Music Profile | Bishop Briggs

It’s been nearly a year since Bishop Briggs took the stage for her first television performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “River,” her breakout single, had been circulating since early 2016, and when the British-born artist sung it during the late night slot she proved those vocals heard on the recording were just as piercing live.

Bishop Briggs (whose real name is Sarah Grace McLaughlin) took vocal lessons for eight years while living in Hong Kong, and although she lived in various spots like Japan, too, it never really mattered where she was in the world, but rather what she was hearing inside her living room. For her these were the sounds of Motown, Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin, the latter of which being the most significant.

“From a very young age Janis Joplin was a big influence on me, she had this rawness and realness and she wasn’t afraid of how she looked,” says Briggs. “She was the first person I saw that didn’t care about being polished; she just put her heart out there and didn’t care about the response.”  

This reverence has helped shape Briggs’ own stage presence, which is as spastic as it is mesmeric—you don’t know where her hands are going to flare to and, frankly, it seems neither does she. Nor does she care. 

“Whenever I go on stage I try and release any insecurities I have…I’m not afraid to make an ugly face if I feel pain. I’m not afraid to have tears in my eyes ‘cause when I wrote the song it made me cry,” explains Briggs. “I think the moment you try to contrive that emotion as a performer you become limited. I try to be the exactly who I was when I first wrote the lyrics in my diary or first played the chords.”

Her self-titled debut EP features “River” among five other recordings, all of which were written by Briggs herself. This love (and necessity) to write has been part of her being since youth. “I’ve always loved poetry. I mean I would write dark emo poetry at Sunday school, you know? There was a lot to write about there,” she quips.

These writings can also be seen inside one of her many diaries, with each book’s spine dated and “hidden in [her] apartment for the fear of ever being found” by anyone. Of course she still has them.

One of her most poignant songs on the record that really puts her writing on alert is “Dead Man’s Arms,” a track that was birthed from anger.

“I always react to situations with sadness, never anger, but this situation that happened it was the first time I truly reacted with anger,” Briggs says of the track. “I felt it was something worth writing about, and while the anger was short lived, it made the recording process so different than any other one. I was gritting my teeth during it and we just took the takes as they were coming. It was cool and odd to write from that place and see what came out.”

What came out were lyrics like: So blame it on the down below / Take it from the weakest soul / Bury all your sorrow / Till the dead don’t seem so cold.

This coupled with a chorus that touts “Oh Lord, you got more bones than a graveyard…there’s more love in a dead man’s arms,” sure makes for some shrewd imagery, too.

“When I write I pretend no one will hear the music and I think it is so important to not have a barrier. I’m releasing my deepest darkest thoughts, so you can’t really have a barrier I think, “ says Briggs. “It’s similar to when I watch footage of Janis Joplin, I mean the reason why she could portray emotion so heavily was because she felt it.”

This connectivity can be witnessed on each of her songs, and Briggs also delivers that same heaviness on songs she covers. Take this recent effort for example, where she sings Matt Corby’s track, “Monday.” She doesn’t hold back.

“I’ve always put my music before anything else, and that’s such a tumultuous relationship because there’s things that I would never put up with in a normal relationship, but with music, I always go back to it no matter how bad it treats me,” explains Briggs.

“I write every single day, no matter what,” she adds. “It doesn’t mean it’s prolific every day, sometimes it’s just raw and on the page, but I think it’s important to always keep checking in on yourself. If I want longevity in this business, I have to keep writing, that’s key.”

Bishop Briggs will be heading out on tour alongside Bleachers this fall with stops in Vancouver (Sep. 14), Edmonton (Oct. 16), Calgary (Oct. 17), Missoula (Oct. 18), Toronto (Oct. 27/28), Laval, QC (Oct. 29), and back to Toronto (Nov. 14).

Bishop Briggs on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Photo: Jabari Jacob


Add comment