Bishop Briggs is not going to tell you her real name. Not yet anyway. “I just want people to focus on the music right now,” she said on the phone from Los Angeles where she was preparing to head back into the studio for another long day of writing. It’s easy to comply with the request, because her music has a magnetic draw that holds your attention. She has only released three songs so far, but they are racking up plays and accolades, and earned her a spot opening for a little band called Coldplay.
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Her debut song “Wild Horses” had people scrambling to Shazam the Acura ad in which it was featured, holding their phones up to the TV in the hopes of finding out who was behind the lilting, hypnotic track. The follow-up “River” has garnered over 1.3 million plays on Soundcloud, which sounds like a lot until you realize the song has been listened to seven million times on Spotify. It’s a haunting tune filled with Bishop’s husky Motown-inflected voice drifting over rhythms that sound like GIFs, the action cut short by a repetition that draws you back in.
But despite the buzz, Bishop Briggs is still a mystery, in fact this is her second interview ever. “We know that makes it appear that we’re press shy, but we’re just trying to make it about music,” said Briggs, including her writing partners and producers Mark Jackson and Ian Brendan Scott in her collective we. “People can get to know me more through my lyrics and the melodies that we’re coming up with.”
In her music, Briggs’s voice is hay-scratched with country gothic undertones, but on the phone, she is surprisingly bubbly. “You weren’t expecting a Valley Girl drawl?” she said, laughing, further dispelling the noir-ish, unsettling persona crafted in the video for “River,” which looks a bit like a ‘90s remake of The Ring.
For Briggs the fact that she has press wanting to speak with her at all is a dream come true. “It was a dream from the moment I knew how to dream,” she said. Her family comes from the town in Scotland whose name she now bears, but she was born in London, lived in Japan and Hong Kong for years studying piano, writing what she called “dark poetry,” and singing karaoke with her father.
A few days after she graduated from high school, Briggs headed to Los Angeles as an 18-year old with Hollywood dreams in her head. But Briggs was no doe-eyed starlet-in-waiting; she enrolled at the Musicians Institute to study vocal performance and set about becoming a musician with a dogged determination. While on paper it sounds like a glissé maneuver from anonymity to near stardom, Briggs takes her very work seriously, treating her dreams like a job.
“I performed every two days in Los Angeles,” she said. “I was writing all the time, but even if you’re feeling good about the music the only way to really know is to perform it live. So for years and years and years, I played constantly.” She played anywhere that would have her hopping from one hole-in-the-wall venue to another. “I played anywhere, everywhere, places where no one cared, just to get my craft up,” she said. “A lot of people that are pursuing this crazy dream, they want it to happen overnight, they want to rush it, and I was one of those people, but I decided to just keep my head down and keep working and have tunnel vision and I’m really thankful for everything I did before. It taught me so much.”