Rising from viral star to IRL pop provocateur in just five years, Persian pop newcomer Gia Woods’ origin story fits well alongside fellow Gen Z, queer-identifying contemporaries like King Princess, Hayley Kiyoko and Clairo. Woods’ first hit — 2015’s “Only a Girl” — became an instant LGBTQ+ anthem and lit the torch for her inevitable crossover into pop’s next rising class with views north of 10.7 million to date on YouTube. “Soft touch, warm skin, nothing like my ex-man,” she croons on the crossover hit. “Slowly falling, I don’t want a next man.”
A 2017 dance collaboration with Matoma (“Heart Won’t Forget”) followed, which has earned over 33 million streams on Spotify to date; and in 2018, Woods inked her first label deal with Disruptor Records, booking agency CAA and publisher Downtown. This year, Woods continued her full-speed ascent with a steady stream of left-of-center pop earworms — including “Jump The Fence,” “Keep On Coming,” “One Big Party” and “New Girlfriend” — anchored in her commitment to self-acceptance and authenticity in her work.
After a slew of Pride festival performances this summer, the singer will next appear as part of the second annual OUTLOUD Music Festival, Nashville’s only queer music event, on Saturday alongside Kim Petras, Greyson Chance, Katie Pruitt, John Cyrus and others. “I love how there’s been so many Pride festivals happening all over the country,” she says. “These festivals are so important for our community and I’m so honored to be a part of them.”
To fete OUTLOUD’s second spin, Woods crafted a special Summer of Pride mix that highlights the LGBTQ anthems she currently has “on-repeat,” including cuts from Lady Gaga, Saweetie, Tommy Genesis and more.
“I wanted to make a playlist that’s a mix of old pop nostalgic records, songs I like getting ready to, and songs that I’ll blast anytime, anywhere,” Woods says. “A lot of these songs take me way back to when I was listening to Britney, Madonna and Nelly records on repeat growing up. They all have such a sexy empowering feel. I really miss that time in music.”
The set’s Pride theme resonates doubly with the multi-instrumentalist, who grew up in a conservative family in Los Angeles. “Anything Pride-related is so important because growing up I didn’t really understand my sexuality or know that what I was feeling was completely normal,” she says. “I was raised in a very old-fashioned Persian house and being queer is a big no.”
Visibility remains a chief concern for the artist, who felt alone often during her youth. “I was never exposed to anything besides straight couples,” she adds. “It was so eye-opening.” During high school, Woods found the courage to come out to her peers and family. “I realized there were other girls like me who weren’t straight and that made me feel less alone. We had the internet, Tumblr era, etc., but it’s nothing like it is now and I think for the kids growing up today it’s so humbling to see Pride talked about more,” she says. “There’s a whole community of people who can relate.”