It’s fitting that I first met Bishop Briggs on Halloween Eve. Her signature look is best described as a goth Sporty Spice — two tight buns on either side of her head, black lipstick, and an Adidas tracksuit to complete the look. Her band was testing out skull masks while she donned on skeleton hand gloves, definitely getting into the spirit of the season. The truth is, Bishop didn’t have to stray far to capture the creepy feel of Halloween and that’s also why her brightness and warmth upon speaking with her was a welcomed surprise.
There’s been an unintentional mystery surrounding Bishop Briggs since she broke onto the scene with her gospel-like, booming track, “River.” She never really did interviews, which was never really planned but with the unexpected explosion of “River,” she decided to let her music continue to speak for itself. She broke her silence in May 2016, with an interview with THE FADER, where she premiered her most jolting track to date, “The Way I Do.”
“We live in this day and age where there is that ability to have no boundaries, especially on social media — that part of the mystery I really like,” Bishop explains to me backstage at the Fonda in Los Angeles. “But there is the other side of it — letting people in who have let me into their own lives.”
Now that she’s started talking, it’s clear that while her music spoke volumes, Bishop has even more to say.
Over my last few years in Los Angeles, there are two things I’ve (barely) come to terms with and that’s 1. the hustle and 2. the pain. In a town that is filled with an endless of supply of people trying to make their ~dreams~ come true, there is a cycle that continuously goes between giving up and fighting on. Rinse and repeat as you slowly circle the drain. There doesn’t seem to be a point where pure satisfaction can be achieved but that also might be the secret to success.
“Maybe it’s an association with your soul being emptied,” Bishop contemplates as I present her with this dilemma. “I think when you’re truly passionate about something and you’re truly giving every single ounce of yourself, that means you’re giving both the good and the bad. It’s the most vulnerable you’ll ever and with that vulnerability comes the emptying of the soul that inevitably makes us miserable human beings [laughs]. It’s something that I’ve come to really accept and enjoy the beauty of it. Without this darkness, we wouldn’t have the light.” I mention that it’s a very David Lynch way of thinking; using the darkness to your advantage. “Yeah! Trying to find comfort in it, even though it’s unsettling.”
Oh, but you will never know this love
Will never know this pain
Never know the way I feel for you
You will never know this touch
Will never know this shame
Will never know the way I want you to
By now, the story behind Bishop’s “The Way I Do” is almost folklore. She went to a psychic with her friend, who was also a musician, and the psychic felt like her friend wanted to leave the industry. Bishop was shocked to hear that it was indeed something her friend was considering. “You’ll never know this pain, you’ll never feel the way I do,” Bishop thought to herself. But there is a love buried within that pain, I swear there is. It’s that love that keeps the fire going and pushes your way through all the hard stuff. Because you have to believe that on the other side, there is something that is worth all of the pain — you just have get through it first.
As we keep talking through our embracement of the dark, I ask Bishop very bluntly: can we only be tragically in love with something?
“With music, I think for sure. Anything else in my life is so much lighter than I am with music. It’s such a fulfilling thing that when I don’t have it, I feel unfulfilled. I just realized that could easily seep into my other relationships actually — as I was saying that [laughs]. But I don’t think anything will ever compare to the music love.”
It’s been six years Bishop Briggs moved to LA, and by all accounts, she’s made it. “River” is a major staple on the biggest radio stations, she’s toured with Coldplay, and has garnered millions of plays on streaming services. All of those struggles and hardship has made her more appreciative of what she has been able to accomplish.
“Everyone that comes into LA is very doe-eyed. They think that within the first week, they’ll be found. When that doesn’t happen, it really makes you who you are because you have to convince others as well as yourself that you are worthy of their time, their money, and to be listened to. A lot of the time they won’t give you money, they won’t give you their ears, and they most definitely won’t give you time. So you have to live this solo life where you constantly have to keep telling yourself: “You have to do this.” It not only made me a stronger musician — because it made me want to constantly write and perform — but it also made me, hopefully, a more well rounded human being.”