In Advance of Upcoming Grog Shop Show, Alt-Pop Singer UPSAHL Discusses the Themes on Her New Album

Upsahl. - ELAINE TANTRA
Elaine Tantra
Upsahl.
Since her father had played in various punk bands in her hometown of Phoenix, AZ, singer Taylor Cameron Upsahl, who records and performs as UPSAHL, benefited from having parents who supported her musical endeavors.

“I was always surrounded by music, and then, I started going to this performing arts school in downtown Phoenix when I was 10,” says Upsahl via phone from Los Angeles. She brings her tour in support of her new album, Lady Jesus, to the Grog Shop on Saturday, Feb. 19. “My parents were super supportive about me playing shows around Phoenix, and that then led me to moving to L.A.”

Inspired by alt-rock acts such as Weezer and No Doubt, Upsahl started writing what she describes as “really shitty songs” when she was in eighth grade.

“I had written this song that I performed at some talent show at school,” she says. “One of the teachers was like, ‘Yo, that song is really good. You should come and record it.’ That opened up the door for me to start getting into the studio. I recorded an album when I was 12 and kept recording throughout high school.”

After moving to Los Angeles, she cut Hindsight 20/20, an EP she says was “very autobiographical."

"The songs are about living in L.A. and having no friends and being broke,” she says.

Her manager brought the EP to the attention of David Massey, a record exec who was about to re-launch Arista Records. She took a meeting with Massey, and the two hit it off.

“Arista hadn’t even been reopened yet,” says Upsahl. “[Massey] understood what I was trying to do as an artist, and we really got each other. Less than a year later, he asked if I wanted to be the first artist signed to Arista, which he was reopening. It’s cool to have a relationship with a label that’s so iconic. Me and the other artists who have signed have gotten to grow together.”

The songs for Lady Jesus began to come together during the pandemic. Upshal, who went through a bitter breakup, channeled some of her frustration into the first batch of tunes.

“When I started, I thought I was writing a break-up album that was going to be so sad,” she says. “I started writing about how I was feeling that day. I started to get over the dude and just growing as a person. The lyrical content of my songs grew with that. I knew I was going to make an album, but I didn’t know how it would end. Then, I wrote ‘Lady Jesus’ and realized I was happy again. And the lightbulb went off, and I realized the album was about rebirth.”

Working with a tight-knit production crew meant that Upsahl felt comfortable pushing the boundaries of her sound

“For this album in particular, it was the first time I got to dive in with one crew of producers and writers,” she says. “There was six of us. They’re some of my really good friends too. It was such a great, creative space for me to be in. They got to go through the break-up with me. They got to hear about my shitshow of a life everyday. It was a fun process.”

“Notorious,” a tune that finds Upsahl capably shifting between vocal fry rapping and falsetto-like singing, features percolating synths and echoing background vocals.

“I didn’t think I was writing ['Notorious'] for myself,” says Upshal, who has penned tunes for Dua Lipa and Madison Beer. “I was doing something with my friends who write a lot of songs on the album. It was the middle of COVID, and we did a quarantine writing camp together before going into the studio. I was so bummed on life but trying to have a good time. We saw the word ‘Notorious.’ It turned us into writing a song that I didn’t know I needed at the time. I fell in love with the song even though we didn’t think of it for me in the beginning. We just kept coming back to it, and I realized it needed to be on the album.”

The infectious “Sunny D” verges on musical chaos as Upsahl and Elijah Noll trade verses over a ratcheting bass riff.

“We wrote that song the same day we wrote ‘Notorious,’” says Upsahl. “It was just for fun. We thought no one would put it out. [Noll] originally sang the whole thing. I kept coming back to it. I tried redoing the vocals all my own. I realized that I needed to keep the majority of his vocals in the song, and I put my shit in there, and it was like a little collab. His vocals on it were too good to take off.”

For the live show, Upsahl has recruited a guitarist she says is “amazing” along with a drummer who “shreds,” as she puts it.

“A lot of the stuff you hear on the records is translated to guitar for the live show,” she says. “There’s this great live element that you get to hear at the show that’s not on the record. It’s really high energy. It’s been about two years of us not going to shows, so we made our shows go extra hard now because people really want to rage. I’m so excited.”

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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