Unbeknownst to just about everyone, Bishop Briggs has been gracing the TV screens of viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer for the last few months as the ultra-powerful Medusa. Briggs’ performance of “Elastic Heart” by Sia was inventive, note-perfect, and exhilarating, and easily cemented her win against the eventual runner-up, David Archuleta. Briggs, who embodies the soulful, grittier sound of artists such as Annie Lennox, Janis Joplin, and Sinead O’Connor, is certainly an artist with notoriety but succeeded in keeping the general public off her trail.
Her win came at just the right time. Her new single “Baggage” is out now, ahead of her highly anticipated new EP, When Everything Went Dark, out in June.
“Shut your mouth and run me like a river”
Briggs is no stranger to the spotlight. Her song “River,” which has been covered by the likes of Kelly Clarkson and P!nk, is, arguably, one of the most ubiquitous hits of the modern era. It has become a reality singing show staple and has been used to great effect on social media and in other art forms like lyrical dancing.
Choreographers Brian Esperson and Tim Milgram, among others, have highlighted the track for dance videos on their popular YouTube channels, with each of the performers digging their teeth into a tune with so much weight and tension behind it. “The idea of someone taking what you’ve created, and being creative with it, and having their own interpretation, and having any sort of emotional reaction that’s causing them to move their body means everything,” she said. “I think something that I really am seeking, just as a person existing on the planet, is that connection. What is the connective tissue that we all have? When I see people using something that I’ve created, and they’re creating their own interpretation from it, it makes me feel connected. Like we are experiencing something similar.”
Hiding In Plain Sight
In previous interviews, Briggs has talked about hiding behind the metaphors in her music. Of not wanting to give everything away. However, her stance on this has since evolved. “At a lot of the shows, I’m always like, ‘Hey, can we keep this between us?” on being forthcoming with her audience. “I think that’s a part of getting older too. You realize it’s really important to tell the truth and to be honest. You feel less alone in whatever you’re going through just by sharing it. Especially if I want the people in front of me to really know what I’m coming from, and for me to know where they’re coming from. There has to be that exchange.”
Briggs’ catalog, up to this point, truly embodies the poetic justice of it all. Her debut record Church Of Scars is a heartfelt display of emotion of events lived through over many years, while her follow-up CHAMPION serves as an unfiltered snapshot of a moment in time. Songs like “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?,” Water,” and, of course, “River,” scratch the surface of Briggs’ honest, picturesque storytelling, but are the types of songs that will draw a listener in. Somehow finding themselves and their own stories within the music of another.
“But dammit, that’s my baggage”
The theme of finding oneself in the art of another is continued with the new single, “Baggage.” The tune could have fit on either of Briggs’ albums but leans heavily into Calvin Harris/Martin Garrix-style dance pop. On “Baggage,” Briggs acknowledges the pain and heartache that she has experienced, but vows to not only not allow it to define her, but to step up and own it: “My heart’s so calloused / I’m broken, bruised, and damaged / Gave up on feeling balanced / But dammit, that’s my baggage.”
“First and foremost, I am a work in progress,” she said. “There are some days I feel like I can own my shit and be really clear and direct. Other days, I want to combust into a pile of glitter and tears. When I moved to LA… I started this coping mechanism that I called a ‘clean slate.’ When I woke up, whatever had happened the day before, I was going to start the next day almost as if it didn’t happen, unless it was helpful. Taking the things that I need to, but trying to not be depleted by it. I feel that with my baggage as well. It’s really hard because we’re supposed to learn lessons from our baggage, so we can’t ‘clean slate’ it too much.”
As deeply as Briggs feels like she can dive into it alone, she knows there is a viable, accessible solution out there. “I. need. therapy,” she said with a smile, pausing in between each word. “I did go to therapy for a long time, and something I really appreciated about it was showing up each week and having to announce my baggage in order to work through it. I think that was really helpful.
All Around The World
Briggs’ story is well-documented. She was born to Scottish parents in London before moving to Japan and later Hong Kong, and as a result, was exposed to different aspects of life globally. Once her career took off, she trekked across the US opening for Coldplay, Bleachers, and Kaleo, soaking up lessons from the established acts like a sponge. Despite her constant travels and broader locational perspective, she does not view herself as “worldly.” “I do think our biggest exposure to the world and education really does happen in our living room,” she said. “Whatever our parents are playing, or whatever CDs we find thrown about on the floor.”
The music she found in her living room, and would later go on to emulate in her own art, are artists consistently at the top of every “Greatest Of All Time” list… Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin. She also ties lessons learned from her travels into her artistry. When she thinks of London, she thinks of The Beatles. When she thinks of Japan, she thinks of discovering Whitney Houston and the constant flow of music and culture. When she thinks of Hong Kong, she thinks of learning to write music while experiencing heartbreak.
“In hindsight, I gathered a lot from each of those places,” she said. “But, I think by reading, hearing, or listening, the biggest impact can happen right from your bed. You don’t have to be living in these places to really have exposure. Especially nowadays… we’re able to connect with other cultures, and other music, in such a different way.”
Her new EP, When Everything Went Dark, is set to drop June 21st, before she heads out on the road (her first tour as a working mother) with MisterWives this summer. The title was derived from a lyric found in “High Water,” a gut-wrenching tune in which Briggs grapples with the loss of her sister. The project is both a coping mechanism and a tribute.
“The full line from that lyric is, ‘I promised I’d hold you when everything went dark,’” she said. “I hope that with every piece of music, I release going forward, there is a bit of my sister in it. There are songs on this EP that she and I danced to… that she was fully behind and encouraged me to put out. There is a bit of a story in this chapter of the past, present, and future. The title really came from that place of having her close to me always, and hoping that she’d be proud of what’s to come.”