Bishop Briggs On Choosing Authenticity Over Genres

Bishop Briggs is not an artist you're going to be pin down easily. The LA-based singer, who has lived in Hong-Kong, Tokyo and the UK, has a sound as varied as her background all tied together by a voice that could bring down a small army. 

Briggs' debut, self-titled EP, released this year, sees her pair bluesy stompers (River) with rumbling R&B (The Way I Do) and yet she somehow bring it together with a passion and drive unrivalled by many new artists. It's probably because of this that there's no box that totally fits her with the singer doing everything from charting in the rock charts to supporting Coldplay and featuring on R&B blogs.

This week, she'll make the step from self-described "obnoxious tourist" to performer, visiting Australia for the second time in her life. She's performing at Splendour In The Grass, supporting Catfish and the Bottlemen and playing some of her own headline shows, giving local audiences a chance to hear that voice in its natural habitat. We had a chat with her ahead of her visit about authenticity, releasing music in real-time and her ridiculously varied influences.

Are you excited to come down here?
Oh my gosh, I can't wait. I've been to Australia before but just as a very obnoxious tourist when I was 10 or 11. I can't wait to go back, hopefully redeem myself and play some shows.

So you can focus on really seeing the rough cuts of Australia?

Yeah, I'm excited for that (laughs).

Have you spent a lot of the year on the road?
Yeah. It's been a really crazy year. We just finished our first ever headline tour which was really fun and a whole new experience. It's so exciting having people singing the music back to you and just a whole new world.

It must be nice to have an EP out that people are listening to as a full project and be able to take that on the road with you?
Yeah, it's so exciting. And I think my favourite part about releasing it to, a few of my favourite songs like The Fire and Dark Side they were written a couple months before it was released. They're so fresh so to be able to perform them and release them with a quicker turnaround is so refreshing.

Not many people get to do that these days. There are albums coming out years after the songs were written. Is this the way you'd like to do things moving forward?
Yeah. If it were up to me all the music would be released yesterday. There would be no plan, there would be no correct timing but I am releasing that with all of this, there's some power in having things have their moment and having the stories be told at that moment. It was really special for me to release the EP because it's something that represents what's happening in my life right now but I truly can't wait to release an album one day soon.

Do you still feel the same enthusiasm for songs that came out two years ago when you're performing them?
Yes! If you come to the show you'll see it's quite an emotional rollercoaster. Whenever I hear the songs it brings me back to when I was writing them. It's kind of the opposite of therapy. People say when you perform your music it's very therapeutic but in this weird way, you're just reliving your pain every night and you feel like you're a mad woman telling the stories over and over. But in some way there is a release that comes with that that can be very helpful.

It's one things to release songs on the internet and read people's opinions about very personal things but it's another thing to take it to stage and look fans in the eyes. Has that been something you've had to get used to?

Before this crazy, year I was performing in LA every couple nights at a café and then this crazy year happened. It was so helpful in this weird training process because I would just perform my original music. I would perform music I had written a couple days before and I kind of had the toughest audience which is people that are trying to drink their coffee and work on their script. Now I can look people in the eyes when I'm telling these stories. It's actually really refreshing.

How gratifying is it to go from those shows to then having people paying to see you?
I definitely am still trying to wrap my head around it. I've said this before, even if everyone in the crowd is wearing our merch, I won't believe anyone is there to see me and that's probably something I have to get through. In a weird way, it's a good mentality to have. I still feel as if I have so much to prove and I owe it to the people in front of me to be authentic and be genuine everytime I perform.

Performing Coachella must have been huge for year. How was that experience for you, having people choose to be at your stage over seven or eight others?
I know, I have no idea. It was an incredible experience. It's always been a dream of mine to pay it. We had a time slow change. We were supposed to perform in the afternoon but we got pushed to perform at 8pm and there was something about having Jack Garratt go on before us that was so inspiring. He's an artist that I look up to so much. It truly was a completely different crowd because of this insane sequence of events. The sun was setting behind us, there were palm trees, it was truly a dream come true.

BB 2

Reading through your bio, you're a hard artist to pin down. You were born in the UK, then moved to Tokyo and Hong-Kong and ended up in LA but your parents grew up in Scotland. Your musical influences are all over the place too. How did that upbringing filter into your music?
I do think it has a lot to do with what's being played in your living room. Growing up, my parents were huge motown fans so I was listening to a lot of Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Otis Redding. Then that transformed into Janis Joplin and The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. It's hard because it's all i've ever known but I do think when you grow up in those places it can only help your creativity because there is such an energy. But it will always come down to what's getting played at home.

Is your music collection just as eclectic still?
Oh yeah. It's all over the place. I would say that it's a permanent mix of indie, depressing songwriters and hip-hop. They're very contrasting but I think the one commonality that both these genres have is authenticity and really being raw and unfiltered. That's what I'm always trying to be.

Your music has made the rock charts but it's also on R&B blogs and on commercial stations. Is it nice to see your music transcending boundaries?
It means so much to me. I think we are in this really cool generation and time of music where there really aren't limitations and there are a lot of artists that I couldn't really categorise. It's all up to interpretation and I really like that because maybe instead of being someone that would only look at the rock charts maybe if they're an artist that's across multiple genres, now you're tapping into a whole other genre that you didn't even think you'd be interested in.

Has that opened you up to a myriad of different experiences? You've supported Coldplay but you're also supporting Catfish & The Bottlemen here.
Just the fact that you've named both of them. I'm not trying to dumb myself down but they are all the goals. That's the best line I can say. I'm so thankful for it. I think I've been so blessed this year and I can't wait for that show in Australia, it's going to be so fun.

One of the big shows will be Splendour In The Grass. Have you heard much about the festival?
Oh yes. I have heard a lot. I have been really looking forward to this. I have a few friends that are in Australia and they pretty much died when they found out. They told me every single detail about everything I would enjoy. And then when the lineup came out, they died again. I'm really excited.

Is there anyone in particular that you're excited to check out?
Yeah. I'm definitely going to make use of the time I'm there. I'm there for at least the day I'm playing and hopefully the next day. I know Maggie Rogers is playing, The xx, Lil Yachty...I can't wait to see all these people in this setting of beautiful Australia.

Your voice is a total knockout but when do you open your mouth and realise you can sing? It seems like something that is very hard to hide.
You're very sweet, thank you. Growing up, I just loved music so much. I had a relentless confidence from my parents. I was not one of those singers that came out sounding like Christina Aguilera, you know when you see videos of her when she's seven and she sounds like she does now. The only thing I can say is I truly felt my soul was fulfilled every time I sang. It really was this interesting time because it wasn't about necessarily sounding good because I feel that it's up to interpretation. When you truly don't feel that your soul is fulfilled unless you're doing something, you have to do it regardless of whether or not the world thinks it's good. If that's your purpose you have to do it. The only think I will say is I have always been loud.

Bishop Briggs Australian Headline Dates


Thursday, 20th July
Oxford Art Factory

Friday, 21st July

Tix & details here.