When rising pop singer bülow calls from a recording studio in Canada, she quickly cautions that she’s feeling under the weather. She explains that she’s just returned from her week-long high-school graduation trip to Cyprus, later pausing mid-answer for a brief cough attack. “It was a whole week of partying,” she says. “It was really exhausting, but a lot of fun.”
The 18-year-old, born Megan Bulow, only just finished school. But in between wrapping up her studies and taking part in the ceremony and other celebrations, she managed to drop her second EP in a two-volume collection titled Damaged. (The first installment arrived last fall; her friends blasted it throughout the cafeteria speakers during lunch.) She’s grateful her parents placed such a value on her education, even though she asked them to drop out “many many many times.” But now that school is finally out of the way, she’s eager to devote herself to what she does best — making the kind of emotionally raw electro-pop that’s already racked up tens of millions of streams on Spotify. “I can happily move on to this next chapter in my life,” she says. “It’s a very freeing feeling.”
Her nomadic childhood put her on the path to songwriting. Growing up in Germany and later moving to England, Texas, and the Netherlands, music was the one constant that helped keep bülow grounded. Moving around also made her realize that being honest about her own experiences with love and heartbreak made it easier to relate to and connect with other people her age, no matter where she lived.
Those universal feelings are baked into Damaged Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. The first EP’s breakthrough hit, “Not A Love Song,” showcases bülow’s soft-spoken and inviting tone, which she maintains even when she’s crushing dreams with her unfiltered lyrics: “It’s all lies, it’s all lies/Fairytale’s a waste of time,” she sings, making clear that she isn’t interested in pleasing anyone but herself. “When going into a session, [for me, it’s about] writing what you want and not asking, ‘What do other people want to hear?’” she says. “Because in the end, you’re never going to say what you want to say. Being honest doesn’t mean you are weak.”
There is no trace of weakness on either of her two EPs. In its place, her music is rooted in self-assurance, earnesty, and even some bite — best showcased on Damaged Vol. 2 standout “You & Jennifer,” inspired by a real-life cheating situation. The girl who inspired the song isn’t really named Jennifer, but “that name fit the rhyme scheme quite well,” bülow says with a satisfied laugh. “This song has this ‘fuck you’ attitude, and you really can’t escape any of the swearing. It’s literally all over it, and that’s what I think makes the song honest and fun.”
If its blunt, cut-like-a-knife chorus — “Fuck you and Jennifer, go fucking make love to her” — evokes Avril Lavigne with an electro-pop twist, that’s not a coincidence. bülow cites the “Sk8r Boi” star as one of her biggest inspirations. “I definitely feel like Avril has played a big role in my music and my creative side,” says bülow, who was introduced to Lavigne at a young age by her older sister. “We need more women like that, who are strong and finding their own path. She wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing.”
Thanks to Lavigne’s influence, bülow is comfortable sharing her own warts-and-all past with songs about turning down a guy only to realize she wanted him once he was taken (“I Like This Guy,” off Vol .1) and her struggle to find a balance between being a good student and partying (“Honor Roll” off Vol. 2). “A lot of my experiences and situations I was in, at the very end, always ended up leaving me feeling damaged,” she now says, pointing to the title for her pair of EPs. “That word reflects my life over the past few years.”
And now that the EPs, and her high school days, are behind her, her future is — for the first time — wide open. With a handful of international festival gigs booked, and an opening tour slot in the works, bülow is still getting used to her newfound (but likely fleeting) free time. “I’m just trying to take everything day by day,” she says. “It’s so important to be in the present moment. Abandoning it is such a crime — it’s way too precious to do that.”