It hasn’t been too long since countless graduates said a final farewell to high school, Upsahl included. She’s all done with school for now and will be spending most of her days in Los Angeles focusing on her music. Not too far from where she’s called home and built a name for herself in Phoenix. With a few records already to her name at just 18, it was time for this girl to see what else was out there and she’s jumping in cautiously, planning every move with precision. We talked about the move, the music and just how far she plans to take things.
Kendra: Writing at 13, an album at 14. Were you always a go-getter when it came to accomplishing your goals?
Upsahl: Yes. I have grown up in an extremely musical family, my dad being in touring bands since I was born, so music has always been a significant part of my life. My dad was one of my biggest inspirations growing up, and he was very big on making things happen if he wanted them to. I’ve inherited that drive and motivation, especially when it comes to music. When I was 13 and wanted to record an album, we made it happen. I don’t want to let anything ever stand in the way of the goals that I have for my music.
Kendra: Only 18 now, you literally just walked your graduation stage. When did you decide you were leaving home for LA?
Upsahl: After releasing my third album, it became more clear to me that my music needed to leave Arizona. I had built a name for myself as a musician in the Phoenix music scene, but I couldn’t just leave it at that. About half way through my senior year of high school, I decided that I should be spending the majority of my time out in LA with producers and creatives in order to help my music reach the maximum audience. LA is also such a creative environment, which I thrive in, so I think my musical content will thrive off of that environment as well.
Kendra: When it comes to where you land in LA, are you more concerned with price or musical locale?
Upsahl: Something that I’m doing that is a bit different from the classic story of “moving out to LA to follow your dreams,” is that I will not be living out there full-time. I have a stable housing situation here in Phoenix, and friends and family to stay with when I’m out in LA. I plan to spend the majority of my time in LA, about 2-3 weeks of the month, but I won’t have to worry about paying for housing. This way, I will solely be able to focus on my music, rather than worrying about my finances!
Kendra: What is the one thing (other than loved ones) you’re going to miss about Phoenix?
Upsahl: Since I’ll still be spending some of my time here in Phoenix, I’ll still be able to visit my favorite coffee shops and concert venues at least once a month, so me leaving isn’t going to be super dramatic! I guess one of my favorite things about Phoenix is the community-like music scene we have here. All of the artists are so supportive of one another, and everyone really values collaboration.
Kendra: When it comes to your music as a whole, what kind of growth are you expecting with the relocation?
Upsahl: Throughout the progression of my music, I feel like “Can You Hear Me Now” was a big stepping stone for me. Being able to work with Max Frost, who produces a different sound/type of music than I do, really opened my eyes to the world of possibilities that lie within using electronic aspects and different sounds. As I continue to write and release a new album within this next year, I want to continue to incorporate those electronic sounds that change up the vibe of my music a little bit. Since I started writing when I was 13, my music has changed a lot. Age 13-20 is a huge time for change in a person’s life, so I feel like my evolution as a person is seen through the evolution and growth of my music.
Kendra: Hw different do you expect your next album to be compared to Unfamiliar Light?
Upsahl: Like I said, I want to be continuously evolving my sound, so the next album will definitely be different. I still really value the importance of playing live instruments, like guitar, piano, drums, bass, etc, but I’d love to add in some electronic aspects as well. Overall, I want to spend this next year experimenting with my sound and really finding my new ground as a musician.
Kendra: Let’s talk more about the single. “Can You Hear Me Now” is not about those old commercials, but rather a failing relationship. Other than writing a song about it, what is the clearest sign that a relationship is going nowhere?
Upsahl: I wanted to write the song as a sort of feminist anthem and bring an empowering vibe to a not so empowering situation. I feel like a relationship isn’t worth it if you aren’t being treated like the badass you are. It’s important to know your self-worth and know how you deserve to be treated in a relationship, and if something isn’t up to your standards, it’s time to leave.
Kendra: A new album, a move, what’s next for you this year?
Upsahl: Obviously, I will not be going to college during this next year so that I can solely focus on music. I’ve never been able to give 100% of my energy to creating music while in school, so I want to really take this year by storm and completely immerse myself into music. I want to release some singles throughout this year, all leading up to my fourth album that I plan to release within the next year. There will definitely be new music, new music videos, and new collaborations, and I’m excited to see where this next year takes me.
Kendra: You’re leaving Phoenix to follow your dreams, but if you had to make a mixtape featuring music that’ll make you never forget home – what five songs would have to be on it?
Upsahl: I think this is probably the hardest question I have ever had to answer! I take inspiration from so many different artists and have grown up listening to a variety of music, so it’s hard to sum that up into 5 songs…
“The Underdog” – Spoon, I listened to that song all throughout middle school and loved it. I also really love the idea of being the underdog that just all of a sudden surprises everyone by doing something rad.
“Love On Top” – Beyoncé, This song made me realize that I could actually sing high and that I wanted to be Beyoncé. Pretty much everyone’s dream.
“Sleepwalk” – Santo and Johnny, I’ve jammed out this song with so many people that are important to me throughout my life. It’s sort of a reminder of home in the sense that it reminds me of everyone that I care about.
“New Slang” – The Shins, This was the first song that I had ever learned on the guitar, and it’s still one of my favorite songs today. Not only did it help introduce me to the guitar, but it introduced me to the importance of lyrical content. James Mercer is a lyrical genius, and his writing inspired me to start writing my own songs.
“Cecilia” – Simon & Garfunkel, Everyone loves this song. You can’t listen to it without having a smile on your face.