By Danny Munro (he/him)
Joining me remotely from her Parisian hotel room, Taylor Upsahl cuts a relaxed figure as she prepares to embark on a Eurostar train headed towards the final leg of her first-ever headline tour.
After a gruelling few weeks of travelling across three continents, the aptly named ‘This is My First Headline Tour’ will cap things off at London’s Powerhaus on November 24, though not before a visit to one of Glasgow’s most celebrated institutions, King Tut’s.
Taylor tells me to expect a young, enthusiastic crowd in Glasgow, assuring me that the “girls and the gays” will be in attendance. She claims to have had low expectations heading into the world of touring, but judging from UPSAHL’s Instagram, each show thus far appears to have been well attended by attentive, passionate crowds, and I suspect a Saturday night at King Tut’s will be no different.
Though the UPSAHL project boasts a growing discography containing various singles, EPs and a full-length album, Taylor is quick to acknowledge that without the help of one particular single, her opportunities may not be as fruitful as they are today.
For those unaware, Taylor was the mastermind behind ‘Drugs’, an angsty, tongue-in-cheek teen-pop track that captured the eyes of the TikTok world, featuring in some two million videos, reaching #1 in the TikTok charts while racking up over 110 million Spotify streams in the process.
Though according to Taylor, ‘Drugs’ wasn’t an instant success: “When I put it out, I remember feeling like this is a special fucking song, people are gonna like it. And then no one did for like two years!”
“It (went viral) on my birthday, and a bunch of friends were just sending me videos of people making videos to my song like ‘What’s going on?’ and I was just like ‘I don’t fucking know, I didn’t do this, it was going crazy!’”
While Taylor was elated by Drugs’ success, it’s no surprise to learn that overnight viral success does come with a good deal of pressure: “I was so excited, but so scared because I knew the moment would be so fleeting.”
“I remember those few days when it (‘Drugs’) was popping off being like, ‘We gotta go so hard like everyone needs to know about my other music,’ you know. It’s definitely stressful, but I’m just so grateful that TikTok gives artists like me the power and the platform to have a direct relationship with fans.”
To describe Taylor simply as a TikTok artist would be doing her a disservice, though. With writing credits under her belt for the likes of Madison Beer, Little Mix, and, most notably, Dua Lipa’s ‘Good In Bed,’ the 23-year-old has curated a CV plenty of songwriters could retire happily with.
Taylor is quick to stress that while more credit for songwriters would be nice, the industry could do with a re-think when it comes to paying those working behind the scenes: “With me, it’s like, we have this number one song on TikTok, but then it’s barely even paying our rent as songwriters.”
“I think something definitely needs to change, and, like, there are so many rad songwriters who are taking big steps with the law to make stuff happen, which is cool.”
While the music industry may underappreciate Taylor’s hard work, such a claim could not be made for the tightly-packed King Tut’s crew that shows up for the Arizona native two days later.
“We sold this bitch out!” Taylor announced gleefully. And a sold-out King Tut’s was no less than she deserved. Thrashing her way through a jam-packed hour-long set, Taylor’s passion for the art of live performance was blindingly obvious.
The likes of ‘People I Don’t Like,’ ‘Antsy,’ and, of course, ‘Drugs,’ helped to aid an atmosphere fitting for an artist clearly capable of packing out rooms far greater in size than ‘Tut’s. While her viral moment may have been fleeting, I suspect that for UPSAHL, success is here to stay.
UPSAHL played King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut on Saturday, 19 November, 2022.
Edited by Theerada Moonsiri