the actual show', you know?
No Doubt. Weezer and OutKast. And my dad.
An album that has had the most impact on you?
Probably The Bends, the Radiohead album.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Whoa, Interstellar. I mean that soundtrack is already so epic, but it'd be fun.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Miley. Oh, that's hard. Miley.
A song you would love to cover on tour?
Mm I'm covering a Dominic Fike song on tour. I'm very excited. The song's 3 nights.
First concert you went to?
Uh, I think it was, it was Avril Lavigne. It was so fun. I was fucking obsessed with Avril. Yeah, that was fun.
Best concert you have been to?
Probably Beyonce, me and my sister go every time Beyonce rolls through Phoenix and it's always insane.
First album you ever bought?
It was a Fiona Apple, like 45 and it had like three songs on it. I don't even remember the name, but yeah, I was Fiona Apple.
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
Spice Girl for sure.
What would your spice nickname be?
Ooh, for a while I feel like I resonate the most with Sporty Spice, but if I could come up with my own, I would probably call it like Batty Spice or something. Like I don't fucking know, Sporty Spice is pretty iconic though. I feel like that.
Any Guilty music pleasures? Or an artist you don't feel guilty about it, but other people might look at you and be like, ‘that's a guilty music pleasure’?
Honestly, like all the Hannah Montana songs they're so epic. They're undeniable hits, I'm obsessed with them all.
If you could go on tour with any artist, who would it be?
Oh, um, that's a hard question. Shit. There's so many. I can't even think. I don't know, like Weezer, maybe or like if Gwen did it, Gwen Stefani did a tour, that'd be crazy. Yeah Gwen.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
I think Billie Eilish has like erased the idea of genre completely and it's made it so rad for other artists because now we're just getting to kind of make whatever the fuck we want. So I'm very thankful to her yeah.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Ooh. Um, I don't know. What would I tell my future self? I'd probably tell her, drink some water, stay hydrated and get some sleep and take care of yourself. Right now I'm so in like Lady Jesus world mode that I'm like, I'm not sleeping till the album is out. I'm just like raging. So I feel like I need to tell my future self, to take a chill pill for a second.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I mean I've always wanted to be a musician, but when my parents sat me down, when I was about to graduate high school and they were like, ‘yo, we also don't think you should go to college, like go pursue music.’ I was like, all right, ‘we're doing it, we're full sending’, Like I got my parents support now. Like they fuck with it. I think that was like the biggest, like that's when it became like very real for me. Yeah.
Lady Jesus is out now!