Young singer/songwriter UPSAHL, 22, is emerging as a talented artist to watch and a successful songwriter. Combining pop music with a punk/alternative edge, she has released an array of excellent singles plus two EPs (Hindsignt 20/20 and Young Life Crisis). Impressively, she is attracting millions of views on YouTube, and she is signed to a label deal with Arista Records.
In the past two years, UPSAHL (whose full name is Taylor Upsahl) has released over a dozen singles that demonstrate that she’s a unique artist who is full of creativity and energy. She has an uninhibited attitude, and she’s not afraid to write & release songs with titles such as “Drugs,” “12345SEX,” “People I Don’t Like,” “STOP!” and “Stressed.” In addition, she’s a strong singer and her songs are produced with a fresh, cutting-edge sound.
Although UPSAHL has not released a full album yet, her body of work so far (over 20 songs released) has shown that she’s a prolific artist & songwriter. In just the past two weeks, she has released two notable songs: her playful new single “STOP!” and the single “Happy Endings,” which is her collaboration with Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) and Iann Dior.
Besides building her career as an artist, UPSAHL is developing her skills as a pro songwriter who can write for other artists. Notably, she co-wrote with Dua Lipa the song “Good in Bed,” which is on Lipa’s platinum album, Future Nostalgia. She also co-wrote the single “Boyshit” for rising pop artist Madison Beer.
Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, UPSAHL grew up in a musical family. Her father, Mike Upsahl, is a veteran musician who has played in several punk bands. Early on, she learned to play piano and guitar, and she attended the Arizona School for the Arts. It was during her high school years that she also wrote & recorded songs, and posted videos on YouTube.
Here’s the video of UPSAHL’s single, “STOP!”
Soon after graduating from the School for the Arts, UPSAHL moved to Los Angeles to pursue her music career. She impressed David Massey (President & CEO) of Arista Records, who signed her to a label deal. Her early single “Can You Hear Me Now” created a viral buzz, and then her single “Drugs” (from her first EP, Hindsight 20/20) had a major impact. The video for “Drugs” has attracted over six million views, and the song has been used in nearly two million TikTok videos.
Last year (2020), UPSAHL released her second EP, Young Life Crisis, which featured the songs “Young Life Crisis,” “People I Don’t Like” and “Sad Sorry After Party.’
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with UPSAHL. She tells how she got started in the music business, and discusses her songs “Drugs,” “STOP!” and ‘Happy Endings” (with Mike Shinoda & Iann Dior). She also tells how she co-wrote “Good in Bed” for Dua Lipa.
DK: I read that you’re from Phoenix, and your dad is a musician. So how did you get started with music and writing songs?
UPSAHL: Growing up I watched my dad, who was in punk bands, so I was obsessed with that culture and community. When I was six, I would wake up and have breakfast, and there would be bands in my living room because they had come to Phoenix and crashed at our house. So I would have breakfast with all these punk rockers (laughs) and touring musicians. And I was obsessed with the vibe of it all and I was like, “I need to be a part of this.”
Because my dad was in music, we had a bunch of instruments, and I picked up the guitar and piano at a young age. Ever since I can remember, music has always been the only option for me…I’ve enjoyed it since I was a kid.
DK: I read that you attended the Arizona School for the Arts, and you started releasing your own songs and videos. Can you talk about that period of your life?
Here’s the lyric video for UPSAHL’s single, “Drugs.”
UPSAHL: The Arizona School for the Arts is from 5th grade to 12th grade, so I was there from the time I was 10 until I graduated from high school. It literally felt like High School Musical—I would wake up, go to my academic classes, and in the afternoon it would be arts classes and singing & playing piano. So I was around a bunch of other creatives and people who were into performing arts.
When I was growing up, I was always writing songs, but it wasn’t until I did a talent show at school, that I was approached by one of my teachers who had a recording studio. She was like, “Oh you’re kind of good—do you want to roll through our recording studio and record this song?” And I was like, “Sure.” So that was my first glimpse into being in a studio. From there, I ended up recording three albums in high school, and I would play around the Phoenix venues. It was really fun.
DK: Your song “Drugs” has become popular, and it’s featured in many TikTok videos. How did you co-write this song, and how did it get popular on TikTok?
UPSAHL: I wrote that song when I first moved to L.A. I didn’t know a lot of people out here, so I was trying to be outgoing and go to parties and meet as many people as I could. And I realized that a lot of people here are fake. I was in a writing session with Sean Kennedy…it was our first session together, and since then he’s been a writer on almost all my songs. Also in the session was (producer/writer) KillaGraham, and I was bitching about, “I’m goin’ to all these parties, and I can’t find any genuine people out here. What’s goin’ on?” And then Sean made a joke, “Well I only go to parties if there’s gonna be drugs there.” And that was a moment where we looked at each other and said, “Are we about to write a song called ‘Drugs’? Well…let’s go!” It was one of those experiences where it felt like we all just blacked out and then the song existed, which is super dope. For me, a lot of the songs that I resonate with and love have been been like that. It just naturally happened.
Then I put out “Drugs,” and it was a year until it had a little moment on TikTok, and it was another year when it had a second life on TikTok. Then the song had a third life which is cool. I’m super grateful for TikTok for giving the song another life.
Here’s the video of UPSAHL’s single, “People I Don’t Like.”
DK: I like your new single, “STOP!” How did you and your co-writers write this song?
UPSAHL: That song was written at a writing camp. Teddy Geiger—she’s a really dope producer and writer—we were at her studio in L.A. I remember somebody started playing a bass line, and I was with this dope writer, Asia Whiteacre. She started saying something life “Hearts gonna beat so fast,” I love chromatic, falling melodies, so I started going, (she sings) “Hearts gonna beat so fast, gonna beat so fast.” I started to sing that melody as a joke, and then we were like, “Wait, let’s do it.” So we based the whole song off of that.
It was a cool moment as an artist, because it was the first day of this writing camp that was for my artist project, and David Massey, who’s the head of my label, rolled through at the end of the day. And we were like, “Yo, listen to this demo.’ It was this beautiful, magical moment where all the co-writers and producers were in the room, and then my team on the business/creative side were there, and we were like, “Holy shit! This is a special song,” So we had that gut feeling on the first day when we wrote the song.
DK: There’s another new single that you’re featured on: “Happy Endings” by Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) that also features Iann Dior. How did you hook up with them for that song?
UPSAHL: I was working with (writer/producer) Pete Nappi, and he pulled me into a session with him and Mike Shinoda, as an extra writer. I’m a big fan of Mike’s, so it was definitely cool to write with him. We worked over Zoom, and we wrote that hook pretty quick. Then later on, Mike was like, “I think I want to drop this and I want to get Iann (Dior) on it.” Iann hopped on it really quick, and I cut the vocals a few weeks ago. So it happened quickly and naturally, and I’m stoked to be a part of it.
DK: You’ve also written songs for other artists. How did you co-write the song “Good in Bed” for Dua Lipa’s big album, Future Nostalgia?
Here’s the lyric video of Mike Shinoda’s single “Happy Endings,”
feat. UPSAHL & Iann Dior.
UPSAHL: That was my first introduction into writing for other artists. I was in a session with (hit songwriters) Melanie Fontana and Lindgren, who are this dope couple. We were going in for my artist project, and we wrote “Good in Bed” and did the demo that day. Then (later on) they hit me and said, “Yo, I don’t know how this happened, but Dua’s team heard this song and they love it, and Dua wants to finish writing it and cut it.” And I was like, “Are you kidding? Dua Lipa?” (laughs). That was crazy for me. So that was my introduction to the songwriting world, and getting to be a part of that has allowed me to go into writing sessions with other artists as an actual topliner. So I’m thankful for how that went down.
DK: As an artist, you’ve released two EPs so far. Do you have plans to release another EP, or a full album?
UPSAHL: Yeah, I’m working on an album right now. I don’t have an exact date, but by the end of this year I’ll drop an album. I’m in sessions almost everyday writing towards that. So I’m very excited to share the new music I’ve been working on. My goal for this year is to drop as much music as I can.