Interview: Bishop Briggs talks Falls Festival, returning to Australia, “Baby”, Hong Kong and songwriting

I’ve been lucky enough to catch up with US based artist Bishop Briggs a few times now, and every time we catch up things just seem be getting bigger and better for the every growing star. Our chat earlier this month, ahead of her pending visit to Australia for Falls, was no exception. We talk about her latest single “Baby”, growing up in Hong Kong, her impending return to Australia and we reflect on what has been an incredible year.

Firstly, congrats on “Baby”, your latest single… tell me a little bit about how that one came together.

It was one of the songs when writing it, I didn’t really think it would be released, which is really thrilling and liberating to do, and to have that mindset when writing.

One of my goals for this year was to be as transparent as possible. The thing with the album Church of Scars, my first album, it has this heaviness to it. I am thankful for that, and it really was truly representing my life. So I thought, if I was honest with that, I should be honest that right now I’m seeing someone and it’s really good, but it’s also crazy, it’s unlike a love I’ve ever had.

So it felt important to share that, and have some humour with it as well.

It must be nice to be in a position where you can drop something that is so relevant to what’s happening now. I mean, you think about your debut album, you’ve got “Wild Horses” on there, which is from 2015 it was released. I can’t imagine how long ago you actually wrote that song. Now, to be in a position that you can be putting music out that’s really relevant to you today, must be quite exciting?

Yeah. No, no, no, that’s the thing with “Wild Horses”, funny you should mention that, because with “Wild Horses”, it was really written a month before it got the placement, which is the first way it got released. There’s all of that early on music, “The Way I Do”, and “River”, and “Wild Horses”, it was kind of released at this speed, maybe it was a month or two after it had been written. Then, I found that with writing the album, there really is … it’s a longer time frame. You’re trying to create this thing that is perfectly imperfect, then you’re putting a bow on it, and that can take time. So I think by the time the album was released, I was so ready to release music, even more new music, because it just felt so good to release something that I had been working on for so long. That album was two years of working on that.

Finally, I didn’t know I was creating an album. I was just creating and touring, and then I realised, “Oh my gosh, this is becoming an album.” I think that’s why the dreaded album two is a dreaded thing, because maybe sometimes you have more eyes on you and more pressure. I’m really just seeing it as an opportunity to be completely honest, and that, in a funny way … The only thing that makes me a bit nervous about being that honest is my parents. They’re very, very sweet and I’m always honest with them. But, this is definitely a deeper look into love, and sadness, and hope, and loss, and that definitely feels more vulnerable than I could’ve imagined.

Yeah, there’s certain lyrics in “Baby” that you don’t necessarily wanna be speaking to your parents.

You don’t even know, it was so bad. It was so bad. It was over Skype, because they still live in Hong Kong. I just had a rough of the song, and I couldn’t wait to show them, I was so excited. Completely forgetting about the chorus really. Yeah, my face went bright red, I couldn’t even look at them through the Skype.

Now you know, it’s kind of your equivalent to having a sex scene in a movie as an actor or something.

Yes, exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

Do you get to go back to Hong Kong very often?

Yes. I mean, okay, well, it’s a 15 hour flight. I try to go back each Christmas, so I’m going to be going back this year, and then that’s when I’m going to be going to Australia.

I was gonna say, it must be … It’s one of the convenient spots en route to Australia. I know when I’m going to Europe, I stop off.

I was so relieved, that rarely happens with my touring.

What do you miss most about a place like Hong Kong? For me, it would be the food, but of course, you’ve got your family there as well.

Yeah. Top things I miss would be my cats, Stanley and Charlie. Then, the follow up would be the easiness of transportation. You hop in a cab, you go on a bus, there’s buses every 10 minutes, so it really offers you a lot of freedom. I’m kind of one of those people that’s always out and about, so that’s something that I definitely miss all the time.

Yeah, you don’t … the public transport situation in LA isn’t exactly as freeing as that.

Yeah. I mean, that’s the thing. A lot of people don’t like the public transport in LA, but I will say, when I first moved to LA I was on it all the time. I think the system isn’t too bad, it really isn’t. But, the people that you meet on the buses are a little scary. So that’s definitely a little bit of a flight risk, for sure.

When I was a kid in California, there were no trains then. Now, you’ve got the Expo line from Santa Monica downtown. That combined with Uber and things like that, you can actually get around pretty safely and comfortably without a car.

Absolutely. I think maybe the main difference between a place like LA and Hong Kong is similar to the difference between LA and New York. With New York there are people walking everywhere all the time. With LA, it’s a bit of a ghost town, to be honest. No matter where you are, there aren’t people just walking. I mean, maybe if you’re in Venice, but in downtown LA it isn’t really … it’s quite sparse because a lot of people drive. So yeah, I definitely miss the cats and I miss the bus.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen you live now. Mid last year was the last time I saw you live. I’ve been travelling a lot, I’m surprised we haven’t bumped into each other. But, tell me a little bit about how the live show’s developed, and what we can expect from your shows down here over New Years?

Oh my gosh. Well, I’m really excited and proud of how this show has really progressed. I think I’m more vulnerable than ever, but I also feel like I have kind of become more energetic onstage, and really just letting it out onstage, which is something that I did before. But, I found that in touring more, performing more, I really found my place and found how I like to perform, and really what makes me feel most alive, because I think when you are onstage and you lead with vulnerability, hopefully the people that come to your show are leaving it feeling encouraged and inspired to be more vulnerable in their own life.

You’ve released “Baby”, have you been working on a lot more music of that ilk? Are we gonna be hearing new music?

Yeah. Yes. You will be hearing new music in the set, and yes, I have been writing a lot and I’m so excited. Yeah, I’m very, very excited.

So when you say you’ll sit down and write something like Baby and you won’t think you’re gonna release it, is that purely based on the fact that you think, “Oh, well, this is out of cycle. We’re not in a release strategy at the moment.”


Or are you writing music for other people and trying to just put music out into the world and see what happens?

No, not at all. I think it was … Truthfully, what it was … The reason I didn’t think I would release it was because I was talking about my boyfriend being crazy but good in bed. The minute that rhyme scheme came along, I was like, “Oh, wow. Now I’ve kind of said it, and kind of giving these specific details.” I think what’s exciting about it was, in releasing it, and in feeling motivated to release it, it opened a whole place in my mind for writing, which was basically to … I basically, I found it even more healing to not hide behind my own metaphors and poetry. Even though that type of writing means so much to me, I think it’s important as well for my growth as a human to be completely honest and completely direct, even if it makes me uncomfortable. There’s something really special about that.

I want to one day be able to tell my grandkids that I was completely honest and I was fearless. I think the only way I can ever have those conversations is if I release music like “Baby”. The thought of my future grandkids running around the room screaming and freaking out that I’m saying those type of lyrics, that’s definitely something that I think about a lot.

That’s something that … I mean, you’ve always worn your heart on your sleeve on your music. I think it’s just, yeah, it’s interesting that you bring up the idea of just not mixing it with metaphor and all that because you’re talking about a partner being crazy and good and bed and stuff. I’m sure that’s been mentioned in songs since The Beatles and Elvis.

Yes, yes.

But, hidden behind metaphor.

Yes, totally. Yeah. I love those artists. But, it’s funny, all of the artists, they did have … they had these songs that sometimes were even more direct, and those are the ones, as a listener, I felt even more drawn to. That’s something that each to their own, but something that definitely inspired me.

Yeah, I guess it doesn’t get more direct than “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, does it?

Yes, yes, exactly. That’s funny, I was thinking of that too.

Well we can’t wait to see you back in Oz next month! 

I can not wait!

Bishop Briggs will be in Australia over NYE for Falls Festival as well as for sideshows in Sydney on 4th January and in Melbourne on 8th January. For more details about Falls Festival head HERE and for her sideshows head HERE.


Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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