“I was playing places that had stripper poles”
Since when do bishops make music and since when are they female? Since never and that’s why Bishop Briggs is not to be confused with gospel quires and organ play. The 27 year old singer makes groovy alternative Indie Rock music which makes you want to sing along and dance through your room in the middle of the night or mosh pit with a mass of people in the mud of some random festival.
Born in Great Britain, the singer soon moved to Japan, Hong Kong and finally ended up in L.A., aged 18 and eager to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Finally, in 2015, she reached prominence with her single Wild Horses appearing in an ad and herself appearing on Jimmy Fallon and singing River in 2016. Since then she push started her career with her debut album, contributing a song to the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack and releasing her next studio album only 18 months later.
Interview spoke to Bishop Briggs on the phone about her upbringing, the catholic church and sexism in the entertainment industry.
Milla Mann Your name is Bishop Briggs , or at least that’s what you call yourself correct?
Bishop Briggs Yes. It’s what I go by on stage.
MM Your parents are from a town called Bishopbriggs right?
BB Yeah. My entire extended family is from an area in Scotland called Bishop Briggs. But my actual name is Sarah Mclaughlin.
MM Why did you choose that as your stage name?
BB As my entire family is from that area I liked the thought of being able to shake someone’s hand when introducing myself and immediately being reminded of home and feeling grounded. It was my first instinct. Also, I grew up in the nineties with Sarah Mclachlan. I just think she is a queen and I knew I could never beat that haha. So I knew I wanted to change my name from a really young age.
MM Haha that would be an odd association
BB Ugh. She is amazing and I’m just glad I went with another name so I don’t have to deal with the competition.
MM Many artists are choosing a different name to differentiate between their stage-persona and themselves. Do you use it in terms of privacy?
BB Hmm. I think that concept is beautiful for some people. For me personally, it’s been helpful to ascertain there are elements of myself in both those of people. Luckily though, the more I produce this type of music, the more I feel completely like myself- whether I’m on stage or not. However, there is wikipedia now haha so privacy is rare haha
MM haha That’s true. I found out about your real name and your parents on wikipedia so…
BB haha Oh my god! At one point wikipedia said that I was a witch in the salem trial
MM haha No way!
BB Yes! and I kept it for a long time because it was kind of cool.
MM You were born in Great Britain and also lived in Japan and Hong Kong. How did that influence you and your music?
BB I lived in Japan for six and in Hong Kong for eight years. Almost the minute after we landed in Japan, my family went to a karaoke bar, which was just a good place to meet people and there I witnessed my dad singing for the first time. He would sing Frank Sinatra and I was immediately hooked. It was just the light in his eyes. Without understanding what it meant I knew that I wanted to sing for the rest of my life. So it was a huge influence. I went to middle- and high school Hong Kong so I collected a lot of writing-material there haha
MM What made you move to L.A.?
BB I moved to L.A. the minute that I graduated high school. It was actually the day after.
BB I know haha I was eager. I saw it as this mystical place where dreams could come true. In my head – and this does happen for some people- I imagined to land and someone coming up to me and seeing what I have to offer. In reality it took so many years of performing around Los Angeles and really hoeing in on songwriting.
MM So it wasn’t the fairytale version of it?
BB I mean I was playing places that had stripper poles haha and room for six people and only four people showed up haha So yes, a little bit different than the fairytale.
MM haha I guess it’s experience…
BB Definitely. Still, I would always recommend Los Angeles to anyone wanting to pursue music because there is a community of people who are doing the same thing as you and that creates a special kind of grind. Though that grind is very motivating you definitely need a lot of self-motivation.
MM Weren’t you afraid of the move? You were so young.
BB I know I was a fool haha
MM haha I mean it worked out didn’t it?
BB I think there has to be a part of you that is slightly delirious, super passionate and completely fearless and I think that was and still is part of me. Even if it’s really small and doesn’t show up in my everyday life.
MM The first thing that crossed my mind when I heard your name for the first time was: are you catholic?
BB Oh gosh. I feel like it’s best to not answer that question because I don’t want to hurt my mum’s feelings. She would be so sad haha
MM haha but you have a catholic background?
BB Yes haha
MM Your name is “that girl bishop” on instagram do you think there should be a female bishops or more female representation in church?
BB Oh my god fuck yes!!
BB Fuck yes! Yes yes yes! a million percent yes! It’s insane. I think I just want my answer to be “fuck yes!!” because I fully believe that.
MM What do you do when you’re not making music?
BB On tour I’m generally hanging out with my crew and finding the closest donut shop or mini golf. There is nothing more exciting than finding a cheesecake-factory on tour. It’s like finding gold in eggs! When I’m home, I live for a catch up over an oat milk laté with my best friends. That’s something I miss so much when I’m on the road. This place here is just so cold and contrasting haha. But in essence, when I’m on the road, it’s about finding quirky and cool things to do and at home I just love the routine and catching up with close friends.
MM What is something that interests you at the moment or something that you think people should pay more attention to?
BB I’m a really big fan of anyone and everyone using their platform for activism. I think it’s the coolest thing and that it should never be frowned upon. Unless you’re promoting Trump haha
MM There are a lot of young people taking action. People are finally speaking up.
BB Seeing that makes me so happy! It’s how it should be and how it was for a moment in time. I feel very thankful for all the shifts that have happened, especially for the #metoo movement.
MM In regard to your song Champion you said that, as a woman you felt you were socially trained into being so many things at once. How do you see that portrayed in the music and entertainment industry?
BB Sexism changes over time but women, just like men, have different facettes or their personalities; how we navigate the world, what faces we choose to put on. There was a point when I wrote Champion, that I felt I wasn’t all of myself anymore. I found myself blaming the relationship that I was in and I had to take a step back. One of the things that I loved and still love about him is that he was a huge feminist. He never made me feel small. But why did I immediately think ‘that’s what he must want’ – he must want me to be smaller. But it is not like he said anything, it was not like he made me feel that way. When I went to therapy that day haha I realized it was something bigger. It had something to do with being a woman and navigating the world as a woman. Constantly being told to care for other people. The concept in its essence is beautiful but there has to be space for all the other parts women are – just like men. When I walked into a room, I wanted to just be. I didn’t want to apologize and wanted to say things as they were. I think the thing I learned when writing Champion is that the world has so much potential for greatness and that women can be anything they want to be and don’t have to concern their immense brainpower with what everyone else in the room needs.
MM That’s a beautiful and very empowering message. I can totally relate to that.
BB Thank you. It’s interesting because the topic kept coming up in my group of girlfriends and therefore I started talking about it on stage in order to see whether someone else felt the same way. Does anyone else feel they have to be sexy and cute and confident and humble and be a boss but oh not too much, don’t be a bitch? Was anyone else feeling this? Was anyone else feeling like their brain power was being disrupted and was it something that affected their life as much as it affected mine? I was getting a huge response.
MM I can imagine.
BB What means the most to me though are these moments – like we just had- when you’re like “Yes, I get totally get that!” or men talking about their wives or girlfriends. It’s so liberating. Still, the questions that men in the industry get asked are about their music and their process when I will get questioned about my dating life or who I would rather sleep with in the music industry.
MM What kind of question is that?
BB I know. I did get that question. The game is called “fuck, marry, kill” and there were three men I had to categorize. I had played festivals with all of them, they were all significantly bigger than me and foremost married. So I just said I would kill them all. But it has been great to talk about the problem and I noticed men being even more aware and quite frankly, feminism is just wanting men and women to be equal. It’s simply the opposite of sexism.
Bishop Briggs is playing in Hamburg on the 12.12.19, the 13.12.19 in Berlin and on the 15.12.19 in Köln
Interview MILLA MANN