Heartbreak is never a fun experience. No matter how it ends, it’s always going to hurt because at one point in time you did love them, and you need to mourn those memories. But everyone’s journey is different, and UPSAHL has captured hers through her vividly charged debut album ‘Lady Jesus’. Celebrating her journey of falling in love with herself again, the Arizona born singer-songwriter explains that this album felt like a rebirth for her.
Opening the record with the lyrics “The story all started when a boy meets girl. And they fell in love in a big, big world” from lead single ‘Douchebag’, she lays the candid foundations down for the raw storytelling that follows. Contrasting these reflections with high energy, the album gives you punchy hooks and a real euphoric release of serotonin that doubles as a coping mechanism from the pain she felt. The ten track collection is a journey of self-discovery, and you will feel that strongly on the very first listen.
I recently chatted to UPSAHL about the personal revelations that inspired the vivid transparency behind her debut album ‘Lady Jesus’, explored the creative process behind songs like ‘IDFW Feelings’, ‘Thriving’ and ‘Lunatic’, and found out a line she took out of ‘Douchebag’ before its release. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: When we spoke last you explained that your ‘Young Life Crisis’ EP saved you during lockdown as you were able to completely submerge yourself within the project, and it taught you to reach out and communicate with people. So what did the journey behind ‘Lady Jesus’ teach you over the past 12 months?
UPSAHL: I’ve learnt so much while making this album. I mean last time I talked to you I was in the midst of promoting ‘Young Life Crisis’, but I was also in the studio working on this album. It was a weird time.
When I started writing ‘Lady Jesus’, I thought it was going to be a break-up album. I was like “I’m going to write the saddest break-up album of all time” as I had just gone through a really shitty heartbreak. Similar to ‘Young Life Crisis’, when shit goes wrong I just throw myself into the studio and write about my feelings instead of actually going to therapy, which I should probably do too *laughs*. I was just writing through all of these emotions and feelings as I felt them, and as I started to heal, figure my life out, get over it, and fall in love with myself again, the album became more about a rebirth and me feeling like a new person which is why we called it ‘Lady Jesus’.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learnt from making this album is how powerful I feel when being super vulnerable. The album is my story, and it’s very much autobiographical, so it was fun to just talk about exactly what I was going through at that moment in time.
TB: You’ve explained that this record is in order of a break-up. So reflecting on the journey between the opening track ‘Douchebag’ and the title track ‘Lady Jesus’ which closes the record, do you think you saw a substantial artistic growth on top of the personal growth?
U: Throughout the process of making the album I started to find this crew of writers and producers, and we sort of all locked ourselves in the studio and made the whole project together as a team instead of me just being in random sessions all the time. It was cool for me because not only was I around people that I trusted and respected to make music with me, but I also got to be more involved on the production side. It was a cool process to keep revisiting shit until we made it perfect.
TB: Were these songs actually written in a numerical order? Or what was actually the last song and segmentation you had written everything in?
U: The track listing is in that order to really tell the story of my life since ‘Douchebag’. But most of the album was already done and we just needed one more song. So I did a writing camp in Malibu with everyone that worked on the album, which was more of an excuse to hang out on the beach. I was talking about how lucky I was to have the friends I had, and the people I worked with, so the last song we wrote was ‘Last Supper’. It was really cute as it was a really celebratory thing about being around people you fuck with. So that was the last song that brought together the full vision for the record.
TB: ‘IDFW Feelings’ is a song that immediately stood out to me with its playful lyrics and catchy but unconcerned hook. And maybe it’s purely because I wish I could be so disconnected from people and be so nonchalant when it came to dating *laughs*.
U: *Laughs* RIGHT! I wrote that during a time where I was getting so in my feels about the dumbest shit, so I was like “nobody can hurt my feelings if I don’t have feelings in the first place. I’m done. I don’t feel anything for anyone I’m seeing at the moment”. And it worked for sec. It was fun.
TB: Can you explain how this track creatively came together, because it is such a fun song?
U: I co-wrote ‘IDFW Feelings’ with my friend Sean Kennedy who did a lot of the album and has done a bunch of shit with me in the past. And it was our first session with the producer Kill Dave. Normally my first session with someone is never amazing, but the three of us just clicked in and Dave started to play that baseline that kinda sounded like Nirvana influenced grunge vibes. I was just talking about how I didn’t want to feel love or any feelings towards anyone again, and we just turned that idea into a song. It was such a fun and magical experience.
TB: ‘Thriving’ is another playful track that hears you ironically letting everyone know that you are “thriving” in this break up. It thematically feels like the continuation of ‘Time Of My Life’. Do you see the song as a sequel per-say to those feelings developing further?
U: Yeah, that’s actually a really cool question. ‘Time Of My Life’ is about me realising that you can be the best you’ve ever been and the worst you’ve ever been at the same time, as that is how I feel like I’ve been the past year. It’s so real. So ‘Time Of My Life’ is the sad girl version of that ideology while ‘Thriving’ is the baddie version.
The reason that ‘Thriving’ is where it is in the track listing is that it’s the turning point of the album. It’s where I’m like, “actually, I don’t give a fuck. I’m done. Shit is going wrong but I don’t care. I’m thriving. We’re alive, and that’s all that matters”. So yeah, ‘Thriving’ is the point in the album that flips it from being sad about a break-up to stepping into the person I am now.
TB: Do you see any other songs on the record as pairs or sequels?
U: ‘Notorious’ and ‘Sunny D’ are very similar to me as we wrote those in the same day. We did a writing camp with my friends Pete Nappi and Elijah Noll, and we were on some crazy party shit as we just wanted to write stuff that made you feel good. When we wrote those songs we were immediately obsessed with them, but we were like “there’s no way the people on our teams will let us release them”. But they surprisingly all fucked with them.
TB: When I say that ‘Lunatic’ is one of the most chaotic songs of the year, that is a huge compliment. It genuinely makes me want to smash things and jump around in a mosh-pit, and the production really embodies that energy. So how long did that song take to find the right production that matched the energy and all-round feeling you wanted it to capture?
U: That was produced by my friend Jonny Shorr who did most of the album with me, along with Will Jay who co-wrote most of it. I just came into the studio that day so pissed off at the world as I saw something online that pissed me the fuck off. I nearly didn’t go to the session as I was crying, but I decided last minute to go as I was angry and wanted to channel it into a song.
I walked into the room with mascara running down face and I was like to Jonny “we need a four to the floor kick drum, and I need to just go scream in the vocal booth”. And then 2 hours later we had the song. Jonny’s instincts are so on point, and he just captured the energy so perfectly. I left that session no longer upset or angry at the world. It was like therapy.
TB: I feel like screaming “punch you in the tiny dick” in a song is going to do that for you, isn’t it?
U: It’s funny because when we wrote that lyric we were like “we are definitely going to have to change this later”. But somehow we got to keep it in. It’s very intense, I love it.
TB: The album’s energy is cohesively high from the moment ‘Douchebag’ begins. So did any of the songs originally have a softer production style like ‘Fake Bitch’ that you then played with?
U: We based ‘Melatonin’ off that classical track ‘Clair De Lune’ by Debussy. We started writing it over these dramatic piano chords, almost as a joke. We had the hook over those chords and then we were like “no, we should make a dance record”. But then we still wanted the Clair De Lune reference so we used it as the intro for the song.
TB: ‘Douchebag’ is a very literal song, and I think your songwriting has always stood out to me because it paints this very vivid picture. With such strong detail in the song, was there any lyrics that you were unsure about including?
U: That was the only song on the album that I actually wrote over zoom. I remember I had just gone through this break-up and I was unwell. I was bitching about it to the producer dwilly, and I was like “this kid is such a fucking douchebag” and he was like “why don’t we call the song douchebag? Tell me about how this whole situation started”. So I was like “well the story all started…” and he was like “great, write it out and let’s make that the verse. He inspired me to not think about it much and just be really straight up.
We used to have a lyric in the song that said “Don’t know what’s going on in your head. Tell me was it worth it getting head”. But I took it out. So that’s the only lyric from that song that I overthought and took out. I sing it live now though because it’s so fun.
TB: ‘STOP!’ didn’t make the track listing for this album, so where do you see that song thematically sitting for you? Do you see it as a key portal track from ‘Young Life Crisis’ to ‘Lady Jesus’? Or do you see it somewhere else in the story?
U: I put out ‘STOP!’ after I released ‘Young Life Crisis’ and before I put out a bunch of features with other artists ahead of ‘Lady Jesus’. I feel like production wise ‘STOP!’ took us from the pop world of ‘Young Life Crisis’ and took us into the grungy rock shit with the guitars, and I think you can hear those live elements on ‘Lady Jesus’. So I do feel like it was a nice transition song for me of like adding more live elements, bass, guitar and drums to the songs on ‘Lady Jesus’.
TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about the album. Are you ready?
U: Fuck yeah, let’s go!
TB: The emoji that best describes my debut album ‘Lady Jesus’ is…
U: The purple devil.
TB: The song that nearly made the album was…
U: ‘Beauty And The Bitch’! It was a ballad, but it will come out one day.
TB: A lyric on the album that makes me giggle is…
U: “Punch you in the tiny dick”, obviously!
TB: The song that I’m most nervous to bring into the live realm is…
U: ‘Sunny D’ because we’ve noticed that there are no real chords in the song, so it’s been really fun to try replicate live.
‘Lady Jesus’ is out now