By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Alterna pop singer Taylor Upsahl peppers her conversation with “stoked” and “dope.” She just turned 21 on Thanksgiving, but she speaks like a record industry veteran.
Upsahl has owned 2019, and she’s optimistic about 2020. She’ll celebrate that success with Alt AZ and the “Ugly Sweater Concert Series” by opening for Angels and Airwaves at the Marquee on Wednesday, December 4.
“I’m very excited,” says Upsahl, who performs using only her last name. “I haven’t been home in a minute. Normally, when I come home—especially in the past year—I see as many people as I can. But I’m excited to see everyone around the holidays.”
She better do it now, as she has a busy 2020. Upsahl has several new singles lined up for 2020 and is now working to finalize those tracks. She just released the single “Smile for the Camera.”
“It’s definitely my favorite video to date,” she says. “It was crazy to smash all this stuff. That morning, I said any anger I have I’m putting into this music video. Patrick Lawler, who did the video for ‘Drugs’ too, did it. He’s so amazing. She showed me the concept and I was sold, with all the different colors.”
When she returns from touring, Upsahl immediately heads into writing sessions. She figures this year she’s penned at least 350 songs.
“I’m just trying to put out as many of them as possible,” she says with a laugh. “I just want to share more music with my fans.”
She collaborated recently with the production team Space Primates and songwriter Asia Whitacre, the latter of whom she dubs an “incredible writer out of L.A. who’s been one of my true favorites.”
“Her melodies are insane,” she says. “She’s fun to be around and she’s really not scared to take risks. For me, it’s important to surround myself with other creatives who want to take risks. She likes to do weird (stuff), which I think is really dope.
“One of the things I’ve loved about making music is doing stuff people are thrown off by. I’d rather take the risk and make something amazing and groundbreaking than just a new song.”
When Upsahl plays the Marquee, she’s bringing her recently reconfigured set of new songs and unreleased tracks.
“I’ve incorporated playing bass into the set, which is fun,” she says. “I’m running around playing instruments so it’s really high energy.”
Her success has been a long time coming. When she was 17, Upsahl wrote and released a self-titled EP, which gained recognition throughout the Valley. A graduate of the Arizona School for the Arts, a performing arts middle/high school, Upsahl continued to hone her craft, while being classically trained on piano, guitar and choir.
“I started going to the Arizona School for the Arts when I was 10 years old,” she says. “I graduated high school there. Every morning we’d do our academics, and after lunch we would just have arts classes all day long. It was great to be surrounded by a bunch of people who were studying dance, theater or music. It was a very supportive place to grow.”
Her first show was a 93.9 gig at the Salty Senorita as a freshman in high school.
“My dad helped me put together a live show,” she says with a laugh. “It was great. Then I was slowly introduced to the Crescent Ballroom and Valley Bar.”
She moved to Los Angeles after graduation and quickly signed with David Gray of Universal Music Publishing Group as an artist. Her goal was to work with several writers and producers to up her game.
The plan worked, as she was the first artist signed to Arista Records, which was resurrected by music exec David Massey. She calls it “the craziest opportunity ever.”
Coming full circle to Phoenix is just as gratifying. She recalls gigs with Decker and others who were equally as supportive.
“All the bands and artists in Phoenix are so amazing. Let’s say there were three bands on a show. Somehow, everyone would find a way to collaborate on one song,” she says.
Nevertheless, she’s looking forward to seeing everybody at home.
“Seeing everyone around the holidays will be dope,” she says. “Most of my friends will be home from college. I’m just super, super grateful for the support system I still have in Phoenix.”
Angels and Airwaves w/IDKHOW and Upsahl, Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Avenue, Tempe, 480.829.0607, luckymanonline.com, 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 4, $40 in advance.