Story / Catherine Santino
“What’s with the rent this month? Why can’t I afford it?” I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely something I’ve texted my best friend – more than once. It also happens to be the opening lyric from rising pop singer UPSAHL’s debut EP, Hindsight 20/20. The Phoenix-born musician has a knack for writing lyrics that read like a vent session with a friend, and that’s what fans love about her.
At just 19-years-old, Taylor Upsahl moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career. In 2018, she began releasing singles leading up to her debut EP, which dropped earlier this year. But Hindsight 20/20 isn’t what you’d expect from a young pop singer. Instead of lamenting unrequited love, UPSAHL gets real about anxiety, paying the rent, and fake people in LA. It’s a refreshing change of pace, made even more satisfying by her standout vocals and impeccable pop sensibility.
Her brand new single, “Wish You’d Make Me Cry”, is out now. The track is a bit of a different direction for UPSAHL, given that it’s centered on a relationship. “It’s about being with someone who is so good to you that it almost seems fake,” UPSAHL says. She wrote the bass-heavy banger with LA writer and producer Pete Nappi, and says the song was born out of her venting to him about her situation. “At one point, I think I said something along the lines of ‘I just wish that he would make me cry’,” she says. “We wrote the song within an hour after that.”
I recently caught up with UPSAHL at a showcase in Louisville, Kentucky to hear all about her songwriting process, adjusting to the “brutal city” of LA, and why she’s stayed away from romance in her music.
Your EP, Hindsight 20/20, touches on a lot of important things going on with our generation: financial struggle, mental health, etc. Tell me about the process of writing it.
I wrote the EP over the course of the first year that I was living in LA. It’s a brutal city, you know, cause everyone does music and it’s really difficult to find your people. I learned so much about what it was like to be alone and how to be okay with that and my relationships and my friendships were changing and you’re meeting all these new people and it was just an emotional rollercoaster of a year.
Basically, I was doing sessions every day and writing songs every day during all of that. So sessions became like therapy for me. However I was feeling like if I was like, ‘Oh fuck, like I’m running so low on money, like let me tell the person I’m in a session about it,’ and then we’d just like write a song about it. So that the EP is very representative of my last year. I think that’s why so many people relate to it. Because we’re all going to share the same shit, you know?
In addition to great lyrics and melodies you also have very strong vocals, which I think is somewhat rare in a pop musician. When did you realize that you were a singer? Was singing always something you wanted to do?
I was just kind of born into it; I was singing before I could talk. We had a band room in the house and I had a little stage built for me when I was like four. I was just always doing music and then my parents put me in this performing art school when I was 10 and I did that until I graduated high school. It was never a question of like, ‘What’s Taylor going to do with her life?’ Everyone just knew I wanted to do music.
When you eventually moved to LA, did you ever have a moment of ‘Oh my god, is this the right choice?’
Totally. I feel like everyone goes through that. It’s really easy to when you move to a city that’s so saturated with people who are pursuing the same things as you. It’s really easy to start comparing where you’re at to where other people are at and like I got into a really toxic mindset for a second.
It’s so easy to just be like, ‘Well fuck so-and-so. I only have this amount of songs and they’re doing way better than me.’ It’s so easy to freak out about that. But I think that one of the biggest things I learned this year was to just compare where you are now to where you were a year ago and that’s just the best feeling and makes me feel so lucky. I just love what I get to do now.
You lyrics are very raw and real, almost conversational. Is that an instinctual way of writing for you?
When I started songwriting, I was writing the deepest shit and I was like ‘I don’t even know what this means.’ And then when I started to experience life and go through these crazy experiences I wanted in my songs to be like you’re just listening to me vent about my life. And it’s really easy working with other people to let that happen. Cause you’ll say something and if you say it in a cool way, like, ‘Oh yeah, all my friends are rich’ it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a song title.’ So yeah, I feel like happens naturally, but now I try a bit harder to make sure people can get what I’m trying to say.
It’s very typical for songwriters to make a whole album about a relationship, but your EP is more about life experiences, anxiety, and other topics outside of romance. Was it important for you to stay away from songs about relationships?
I feel like a lot of go-tos are like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna write about this relationship or love and heartbreak’, and yeah, those songs are amazing and it’s really good to get your feelings out, but like my life doesn’t rely on like a relationship or someone I’m with. I want [my songs] to be about me and what I’m going through. So yeah, it was important to me to make sure that I’m not always just writing songs about other people or my relationships. I want people to learn about me and my music, not who I’m with.
UPSAHL 2019 TOUR DATES
7.31 Chicago Chop Shop (Official Lollapalooza Aftershow) #
8.02 Chicago Lollapalooza
8.07 Los Angeles School Night presents at Gold Diggers
8.11 Phoenix Comerica Theater ^
8.27 Houston White Oak Music Hall *
8.28 Austin Stubb’s *
8.29 Dallas House of Blues *
9.04 San Diego House of Blues *
9.05 Santa Ana Constellation Room *
# Supporting Shallou
^ Supporting Young The Giant & Fitz and The Tantrums
* Supporting Tessa Violet
You can purchase tickets on UPSAHL’s website.
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