Lollapalooza 2019 Artist Interview: UPSAHL is wise beyond her years

Upsahl in "Drugs" (YouTube.com)

UPSAHL is changing pop for the better at the age of 19. The young singer, born Taylor Upsahl, is bringing pop back to what it was before radio stations started giving the most airtime to homogeny.

She was discovered by Max Frost after covering one of his songs. Frost “doesn’t really try to follow rules with production, and that’s why we were able to find a unique sound…that’s in the alt world, but also in the pop world.” He, too, is new on the music scene, having also made his first Lollapalooza appearance Thursday.

But UPSAHL explained that observing other artists mixing genres into their songs has informed her journey through the industry. “Billie Eilish is doing this crazy mixture of all these different things, and it’s become like her own genre,” UPSAHL said, adding, “We need more people like her, who are willing to push boundaries.” Billie Eilish is 17 and UPSAHL is 19. She hopes that as her career grows, she’ll stay authentic. UPSAHL wants to communicate transparency through her music.

On her first Lollapalooza appearance, UPSAHL expressed that she didn’t expect nearly as many people to show up and sing along to her songs. “It felt like I was just, like, at a dance party with my friends…we were all kind of, like, making eye contact,” adding, “I forgot the words at one point and they helped me figure them out.”

From the moment UPSAHL got the [early morning] call that she’d been booked for Lollapalooza, she aimed to bring her Chicago audience a party, and she celebrates that vision having come to reality. Regardless of that, her party song, “Drugs” isn’t actually about drugs.

In pursuit of her music dream, this teen moved from Phoenix to Los Angeles alone. And in an effort to make friends, she attended some parties. This song laments the disingenuous people she’s come across, using “drugs” as a metaphor to describe a following, or on the contrary, friends.

“A lot of people show up to things either for the Instagram photo to say they were there, or to stunt on their new materialistic s***. It’s a clout-chasing game,” she said. So instead of dwelling on her frustration to make connections, she wrote it into “Drugs.”

At the age of 19, UPSAHL has looked past the LA trope of glamour, which is oftentimes a mask. Her positive attitude has built her a career in an industry that’s known for “chewing up and spitting out” its subjects. “I feel like it’s more just knowing yourself, and only hanging out with people that make you feel like a good version of yourself.”

Even though UPSAHL admits that social media can complicate her relationships, she recognizes that her musical community has been a good support system.

I bonded with UPSAHL over our enjoyment of Tame Impala’s performance Friday night, and she told me that she was also looking forward to seeing Russo play the same stage that christened her Lollapalooza experience. Plus, she looked forward to hearing Bea Miller and Pink Sweat$. “I’m trying to run to as many people as I can while I’m here, you know? It’s been fun.”

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