When I think of UPSAHL, the first thing that comes to mind is unapologetic baddass-ery, and lots of fun. Her music is upbeat and catchy–the kind of songs that get stuck in your head for weeks–and powerful, with lyrics you want to scream at the top of your lungs. UPSAHL released her debut album, Lady Jesus, in 2021, and is now embarking on her aptly named This Is My First Headline Tour, indicating the start of a thrilling new era in her blossoming career. The tour will stop in Nashville on October 8th, at The End, and I spoke with UPSAHL three days before the tour’s first show to get a sense for what fans can expect. One thing was immediately obvious – her enthusiasm was off the charts. “Literally insane,” was the first thing she said when I asked how she felt about the upcoming shows, “I’m just really, really ready and so excited.”
Was there a difference, I wondered, between the buildup to a headline tour as opposed to previous ones as a supporting act? “I’ve done a couple of headlining shows in the past year that have been my favorite shows I’ve ever done because it’s with my fans […] it just feels like we’re at a party together,” she explained, “I feel like I’m going to see old faces, new faces – I’m just the most excited I’ve ever been for a tour right now.”
In addition to her recent solo projects, UPSAHL has ventured into co-writing in the past couple years, notably, working with Dua Lipa on the Grammy-winning Future Nostalgia and Mike Shinoda on “Happy Endings.” I asked about those experiences, and the transition towards more collaborative work that accompanied her move to LA at age 19. “Starting writing at such a young age, most of the time you’re just doing it alone in your room,” she explained. “Writing with other people is literally the best thing ever because there’s so many ideas that you wouldn’t normally have. Just having another person in the room – it can change a song completely.”
This led me to ask about about UPSAHL’s songwriting process, one which she described as “kind of a weird backwards [method].” She elaborated, “concept, then the beat, then the lyrics…I start at the beginning, then the end, and then fill in the middle.” Her timeline, however, is not set in stone. For example, her most recent single “Antsy,” “went against almost every writing process I’ve done in the past, which is funny.” Originally written as a guitar ballad, UPSAHL attributes the song’s powerful energy to her producer Pete Nappi. “I credit that to him fully,” she told me, “he was just being a producing beast on that one, it was sick.”
“I just sucked at everything and would just always go back to music”
UPSAHL, on her early commitment to music
Throughout our conversation, I was struck by both her passion for, and knowledge of, music. Her music career is one she has pursued since she was young: attending a performing arts school from age nine until graduating from high school. “I think I tried doing some other shit, I was like let’s do gymnastics, soccer, painting, and I just sucked at everything and would just always go back to music,” she explained. How, I asked, did she hold on to her obvious love for music when it became a part of her education and, eventually, her career?
“The feeling of being on stage and performing to a room of like minded people who just are down to rage and have a good time listening to my music […] that’s the most magical rewarding thing in the world,” she responded.
We talked about the experience of making Lady Jesus, which stands out for both its contagious energy and powerful lyrics. “That was honestly just a coping mechanism,” she admitted. “I was feeling so shitty for the year I was making this album, but I would go into the studio and be like ok – if someone else was feeling the way I’m feeling right now, what’s a song they would want to listen to that would make them feel better or make them feel heard or seen?”
Of all the songs on the album, she told me that “Lunatic” stands out as one of the most memorable. “It’s such an insanely unapologetic song about wanting to act like a lunatic and go fucking apeshit on someone. I never really thought it would see the light of day because it was so intense, I was honestly kind of embarrassed by some of the things I was saying,” UPSAHL said. However, that embarassment eventually made way for confidence and pride. “The decision, I think, to put it out and just be like no, that’s how I felt, I don’t care if it’s embarrassing or not,” she emphasized, “that was a proud moment for me.”
This dedication to authenticity is evident throughout UPSAHL’s work, bringing a sense of vulnerability to her music. She told me that she gets “a little too emotional,” when she hears that her songs resonate with fans across the world. “That we could connect without even knowing each other is so insane – that’s the whole reason I do music,” she said.
“Learning to not care and just fully try to be my most authentic self has been the most freeing thing for my music, and I’m hoping that it’s rubbing off on my fans.”
UPSAHL on her authenticity
UPSAHL has been working on this attitude for a long time. “[It] is such a process and I’m still on that journey, but I think I’m a lot further along than I was even like a year ago,” she told me, “learning to not really care about what other people think…as an artist, or just a creative in like any medium, [that] is going to be the thing that pushes your career forward.”
“I think people naturally want to be around, and listen to, and be a part of something that feels like nobody there is judging each other…learning to not care and just fully try to be my most authentic self has been the most freeing thing for my music, and I’m hoping that it’s rubbing off on my fans.”
UPSAHL’s dedication to both her craft and her fans all but guarantees that This Is My First Headline Tour will be a head-banging, self-empowering, smashing success – there is no doubt that Nashville has something to look forward to on October 8th. “I always have a great time in Nashville,” she told me, “I am very excited for that show.” I wholeheartedly share this excitement!
Listen to Lady Jesus here: