Enter the world of Bishop Briggs: one of hurt, loss, and revival

PHOTOS: Yolanda Y. Liou
VIDEOGRAPHY: Kareem Abdul
LOCATION: The Hoxton, Holborn
WORDS: Emily Pitcher
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR: Jasmine Perrier

From Tokyo to Los Angeles, Bishop Briggs has long left the days of performing at coffee shops: she’s now listed as an artist for Coachella 2020. Ever since her single “River” reached #1 on Spotify’s US Viral 50 and on Hype Machine’s Popular charts, she has opened for Coldplay, performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and featured in Cold War Kids’ song “Wild Horses.” Described by Pitchfork as “one of [pop’s] most powerful new voices,” she has returned to the music scene with her latest album titled Champion. We sat down with Bishop to talk about her commitment to social issues, the vulnerability of writing music, and her creative process.

Getting her start by performing in places with stripper poles and audiences of four people, her journey to establish herself as a now pop sensation hasn’t always been easy. Her past is still with her, as she describes those days wistfully. “I always performed as if I was in a stadium. No matter what the show was, I would always be speaking my truth and singing my soul.” That stadium has since become Coachella 2017 and 2020, an annual music festival organized by Goldenvoice. Even though she can now enjoy the success of her music, her biggest advice for artists starting out is, “I always tell people to not go into a creative field for the money because it can be a long time before you see money. You really have a peculiar job of trying to convince the people around you that you’re worth their time, energy and ears. You have to be so deeply in love with your craft to wake up each day to do it again. Every time I open my mouth to sing, it’s all worth it.”

One thing that hasn’t changed about Bishop though is her outspokenness about issues in her community. From supporting YouTuber NikkieTutorials’s coming out video to playing at the Women’s March, Bishop’s personal brand is closely aligned with social justice and feminism. She describes her reason for being so vocal as part of her legacy as a female artist. “It’s so important whether you have five followers or five million. We live in a really interesting time where we have access to so many different platforms for our news outlets. Sometimes, the way that we find our news is from people we follow. If I ever get the chance to talk about animals or feminism or LGBTQ rights, which are basically human rights, I always jump at the chance to do it.”

Every time I open my mouth to sing, it’s all worth it

Feminist themes are apparent in her new music, which is about recovering from heartbreak with strength and continuing that process of self-discovery. With her past relationship, she realized that her identity was faltering. “Sometimes, you get a glimmer of who you used to be. It can be with your friends; they remind you of something you said or did and you notice that maybe you have changed. Maybe you’ve been feeling really bad and not like yourself. It’s the people in our lives who can hold a mirror to us, for better or worse. At that particular moment, it was a reminder of how confident I used to be and that confidence was now completely lost.” As to how she got out of that feeling of hopelessness, she “found it most helpful to be honest to the people around me, even the person I was with. The second thing was that I turned it into art, something I can look at and feel proud of, whether or not people listened to it or not.”

This led to her newest album Champion, her most honest work yet that bluntly states how she hasn’t been okay. The process of releasing this piece has been cathartic, with the open knowledge that all of the deepest and darkest parts of her are now for us to pick apart. “It was this crazy realization that everything I talk about in therapy is out in the world. It felt important to not paint me as this perfect person in this album because I’m not perfect. That’s what was so difficult about releasing it: I had to let go of my protection of myself and protection of that other person and protection of his family.” Ultimately, this has been a process of rebirth after a broken relationship. “What helped more was listening to Adele and Amy Winehouse. Here they were, people that I put on such a pedestal. Here they are, singing their truth and talking about specific people and places. It was so helpful for me to be like ‘They’ve gone through it and they are who they are and they learned things from it. They created art from it and they were stronger in their vulnerability after.’ Anytime I felt hesitant to share something, I had someone in the room to tell me to go for it. Or I had a deep push to do it for the sole reason of it being honest and that honesty is the most freeing form of therapy, not only for the person but the people who may hear it.”

Her latest work feels like a stained-glass painting of memories, specific moments in her past relationships meant to represent something greater about fighting through the pain. She describes how she chooses which memories to write about. “I always notice habits that my partner has and sometimes it can be very visual. It is important for me to paint a picture, holding onto specific moments that I have trauma with that I need to work through. It’s based around what is visually compelling, what is visually honest. It’s really just breaking down and dissecting a specific moment that I can’t let go of.”

𝕰𝖓𝖙𝖊𝖗 𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖜𝖔𝖗𝖑𝖉 𝖔𝖋 𝕭𝖎𝖘𝖍𝖔𝖕 𝕭𝖗𝖎𝖌𝖌𝖘 𝖜𝖎𝖙𝖍 𝕮𝖍𝖆𝖒𝖕𝖎𝖔𝖓: 𝖔𝖓𝖊 𝖔𝖋 𝖍𝖚𝖗𝖙, 𝖑𝖔𝖘𝖘, 𝖆𝖓𝖉 𝖗𝖊𝖛𝖎𝖛𝖆𝖑.

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