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In True Fire Sign Fashion, Upsahl Channeled ‘Unapologetic Energy’ To Make Her New ‘Sagittarius’ EP

Upsahl has had one hell of a year. How do you follow a debut album, last September’s Lady Jesus, and her first headlining tour across the globe? She found the answer this summer: by looking inward. The result produced her new EP, Sagittarius, a reference to the alt-pop star’s zodiac sign. (She is also a Pisces moon and a Libra rising.)

For those unaware of astrological traits, Sagittarians are the fiery nomads of the zodiac, who you can always count on to be the life-of-the-party… If they arrive. Upsahl sums it up in her favorite lyric, “Hold my cup, let me do a kickflip,” from the song, “Kickflip” — which also doubles as her favorite upcoming visualizer and a track she can’t wait to play live.

Growing up in Arizona around a musically-focused family, Taylor Upsahl — the musician’s last name is her stage moniker — eventually embarked out to Los Angeles, and the rest has been a rise. Penning songs for Dua Lipa and Madison Beer, Upsahl’s songwriting presence has set her apart as a significant talent. Plus, her music is fun as sh*t. Or, as she describes the Sagittarius EP, “unapologetic” and “intense, passionate, and powerful.”

What made you want to create an astrology-themed record?

For the first time ever this summer, when I was going into the studio and writing, I wasn’t writing about a relationship or another person. The only sort of muse I had was myself.

I had to learn this very healthy version of selfishness going into making this. Each song represents a different character trait or part of me that makes me who I am. I was like, ‘How do I put who I am in one word?’ and I’ve always related so hard to being a textbook Sagittarius. I feel like that perfectly describes me, who I am, and the entire energy of the EP.

What were your musical, or even general, inspirations for Sagittarius?

My goal was not really caring about each song sounding like they fit into the same genre. I feel like genre doesn’t really exist anymore. With “Into My Body,” I wanted to make a proper dance record. I had been listening to a lot of Prince. I loved how whispery and in-your face those vocals were. With “Kickflip,” we were listening to “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop.

Speaking of “Into My Body,” I’ve read that you grew up with parents who were involved in the punk scene, and there’s one video scene where you’re in the room with the hanging mic. It felt very early 2000s pop punk. I’m curious what your personal visual inspirations were for making it, since you mentioned Prince and Snoop Dogg for other songs.

That’s a cool question. What’s exciting about this EP is we got to create visuals for every song. I wanted it to feel just as much of a visual experience as it does a listening experience. I think there’s always gonna be a part of me that is so inspired by the punk scene. The biggest thing I’ve taken from it as a performer is that sort of ‘I don’t give a f*ck’ energy. Same with No Doubt and Gwen. That’s why she’s been such a big inspiration for me. Or Avril. They’re so unbothered, authentic, and present.

Is there a song you’re most excited to play live?

“Kickflip.” I was just on tour, and every night I was like, ‘Should we just add into the set?’ I feel like it’s so high energy, dancey, and fun. I’m also excited for “Toast,” my emo, big ballad song.

“Toast” closes the EP brilliantly with the lyric where you ask, “How didn’t I know it was coming to an end?” Was it always intended as the final song?

Having the EP end with the word “end,” I was like, ‘Oh, chef’s kiss. This is brilliant.’ That reflective energy and those big, airy synths throughout, I wanted listeners to have those three minutes to chill out. I wanted to ease down from the roller coaster.

Do you feel “Toast” or any of the songs serve as a tie-in to Lady Jesus?

I love to write about religion. Not super religious, but I’d say I’m a spiritual person. The idea of how much power we give religious figures, regardless of what our religion is, I think that’s such an interesting thing about humans.

The main lyric in “Kickflip” is “feeling like God.” The biggest theme of Lady Jesus was harnessing the power and trust that we put into religious figures and putting that into ourselves. And I​​ think I learned to do that when I was writing. Now that I sort of have this stability in my life, this EP is very much building off of that power and confidence I found.

Did you take a different approach to the creation process compared to your debut?

When I was making my debut album, I was very project-focused. This process was more scattered. When I was home in LA, I was writing as much as I could in a week with as many people as possible. That free-flowing, honestly less-focused energy made this EP feel very much like me.

What trajectory do you picture your future projects heading in?

Yeah, I think it’s funny because I’m always writing. This EP has five songs, but I wrote probably 300. There are already a lot of ideas floating around in my head for what the next chapter holds. Once I feel like I lived and breathed Sagittarius as much as I could, that’s when I start going back and listening to old demos. I hope I’ve grown by the next time I put out a project.

Were there any songs that didn’t make the EP that you wished did?

In my dream world, I would put out a 50-song album, but I think that’s what makes these five so special. I only have fifteen minutes to let people know who the f*ck I am. Each song is very carefully handpicked.

I read in another interview you did that sometimes you write to fill in the tracklist gaps to fit a narrative. Were there any songs for Sagittarius that you did that for?

For the first time, actually, it happened pretty naturally. With Lady Jesus, I really wanted to tell a story from start to finish. With Sagittarius, it’s not so much a chronological order, it’s more just personality pieces.

What do you hope listeners take away from the EP?

Astrology aside, diving into who I am as a person and learning to own every single part was the biggest thing for me. I hope that in listening people feel empowered to do the same. I think the reasons we as humans need religion and spirituality is for the self-reflection aspect of it.

Sagittarius is out now via Arista. Get it here.