UPSAHL "In the last few years, my life lined up in a way where I started to burn out on the writing front. So when I got to go on the road and tour for a few months when I returned, I was utterly inspired."
Alice Gee | 10/06/2023
As I Interrupt Taylor Cameron UPSAHL as she packs for her imminent flight to Europe later that afternoon, Taylor seems excited as she pops up on Zoom. With an overcast LA in the background, I'm pleased to tell her that England is surprisingly coming up trumps in weather with a mini heat wave in play.
'Thank god I need some sun,' she admits, 'I'm forever packing late.' As someone who prides herself on being organised, I'm not much better at packing on time. Having amassed almost 500 million combined streams and tastemaker support over the years, UPSAHL is here to slay. Since collaborating with artists including Anne-Marie, and Little Mix, amongst others, she is no stranger to pop triumphs, and just like her track "My Time To Shine," UPSAHL continues to make strides with the release of new music and her highly anticipated cassette ep releasing later this year. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, we dive straight in as I ask about her musical childhood and growing up watching her dad's punk rock band.
U: I grew up in a musical family. My dad was in punk bands throughout my childhood. So I was always watching him do his thing, band practice, and a few shows I could attend, as most were at clubs. I remember watching my dad play, thinking he's a fucking rock star, and I want to do that. So we had a band room in the house from a very young age. So I naturally started gravitating toward guitar and piano. My family was very supportive of that. There was never really a moment where I decided I wanted to do music. For as long as I can remember, it was always the most significant part of my identity. So my parents put me in a performing arts school when I was 10. And I stayed there until I graduated High School. It was always the only thing I was good at, the only thing I liked to do. So when it came to a career, there was no other option. In my mind, it was music.
A: Trying to figure out who you are and want to be, let alone as a teen, can be daunting, so it's nice to hear how you gravitated toward music. There's nothing worse than being stuck in something you don't love. It must have been weirdly relaxing regarding identity, knowing who you are.
U: I think it's hard being so young, trying to figure out who the fuck you are and what you want to do. I had no idea what was going on most of the time, but the one constant was music for me. So it was 100% a guiding light, especially during turbulent times in my life.
A: I'm with you. I'm holding out for my 30s as I've only heard good things about them and identity. Producing is no mean feat in any situation. How was it self-producing your music? Did you get to know yourself and your sound better?
U: When I did, I did during COVID because there was no other option. Because I couldn't get into the studio, I had to teach myself how to record for the first time. Growing up, I always used GarageBand, the only way I knew how to record as a kid. And so when COVID came around, and I wasn't able to, like, get in the studio with my producers, I was like, well fuck, how are we going to finish these songs? And so I went and started using Logic.
A: It still couldn't have been the easiest option! You've got two new singles, 'Wet White T-Shirt" and "Sick Little Mind," coming out Friday. It must be exciting to release two. Have you been looking forward to dropping them?
U: Definitely! This whole year of releasing music was fun for me because I got to put out two songs, which is a result. After all, when I returned from the tour at the beginning of the year, I was in the studio constantly. I felt the most inspired I've felt in a very long time. I had all the songs I loved, and I was like, will we get these all out? So my team and I constructed this plan of doing Side A and B, which got me thinking about cassettes and like the 90s. We decided to do two songs every month and a half, leading to a mixtape that we're releasing on cassette at the end of the year. It's been cool. It's called the Phoenix Tapes. I wanted it to feel like how I felt when I started making music in Phoenix, where I had no idea what genre I wanted to do. I was still learning how to write, but such freedom came with that in the studio. I've been trying to harness that. I don't want to put myself into a box. Each song feels so different. They're all in various genres. My next single that comes out Friday is more like a House record. And then the other song that comes out with that is this dark Alt Dancy Pop record. So they're all very different worlds, which has been fun.
A: How have you found this newfound inspiration where you feel the most inspired you have been?
U: Honestly, it's a result of being on the road. It's easy to lock yourself in the studio for a long time to burn out. At least for me, I do. Because I try to write from personal experience, for the most part, to have shit to write about, you have to go out and like live your life. So in the last few years, my life lined up in a way where I started to burn out on the writing front. So when I got to go on the road and tour for a few months when I returned, I was utterly inspired. I did a lot of touring last year. So when I got back in January of this year, I was ready. My notes app is full of concepts I have been collecting for the past six months. I felt like I had been building up to like writing all the songs in the past year for sure.
A: It's nice to hear, it's something a bit different because we speak to people often where they find a studio and being home more calming and a space where they can breathe rather than the other way, so it's nice to hear that it's like a home away from home where you can just be yourself and go out there and do it and not burn out. It can be hard with the adrenaline though and then the next day that feeling of it not being there, before you repeat it.
U: That's such a good point. No one talks enough about how depressing it can be after. It's like a chemical thing in your brain because you get this adrenaline every night. And then one day, it just stops, and then you're making dinner and alone for the first time in a long time. It's quite the reality check. But I feel so lucky that I can write because that's when I like to come home and dive straight into the studio. I go into sessions immediately because I know I will probably get sad. I need the road. So that's always when I feel the most inspired, for sure. I like being proactive about it. I always call my team and say when I get home from the tour on Sunday, put me into the studio on Monday. Like, let's go, let's keep shit going.
A: I love that! So when do you like to stop for a hot minute?
U: Every December, I like to take the whole month to hang out where I'm from with my family. I have younger siblings, and I'm close to my parents. They're a big part of the reason why I did music. So as touring dies down and I'm done releasing music for the year, I go home and get stoned in my parent's backyard for a month, and it's amazing. It's just lovely being like back in my town. I get to see old friends and hang out with my family. That's when I unplug.
A: Talking of tour, you're touring with Tove Lo, who we love here! She's very talented. You must be excited to get going.
U: So we're going on the tour in September/August. Opening for her has always been on my little bucket list that I wanted to check off. I'm just such a fucking fan of hers. But it's been cool being in a studio together. She wrote on my last EP a song called "Toast". Getting to watch her writing process has been an absolute dream. And it will be similar to watching her show every night on tour. It will be like a masterclass on how to put on a good show. I'm excited.
A: Oh my god, she puts on one hell of a show. We're talking about outfit changes, like the whole shebang. And I'm so here for it. And you've also written with her, which must of been an honour.
U: It's been crazy getting to watch. There have been many artists I've been fans of who I have called to open for and watch them on the road, like do their thing and then getting in the studio with them getting like a behind the scenes. Like it is an honour. I learned so much from all of them. It's crazy.
A: What's it like to see people stripped back to who they are as a person? Fans often get to know a persona or performance curated on stage. When do you feel like you see the real artists? Was that when they were behind the scenes on tour?
U: I think so. I find it weird even though it is like a performance when you get moments of it watching a show. I feel when I'm putting on a show there are certain moments on stage where it feels like you're so present that you're in this like flow state like you're just in the fuckin zone, you're not thinking about anything. And to me, that is the most magical thing as an artist and fan. They could do this in their sleep, artists in their element. To see them in a proper flow state is the coolest thing ever. It's also very comforting. As a fan, you're like; we're all in this together.
A: Talking of fans, your tracks you've had massive support over the past couple of years, including Jack Saunders Radio1 and huge publications. What's it like when you see them featuring your music? How do you feel in that moment when you see that support?
U: I mean, it's fucking crazy. It's still is anytime something like that happens. It is so wild that other people like my music. But I think it's when you're writing, in the studio, and working on a mix, that's when the song is still yours. And then putting out music is like giving the piece to other people. It's no longer mine. Take it or leave it. Take whatever you want from it like it's for the fans. Watching fans make it their own and then watching publications or radio stations relate to it personally is so cool.
A: It can be pretty vulnerable, and the emotion in your music can be so personal. How do you balance the emotions and the personal part that goes into the piece when you give them to people? Because it's pretty heavy at times.
U: Definitely. In the studio, I feel lucky because the people I write with, like my co-writers and the producers I work with, are some of my best friends. So I can go in and say whatever the fuck I want. And it's embarrassing most of the time, but like they're down to write about whatever I'm going through, which is excellent. And then the fear, I guess, sets in when I decide to release a song, whether it is a super vulnerable song like "Condoms," which I put out on my last release as the B Side. Or it's like the song I'm putting out Friday, called "Wet White T-Shirt," which is all about boobs and tits and whatever. Like they're two different sides. The same for me, but both feel vulnerable to me in different ways. Because one is like, Oh, this is me, like baring my soul, I hope somebody relates to this. And then the other is like, Oh, this might piss some people off. This is too unapologetic. The fear is something that sets in after the song is done. But it's a healthy fear. Being scared to release music is what keeps me going. If you're not scared, you should be.
A: As fan music has a way of encapsulating a feeling you may not have even been able to vocalise yet. How does it feel when someone feels that energy or spirit from a song?
U: Expressing a feeling is the whole point of music. It sounds so cheesy, but it's there, so you feel less alone. That moment when you think, "I thought I was the only person in the world who could feel this way," and everyone else in this room screaming these lyrics feeling the same way. That is the only thing it's about. When I'm writing, especially regarding being vulnerable, I guess like sad songs. Releasing it so someone in the room can relate is everything.
A: There's nothing like that moment when someone can vocalise something you've been trying to vocalise, and they do it so well, like, dammit, I wish I thought of that. You've got so much in the works, including a tour with Tove Lo, which is close. You've got festivals like you've got Reading and Leeds. It's such a good lineup as well. You must be buzzing. What are you manifesting right now?
U: I mean, it's fucking crazy. Sometimes it's so easy to get into the groove of touring, traveling, and putting out music. It's all so fast. Recently, I've had to sit down and remind myself how fucking sick each of these little moments is like, each of the festivals I get to play in the next couple of weeks, like in Europe. I'm excited about the two songs I'm putting out on Friday. I'm so excited that I can put out this much music this year. It's just the little things for me, like having little check-ins with myself. There are so many things that I'm so grateful for, everything that's happening this year. I don't know what's next, but I think as long as I can keep making music, and people are still down to listen, come down to shows like, that's always been my goal. So the more I get to do that, the better. There's an album coming next year. But until then, I'll be releasing the Mix Tape and, yeah, a lot more live music. So, to keep doing what I'm doing is the goal.
Words Alice Gee
Photography Aubree Estrella