From Punk Roots to Global Stages: UPSAHL’s Sonic Odyssey

In the vibrant world of music, UPSAHL emerges as a dynamic force, seamlessly blending genres and infusing each creation with a distinctive charm. Today, we sit down with UPSAHL to unravel the layers of her musical journey, from the eclectic landscapes of Phoenix, Arizona, to the international stages alongside artists like Melanie Martinez and Madison Beer.

Growing up surrounded by the raw energy of punk, UPSAHL’s early years in the music scene were shaped by the eclectic influences of her father’s punk bands and the tight-knit community of Phoenix. Now a rising star in the industry, she takes us on a journey through her evolution, from the indie alternative gems of her debut album “Lady Jesus” to the holiday-themed magic of “SNOWGLOBE.”

As we delve into the creative process behind her festive tracks and explore the essence of her recent project, “THE PHX TAPES,” UPSAHL reflects on the freedom of genre-bending and the joy of experimenting in the studio. From the intimate moments of glam sessions to the adrenaline-pumping live performances on her current tour, UPSAHL shares the highs and magic that define her artistic vision.

Join us as we navigate through the highs and lows, the inspirations and aspirations, that have shaped UPSAHL’s artistic identity. From the 90s-inspired fashion choices to dream collaborations, we uncover the intricate threads that weave her music, fashion, and life into a tapestry of creative expression.

In this exclusive interview, UPSAHL invites us into her world, offering insights into the stories behind her music, the collaborative spirit of songwriting, and the profound impact of live performances. So, let’s embark on this musical journey, guided by the infectious energy and genuine passion of UPSAHL.

Thank you for being here today. Firstly, how has your day been so far? Thanks for having me! Today has been epic so far. I’m surrounded by such a rad team of creatives, and it feels like we just get to have fun and play with looks, which is my favourite type of day on set.

Is there a positive moment or experience from today that you’d like to share with us? My favourite moment from today was getting my glam done. I’m in the middle of a tour right now, and when I’m touring, I only ever really get ready if I’m about to go on stage (where I sweat off all my makeup anyway), so any excuse to get glammed up does magical things for my mental health.

Let’s delve into your background. Being born in the U.S., can you paint a picture of what it was like growing up there? If you had the opportunity to live anywhere else in the world, where would it be, and what draws you to that place?

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. My dad was in punk bands, so there was this constant amount of music surrounding me since birth. His bandmates would literally crash on my living room couch! My mom owns a rad sandwich shop, and I worked there a bunch as a kid. I went to a performing arts school from 10 to 18 and learned a lot about creating music and performing on stage. Oh, and I have a younger sister who sells my merch on tour and a younger brother who started a dope-ass band! We had a tight-knit community in Phoenix, and I spent a lot of time going to shows growing up. I fucking love living in LA now, but if I had all the money in the world and could live anywhere, I think I would just run away to Lake Como, Italy, and build a studio in my house, and just chill by the lake all day.

Reflecting on your school years, can you tell me about your experience? Were you more inclined to have a wide circle of friends, or did you prefer a more reserved approach?

Because I went to a small performing arts school, I grew up in a pretty small community where we all were pretty uplifting of each other. Within that community, I met my best friends who are still my ride-or-die today. I feel like in the music industry, it’s nice to have a couple of people in your life that will call you out on your shit, tell you if they hate a song you wrote, or keep you grounded when you’re touring, so I’m really grateful that I have those people from my childhood.

At what point in your life did you discover that music was your true passion? Was there a particular moment or age that stands out in your journey towards realizing your love for music?

There was never really a moment where I was like “I’m going to do music.” I grew up in a very musical family, my dad being in punk bands, so music became the biggest part of my personality from the time I could start talking. I was constantly singing, and picking up random instruments, my dad started teaching me guitar, and my grandma started teaching me piano when I was 5, and I was obsessed from a young age. So obsessed that my parents found an arts school for me to go to, and by the time I graduated high school, I had released music and had been playing shows consistently for about 5 years. By the time I had to “decide what to do for a career,” it felt like this was my only option, or else I would be wildly unhappy. There’s a sort of magic to full sending it into music without a backup plan. It wasn’t about wanting to do music; it was about needing music.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your first-ever Christmas project, SNOWGLOBE, and what made you decide to release holiday-themed songs?

Whenever I’m in a session and our initial idea isn’t working, sometimes I’ll just say “Fuck it, let’s write a holiday song!” Throughout the past few years of that happening, I’ve wound up with a handful of holiday songs that I love. I’ve toyed with the idea of putting out holiday songs in the past, but it felt like it really made sense for THE PHX TAPES. The whole point of this project was for each volume to feel different from the last, to have fun and experiment with songwriting, which is what I was doing for both of these holiday tracks. Both of them are about how important being home in Phoenix for the holidays is to me, which made a lot of sense for a project dedicated to Phoenix.

How does SNOWGLOBE differ from your previous work, especially considering the holiday theme?

It’s very different – I think that’s the whole point! As an artist, sometimes it’s easy to want to shy away from the lovey-dovey cheesy shit for the sake of being “cool,” but during the holidays, every ounce of “coolness” exits my body, I become hyper-emotional and grateful, and I just want to be basic, sitting around a fire with my family eating homemade cookies – sorry not sorry lol.

Let’s dive into the tracks. Could you share the story behind “Snowglobe” and “Pick Up Where We Left Off?” What emotions or experiences influenced these songs?

They both involve a similar theme of being home for the holidays. I feel like whenever I go home in December, every problem I have sort of fades away for a second, and I get to just be fully present with the people I don’t always get to see. Getting to end the year like that really puts life into perspective.

How did you approach the creative process for these festive tracks, both musically and lyrically?

For SNOWGLOBE, we wanted the production to feel like those classic holiday songs that we all know and love, which is where the guitars came into play. The lyrics are about blocking the rest of the world out and just existing in your version of a “snowglobe.” It’s an idealistic take on what the holidays feel like to me.

On PICK-UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF, we wanted it to feel like what a walk through the forest in the snow would feel like. Lyrically, it’s about seeing those people that you don’t always get to see. There are so many people in my life (friends and family) where no matter how long we go without talking, we pick up right where we left off every time the holidays roll around.

Your recent release, THE PHX TAPES, showcased a different style. How did you transition from that project to creating a holiday-themed one like SNOWGLOBE?

The whole point of THE PHX TAPES was that I wanted the project to be as genre-bending as possible. That sort of freedom gave me the space to just experiment and have fun in the studio while writing all of these songs.

Being currently on tour with Melanie Martinez and Madison Beer, how has the experience been so far, and what are you most looking forward to in terms of connecting with fans during these performances? Additionally, can you give us a glimpse into the energy and atmosphere fans can expect at your live shows on this tour?

I’m wrapping up the European tour with Melanie Martinez right now, and it’s been fucking magic. Not only does she inspire the shit out of me, but her fans are so sweet and kind and high energy. Sometimes as an opener, you never really know what to expect from the audience, but everybody on this tour has been down to go wild with us so far. I’m going on tour with Madison Beer in the US next year and I have a feeling it will be a similar sort of experience… All of these baddies that I’ve had the honor of touring with have cultivated the most loving fan bases, and it makes every show so fun for me as an opener. As far as what to expect at my live show, be ready to rage lol. Regardless of the genre of the song, my live set is pretty rock-inspired, and it’s constructed to feel like a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Your musical journey has seen a variety of styles, from your earlier indie alternative gems to the holiday-themed SNOWGLOBE. How would you describe the evolution of your sound and style over the years?

My music has changed a lot over the years, and I hope it continues to do so. One of the privileges of being a songwriter is that I get to write whatever type of song I want to on any given day. Sometimes I’ll hear a song from another artist that will inspire me to make something in that vein, or I’ll think of a concept that I haven’t talked about before, and then I get to turn it into a song. Because of that sort of spontaneity in writing, the evolution of my sound and my style is super in line with my own personal evolution and my life.

You’ve been involved in co-writing for several artists. How does the collaborative songwriting process influence your music, and what do you enjoy most about working with other artists? Are there specific artists on your dream collaboration list that you’re eager to work with?

Any chance I get to write with another artist, I always leave the session feeling super hype. It’s always fun to help tell somebody else’s story, rather than always telling my own – it forces me out of my comfort zone and gives me a new perspective. Getting to see other artists’ writing processes and watching how they bring their own visions to life gives me new ways for me to do that for my own project. My dream collaboration always has and will always be Doja Cat. I’m going to say that in every single interview until it happens 😉

Your distinct style is evident both online and in your visuals. Could you share some insights into the influences that shape your fashion choices?

I’m inspired by the 90s. I grew up idolizing Gwen Stefani – everything she wore during the 90s and the early 2000s was so “punk meets pop princess.” I try to harness that sort of energy now, where I get to play with my masculine and feminine sides. Some days I wake up and want to dress up in full glam, and others, no makeup and the baggiest clothes in my closet make me feel the most sexy. To me, making a fashion choice that is in line with how you’re feeling in that moment is the best thing you can do.

In your perspective, is fashion an extension of your artistic expression, and how does it play a role in conveying your identity as an artist?

Fashion is a major part of my artistic expression. When writing songs, I am always picturing myself in a music video at the same time. What does the colouring look like, what am I wearing, what does my makeup look like, where is the setting? To me, the visual component of music is there to elevate the audio component, so my goal is to build a world that combines those two things. For example, for THE PHX TAPES, I wanted the whole project to feel very rough around the edges, sort of how you’d feel when you think of a mixtape. When I was picturing “the mixtape era,” my mind immediately went to tracksuits. Old Adidas and North Face and Nike tracksuits were so iconic, so I decided that tracksuits would be my “uniform” for this project.

Looking back at your career so far, what would you consider as some of the most significant milestones or highlights, and how have they shaped your artistic vision?

My first headline tour and playing one of the main stages at Lollapalooza this year are definitely highlights for me. I grew up wanting to tour, so getting to tour around the world, playing all headline shows for a few months was an absolute dream… The feeling of knowing that the people in the room got tickets because they like your music is unmatched. Lollapalooza was a highlight because I played the smallest stage a few years back, and at the time I thought that was the coolest show of my life, so getting to come back and play the main stage felt like such a full circle moment for me. Aside from those specific moments, I have little “holy fuck, how is this my life” moments regularly. Sometimes there will be a few seconds during a random show I’m playing that will just send me straight out of the body, or sometimes I’ll be in a writing session with an artist I’ve looked up to for years, or I’ll just be waking up in LA getting ready to head to a session, and I’ll just remember that this is the exact life I wanted when I was a kid. It’s really easy to get caught up in the bullshit of life and career shit, but learning to compare myself to where I was even a year ago has kept me in love with music.

Your debut album, “Lady Jesus” and the Sagittarius EP received positive acclaim. How do these projects reflect your artistic identity, and what themes or messages were you exploring in these releases?

I wrote the Lady Jesus album when I was going through a breakup. I started writing what I thought was going to be a breakup album, and then as I grew and healed, it turned into a bit of a rebirth album. This was the first time I got to really lock in with a team of creatives for a project. Getting to celebrate an album that you made with some of your closest friends is one of the best feelings in the world. When I made Sagittarius, it was my first time in life that I was writing from a place of feeling really secure in myself. Each song covered a different aspect of my personality, the good and the bad, so the project became a taster for who I was as a person and as an artist.

You’ve performed at major festivals and had an extensive international tour. How does your approach to live performances contribute to your overall artistic expression?

At the end of the day, I grew up listening to punk and rock music, so regardless of where my music takes me genre-wise, I’ll always want my live show to feel like a rock show. Having a live band is really important to me, and I’ll always try to incorporate playing a little bit of guitar, piano, and bass (the instruments I grew up on/the instruments that made me fall in love with music). However, as much as I’d like to make the live show about me and my influences, it’s really about building the “perfect” experience for my fans. People go to live shows to escape whatever else is going on in their lives, so if I can take them away and on an energetic and emotional journey for a part of their day, my job is done.

What can fans expect from UPSAHL in the future? Are there any new projects or collaborations in the works that you can share with us?

I’m super excited to go on tour with Madison Beer next year and after that, there might be a UPSAHL tour and maybe a new album 😉

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