The music biz is terrible for dressing up ‘networking’ ‘events’ as fun-time parties, full of booze and music but also people who want to know exactly who you are, what you do, and how they might be able to use you to further whatever it is they’re doing. It’s a sentiment LA songwriter and pop up-and-comer UPSAHL absolutely nails with her new single ‘People I Don’t Like’. “Not gonna lie,” she says, “I was a little tipsy the day I wrote ‘People I Don’t Like’. I had just come from an industry party and started ranting about the stereotypical shitty people that were there. Essentially, people that I don’t like. Then I realised that I was at that party too, haha!” It’s two and a half minutes of on-the-nose sass that – in addition to recent hits, ‘12345SEX’ and ‘Smile For The Camera’, and co-writes on the likes of Dua Lipa’s new album – shows her to be a pretty special talent, with undoubtedly big things to come.
Hi UPSAHL, how’s it going? Are you having a good day?
Hey! I actually am having a good day, thank you. Just released my new single ‘People I Don’t Like’, and putting out new music always puts me in a good mood.
It sounds like you had a really musical upbringing – is there much overlap between the music you grew up around, and the music you create now?
Yeah, my dad was in punk bands all throughout my childhood, so I was surrounded by the punk music scene since I could remember. I definitely think that it has carried over into the music I make today. I love taking a grungy guitar or bass line and writing the song from there, and I think it’s because of the riffs I listened to when I was a kid.
Can you remember the first song you ever wrote?
The first song I wrote was called ‘Disturbance’. I was twelve when I made it, and it was the most emo, dramatic song ever. I was also an extremely happy kid, so when my parents heard I made a song called ‘Disturbance’, they were like, “What the fuck, where did this come from?” Haha!
What were your first steps to becoming a professional musician, how did you break into the industry?
The Phoenix music scene really embraced me at an early age. My music started to get played on a local radio station, and I was being offered opportunities to open for national touring acts that were coming through, including an opp to play a pretty big festival. Around that time, I met my managers. I decided to skip college and move to LA where the global creative community is and hit the ground running. I think I wrote like 200 songs the first year I lived there.
What sort of things did you study at Arizona School for the Arts? Would you recommend formal performing arts education?
Hell yes! Going to ASA put me on the path to get to where I am today. I studied choir, classical piano and guitar. I definitely feel like having a classical background has helped me have a different perspective on songwriting. It was like music boot camp. The culture of an arts school is also so supportive and encouraging to young artists, so I’m stoked I got to grow up in that environment.
How are you finding LA, it must be an exciting place to live?
When I first moved here almost three years ago, I hated LA. I found it really hard to meet new people; I still was figuring out what kind of music I wanted to make, who I was, while navigating such an unforgiving city. Once I found my people and figured my own shit out, I completely fell in love with LA. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else now.
Does the city’s vibe feed into the music you make?
Totally. I write songs based on random shit that happens to me throughout the day, so whether it’s meeting some fake ass people, relationship drama, or trying to make it in a city where everyone is trying to make it. My songs are definitely influenced by LA.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently wrapping up my second EP that comes out later this summer/early fall! I’m also writing with/for other artists and a couple of movies. I got into the flow of writing songs over Zoom when quarantine hit pretty quickly. This is the most excited I’ve been about making music ever.
You sometimes write for other people, right? How do those opportunities come up?
Yes! Initially, some songs that I wrote for myself found their way into other artist’s hands, but lately I’ve been writing specifically for other artists, which has been hella fun too! If you had told me five years ago that I would be writing songs for some of my favourite artists, I would have freaked the fuck out, so I just feel honoured for any chance I get to be a part of another artist’s project.
Music aside, what do you do for fun?
Before 2020 went to shit, I had this plan to learn/try a new thing every month. I attempted to learn how to skateboard, jumped out of a plane, and then we got put on lockdown haha. So I’ve been painting a lot in quarantine, and I just started to get back into surfing.
Anything else we should know?
Wear your fucking masks! Black Lives Matter! Take care of yourself and your mental health because 2020 is not being very kind to us, and stay tuned for new music.
UPSAHL’s single ‘People I Don’t Like’ is out now.