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Bishop Briggs talks about being an artist to watch, playing with Coldplay and Cold War Kids and more

The world demands you watch Bishop Briggs.

She’s been named an Artist to Watch in 2017 by a host of publications and music outlets, including Pandora, Google Play, Lifehacker and Teen Vogue. She’s playing least a dozen gigantic festivals around the globe this summer, from Coachella and South By Southwest to Lollapalooza and Firefly. And she’s in the midst of her first North American headlining tour, which hits St. Petersburg’s State Theatre on Wednesday.

So yeah, you’re running out of excuses. If you’re not yet watching Bishop Briggs, the world suggests you start.

“I can only hope they’re watching,” the alternative pop singer laughed over the phone from her home base of Los Angeles. “And I hope they’re not watching because they don’t like what they see, and it’s like watching a trainwreck or something. I hope that they’re watching because they’re enjoying the music, and they’re excited about it.”

They are — her moody, electro-tinged early singles and EPs include last year’s viral banger River — but no one could possibly be more excited for Briggs’ rise than Briggs herself.

Bubbly and enthusiastic, with a joyous stage presence, the 24-year-old singer is a good candidate to follow in the footsteps of acts like Lana Del Rey and Halsey, melancholy chanteuses who crossed over into big-time pop stardom. Already, Coldplay tapped her to open a series of stadium shows, and she’s released two collaborations with Cold War Kids, including a cover of Rihanna’s Love on the Brain.

With her debut album in the works, Briggs will continue to be on major watchlists for months to come. Before her show in St. Petersburg, she talked about maintaining control of her career’s wild ride and more.

I’ve seen you on more “Artists to Watch in 2017” lists than I can possibly count. I know appearing on those lists is largely out of your control, but at the same time, I’m sure there’s a pretty big machine behind you to get to that position. How in control do you feel of your own career right now?

Truthfully, I really just focus on the writing. I think if you remain true to yourself and you are as authentic as possible, no matter what, you will be happy with the results. I’m really lucky that the team I have behind me cares as much as I do about remaining true to who I am, and not conforming to anything that I’m uncomfortable with. That way there’s no regrets, there’s no lingering questions. It just feels right.

Have you been in situations where you’ve felt you’ve had to compromise what you want to do in order to make it to the next level?

There’s always a choice on whether something feels right to you or not. I guess the most notable time was the five years before I got discovered. I was playing every couple of days in L.A.; it was one of the darkest times of my life, and it had some of the best moments, too. I felt like despite how much I wanted this to happen, and how much of a huge dream it was for me, I felt it was so important to always have standards of what I deserve, even though I had nothing behind me. It was really important to look at myself in the mirror every morning and truly be the artist that I wanted to be. The misconception is to take every opportunity that ever gets offered to you. But not every opportunity is going to be the right one for you.

Have you turned down collaborations or opportunities to sing a hook for a DJ or a rapper, just to get outside your genre and widen your audience?

Well, I love collaboration. I love rappers and I love DJs, and I love that whole world. But it is about finding the right person for you, where it doesn’t feel like a “move,” or something you’re just doing for your career, but rather something that just feels right to you. It’s so important to me to have that emotional connection, that vulnerability and that authenticity. If it isn’t there, it isn’t there.

What brought you together with Cold War Kids?

Oh my gosh, I have no idea. A series of stars aligning. I’ve been listening to their music for at least 10 years now, if not longer. They’re a band that just means so much to me; their music has always showed up in different parts of my life. But I guess they heard my voice on the radio — one of our songs, River, was playing, and that mixed with someone on Twitter saying we should collaborate, and I found myself on the phone with (singer) Nathan (Willett), and I was in complete fangirl mode. I tried to pretend to be cool, but it faded very quickly within seconds of answering the phone.

I’m amazed that they heard you on the radio. Not that you wouldn’t be played on the radio, but that someone can still be heard on the radio in 2017 and it can turn into an opportunity to record with someone you love.

I know! It was so cool. Doesn’t that must make them the coolest band? Who does that? That’s so genuine and pure and classic.

If people have only heard your music, they might not realize how joyful your performances are. You’re really irrepressible, beaming and skipping around, and there’s an energy to it that might surprise people. Do you get that impression?

I don’t know. It’s funny, whenever I’m singing the music, I feel such deep emotions. I always feel as though I’m on the verge of tears, and then the minute that the song ends, I look around, and I can’t really believe that I’m there. I inevitably smile and I’m just so full of gratitude that it’s happening. And I hope I always have that mix. Because I think I’ll always feel that way when I’m singing the music. I always revert back to how I felt when I wrote it, which is generally a deep sadness. But I think it’s so important that in those moments in between your songs, you step back and realize how crazy this is, that this a reality, at least for the time being.

That joy of performance — I feel that way about Coldplay and their live shows, and you toured with them last year. Did you absorb anything from them or their crew or that experience that you can bring back to 800-capacity clubs in Florida?

There’s so much to learn from them. They are just a crazily inspiring band. I’ve been listening to them as long as I can remember as well, and they give their all every single night, and that’s always my goal. I think that was probably the biggest takeaway, was putting everything I have on stage and keeping it fresh, and not being afraid to change it up and make mistakes and talk and really, really be present in the moment.

You’re playing a lot of festivals this year. Have you allowed yourself to look at all the lineups and see the acts you’ve really got to see?

Oh yeah. That is one of my favorite things about playing festivals, is organizing who I want to go see so I can go to the pit after my show or before my show. I always send my top (artists) to my sister for her to organize my schedule so that we can go and see them, and then she sends me the ones that she wants to go to, which are of course these obscure bands that I end up falling in love with.

Did you discover any cool new artists at South by Southwest?

I think the two artists, as far as brand-new, were Jessie Reyez and Sigrid. Both of them just blew me away. And then as far as fairly new, but you probably know them, Lewis Del Mar was beyond incredible.

As an artist to watch in 2017, what else is on your to-do list for 2017? This is your first headlining tour in the U.S., right?

Yes! My first-ever headlining tour! That’s definitely on the to-do list. My to-do list for 2017 definitely includes releasing new music, and letting people into a different side of me, perhaps a more honest and less filtered version of myself, which I’m really excited for. Also on my to-do list is to finish my apartment. That’s unrelated, but I really do need to get on that.

-- Jay Cridlin

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 3, 2017 11:36am]


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