Bishop Briggs On Debut LP ‘Church Of Scars’ & Authenticity: Interview
Bishop Briggs’ “River” sounded brilliantly out of place on the EDM-drenched radio airwaves of 2016. With its raspy vocal and crunching production, the gutsy rock anthem was defiantly off-trend. Which is probably why it left such a lasting impression and still lives on today — recently returning to the iTunes top 20 after a surprise TV performance. (But more about that later). Since then, the 25-year-old has been chipping away at her debut album. Church Of Scars finally arrives tomorrow (April 20) and it’s well and truly worth the wait.
The album houses her subsequently re-released debut single “Wild Horses,” still-brilliant “River” and debut EP highlight “The Fire” as well as a batch of new songs including “White Flag.” The result is a musical diary that documents her journey from newcomer to Next Big Thing. I recently spoke to Bishop about the lovingly-curated project and she explained its brief tracklist (there are only 10 songs) and opened up about collaborating with Dan Reynolds. She also talked about her recent appearance on American Idol. Find out more in our Q&A below.
This album has been a long time coming. How do you feel about it being out in the world?
I am so excited. It really feels like I am releasing a child into the world. But I think most people that have actually had children would say that that is ludicrous. It’s not the same, but I’ve just been so excited and anticipating this as well.
How did you settle on a final tracklist? There are songs from 2015 to this year.
It felt so important to really show really show what’s been happening now and what’s been happening in my life as a whole. It felt important to put “Wild Horses” on it because that was really the start of this, and same with “River.” And then from the EP, I felt like it was so important to put in “Fire” because that was all about a breakup that really impacted a lot of the music and really showed that time in my life. That EP was all about that time in my life. So you kind of have little bits and pieces of this past, it’s been a couple years now, to have little parts of that and little fragments that hopefully put together a puzzle piece concoction of who I am. It felt really liberating and exciting.
Were there any songs that almost made the cut?
Yes. There definitely was a drawing board of songs and the start of songs. I think what was really exciting was the last addition to the album was the song that I wrote a couple months ago called “Water.” That was with this producer named John Hill and he did the production for Portugal, The Man’s “Feel It Still.” In working with him, I really felt like I had the ability to be even more authentic and be even more raw. To have the ability to add that at last minute was something that I think I’ll forever be grateful for, especially because it is a hint or clue into the music that’ll be coming out after this and the music that I hope to be writing in the future. And the music that I’ve already written that I’m excited for people to hear.
I love that there are only 10 songs.
It was intentional. As hard as it was, because there were so many songs that I adore strictly for nostalgic reasons or having performed it live, I felt it was so important to keep it at 10 just so it could perfectly illustrate what has been happening. I am fearful that sometimes when you go any more than 10 and any more than 12, that sometimes you lose the strength of the album. I think that was just my fear. So I did go the other route and the exciting part about it is with the Target release, there are two bonus tracks. It was nice to, you know, have a little bit of the best of both worlds.
I just don’t have the attention span to sit there for 90 minutes.
I feel like we’re part of this generation that is open to consuming albums, but it’s almost like they’re saying, “Don’t push it.” We’ll listen, but don’t push it. So I’m trying to draw the line.
The title, Church of Scars, is wonderfully emo. Can you elaborate on it?
It’s a lyric from one of the tracks on the album called “Hallowed Ground.” And the lyric is, “My heart is a church of scars” and it felt like the perfect representation of how I felt every time I wrote, every time I went to the studio. There was this heaviness because I was really diving into scars and some of them were fresh, some of them were years old, some of them were lifelong scars. I was trying my best to be unafraid of them as best I could. So it is an emo title but it’s like that thing that you just have to be true to yourself and I am such an emo at heart so it felt like I had to do it.
“River” was such a big song. Did you ever feel any pressure to recreate it?
I feel like there will always be chatter in the background and sometimes that can be people and sometimes it can be your brain, but what I would try to do every time I wrote was I would just kind of cut off from the outside world. “Wild Horses” and “River” and “The Way I Do” were all written when, and even “Hi-Lo (Hollow),” were all written when nobody knew who I was anyway. I mean, my mom knew me, my dad knew me, but I just mean that there was no analysis of my music online.
So what I decided to do really early on when we started to have people coming to shows and knowing lyrics and commenting on the music, I really made it a point that every time I went to the studio or whenever I was at the airport recording myself, or recording into my phone, I turned off all my notifications. And I wouldn’t open Twitter or Instagram or any form of the internet or my email, just because there’s a part of that if you don’t have the disconnect you’ll just be thinking the entire time about how people will feel and it’s so important to write from a place that is completely honest.
I think that honest place does come from telling yourself there won’t be an audience for the music. And then when there is an audience for the music, you come to terms with it and fully accept it for what it is.
I have to ask you about “Lyin’.” It’s one of my favorites.
Thank you so much. Yeah, that was a song that was written with Dan Reynolds. If you listen to the final chorus, you can hear him singing and I just want to say, going into the vocal booth with him was an insane experience. I had chills all over my body and I was tearing up. His voice just has such a power and on top of that is such a human of the universe. I feel like he’s someone that, him being in the world, it really is a better place because of him.
But this all began from a place of… it was actually to do with the idea of touring and telling your loved one, “Oh, I’ll be done with touring soon. Yeah, it will cool down.” When it’s your true passion you never want that to happen. You want to continue touring, you want things to accelerate and if someone doesn’t understand the true, true deepness of your love for music, you end up lying to them and worse. I don’t know which is worse, but lying to yourself. So that’s where the root of the song began.
“Hallowed Ground” is my other go-to song.
Thank you! “Hallowed Ground” was originally written and recorded on the road. I was in a small motel and a SM7 mic. The idea really came from that place that happens on tour when you are seeing so many different people and you are letting so many different people in, and there are sometimes people you meet that really overstep their boundaries and invade that space that is hallowed ground. That’s kind of something that I have a tough time with because I love people so much, and so I want everyone to be in my space and in my life, but it’s important to have that ability to check in with yourself and have that inner peace because sometimes it can become all-consuming.
What do you mean by overstepping boundaries? People waiting outside your hotel?
Well, honestly, it can be anything from people that are interviewing you, it can be people that are seeing you as a product and not a human, this can happen a lot on photo shoots. It’s funny, fans and people at shows are generally the best. I think I was primarily talking about that strange thing that can happen when people don’t see you as a human. For me it really leaves me feeling quite down because I’m not one to complain, so it puts me in a very robotic situation.
That’s what I’ve learned this year is to be honest with those around me and to make sure that I am being transparent and letting people know that I’m a human. I think that’s something that has been a hard lesson for me, but it’s important that people know that.
Earlier your hinted at your next project. How far along are you?
Well, music is literally my life in every single way. That means that I am writing all the time and I do have some things in the works that I’m so excited about, and different collaborations and different things that I am excited to surprise people with. I hope they’re surprised in a good way. But yeah, I am so excited about this album because it really feels like an amazing start to revealing who I am and letting people in a little bit more.
How did your American Idol appearance come about?
I have no idea how that came about! I was so honored that they asked me to mentor. I mentored two people. Both of them have these soulful, amazing voices and I want to make clear that I was brought on to mentor, but I did not mentor at all. In the sense that I was more nervous than them. I got told to give them advice, but all the advice I could give was to just be true to themselves. I think with authenticity, it’s so important when you are in something that is crafted as a TV show. It’s so important to not lose yourself in that and to know that you will ultimately feel so much better during and after the experience if you remain true to yourself.
Did you get a chance to interact with any of the judges?
I wish. I got to hear what the judges said to the contestants that I mentored, and that might as well have been, I mean, me being proposed to or something. I was reacting so much and I hope they show it. I was just freaking out. Even hearing any of these judges saying my name or talking about my music, it’s just so surreal, you can’t really believe it. So I’m really thankful for the opportunity. I will say, I got to meet and talk briefly to Ryan Seacrest, so I don’t want to say “I made it,” but I really have. I’ve got a really big head because of it. It was just five seconds of some on-camera time, but it was enough for me to become very big-headed.
If fans could experience one emotion while listening to Church Of Scars, what would you like that to be?
My hope, when they listen to the album, is that they feel less alone just by listening to it.
Thank you so much.
Have the best day!