Pop

One to Watch: Upsahl on Trading College For a Dua Lipa Co-Write

Upsahl
Kohl Murdock

Upsahl

Taylor Upsahl grew up in Phoenix, Arizona with an encouraging musician father. She says he motivated her to start writing songs at a young age and recalls one day in particular when her passion became a reality. "My dad was like, 'These aren't that bad -- we should get you in the studio!'"

By high school, Upsahl began releasing albums under her full name and playing gigs with other rising Phoenix acts. And in between classes at the Arizona School for the Arts, she would fit in local television performances. Her efforts paid off, and she soon caught the attention of singer-songwriter Max Frost, who eventually became a co-writer, tourmate and friend (they also share the same managers). As high school graduation neared, Upsahl knew she needed to make the move to Los Angeles in order to take her career to the next level and says -- just like before -- her parents were strong supporters. "[They were] like,' f--k college, we're here for you,'" she says.

Soon after settling in L.A., Upsahl signed publishing and record deals with Universal Music Publishing Group and Arista Records, the latter of which selected her as their first signee to coincide with a 2018 relaunch. She’s steadily released music since -- her latest EP, Young Life Crisis, arrived on Oct. 30 -- continuing to gain momentum every step of the way.

Upsahl’s father, Mike, played in punk and rock bands like Stereotyperider and High Horse. She says growing up in such a musical household allowed her to start recording at the young age of 13. “It was all really fun for me," she says. "I got to [go to the studio] anytime I wasn't in school.” And when she wasn't in school or at the studio, she still made music her priority, constantly networking and scoring gigs with other “dope Phoenix bands” like Jared & the Mill and Fairy Bones. “The Phoenix music scene is small, but everyone's so supportive of one another," she says.

In 2015, during Upsahl’s senior year in high school, she covered Max Frost’s “White Lies” for a local radio station; Frost’s manager, Joe Hegleman, saw the cover and thought the two of them should collaborate. Together they wrote "Can You Hear Me Now," which she released in 2017 — their collaboration also resulted in her landing Frost's managers, Joe Hegleman and Ron Shapiro, for herself. “Working with Max definitely made me realize you can do this for a living,” she says. “It opened my eyes to the whole songwriter world, which I didn't know existed.”

With Frost and Hegleman’s support, Upsahl moved to Los Angeles in 2018 and almost immediately signed a publishing deal with UMPG. Soon, she met with David Massey, who was gearing up to relaunch Arista Records at the time -- and wanted Upsahl as its first new signee. “I could tell immediately, 'This dude gets it,'” she recalls. She feels Massey understood the vision for her project, and signed with Arista that November.

While 2020 didn’t go quite as planned -- Upsahl played one show at the top of the year before the ongoing pandemic halted the live industry -- she continued making music and connecting with fans on social media and through livestreams. She also managed to score the biggest co-write of her career: Dua Lipa's "Good In Bed," off the singer's Billboard 200 top 10 album Future Nostalgia. Upsahl is proud of contributing the raunchy "all that good pipe in the moonlight" line," saying: “I love the really aggressive, in-your-face s--t. It's so cool to see a mainstream pop artist be unapologetically sexual.”

Upsahl is also active on TikTok, and recently transformed Lizzo’s bold words from her My Next Guest Needs No Introduction interview into an acoustic performance -- earning a stamp of approval from the star herself. In October, Upsahl released her Young Life Crisis EP, whose songs are as catchy as they are relatable: “I was just doing Zoom sessions all year, and also having a mental breakdown, and kind of just wrote through it all," she says with a laugh. As a result, there's more solo music in the works, as well as co-writes with artists like Madison Beer and Anne-Marie. “If there is a silver lining,” Upsahl says of the pandemic, “it's that I've noticed this little community of people, musicians and fans, who are all in this bubble supporting each other.”