ENTERTAINMENT

Bishop Briggs, And The Story Behind Her Genre-Bending Music

Fusing soul with hip-hop beats, she's an electrifying talent.

19/06/2017 6:23 PM AEST | Updated 19/06/2017 6:23 PM AEST
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Born in London to Scottish parents. Raised in Tokyo and Hong Kong. Moved to Los Angeles, starry-eyed, in search of fame and fortune. At 24, musician Sarah McLaughlin has already seen more parts of the world than many of us would ever dream of, and if all goes to plan, the travelling isn't done yet.

McLaughlin is better known as Bishop Briggs, owner of one of the most soaring, powerful and exciting voices in indie music today. The rich tapestry of her intercontinental upbringing seeps into her work, blending the rich vocals and gorgeous instrumentation of gospel and soul with the booming dancefloor rhythms of trap and hip-hop. It's a formidable and disarming combination, full of passion and power, and it has skyrocketed Bishop Briggs to the top of many critics' "one to watch" lists around the world.

"It's so hard to tell what has influenced or shaped you, but I don't think it hurt to grow up in places so vibrant with such an energy to them," she told HuffPost Australia. We're speaking ahead of her first tour to Australia in July, for Splendour In The Grass and a few of her own headline dates, and she's very excited (more on that later).


"In Japan, I had a stint in a children's gospel choir, which got me obsessed with gospel music and harmonies. That's where I got introduced to the whole Motown world. When I lived in Hong Kong, that's when I started performing and playing as much as I could, auditioning for whatever I could."

She was "discovered" by record labels playing in a small bar in LA in 2015. It led to the release of her first single, the electrifying 'Wild Horses', which introduced the world to her unconventional sound – starting out as something like Florence + The Machine, the softly plucked guitar lines give way unexpectedly to room-shaking bass lines, bombastic beats and creeping synthesisers. The track ended up in an Acura car commercial, catapulting her from unknown musician to rising star within mere weeks. Briggs cites Hozier, Alabama Shakes and Jack Garrett as influences, and it's easy to see their fingerprints on her work.

Since then, Bishop Briggs has released a handful of singles and an EP, each with their own take on the unique mash-up of soul with dance beats.

When we catch her on the phone, she's on her first headlining tour of the U.S and is still stunned by her own meteoric rise.

"I wish there was a camera filming my face each time I find out about a new piece of news, or a trip, or even this current headlining tour, because I am just so full of gratitude," she says. But this isn't the typical rock star faux-humble act, there's sincerity in her voice when she speaks about this.

"Before I got discovered, I was performing every couple of nights for five years in LA. There's something about that, when you've been writing and performing for so many years, when you've performed to four people in a coffee shop who aren't interested, there's something that makes you even more thankful. Each time I hear this news, it's like Christmas morning."

The latest piece of news she's excited about is her upcoming Australian tour. She'll play Splendour and some sideshows, and she says she can't wait.

"Australia!" Bishop Briggs says when we broach the topic, issuing an actual shriek of joy.

"I cannot wait. I'm so excited. It's a huge dream of mine to go to Australia. I really think Australian audiences aren't afraid of vulnerability, they're not afraid of artists who take risks. I hope we will connect in that way."

"There's no way to truly prepare for any of this. So much of this was just in my wildest dreams. I try my best to remain authentic, remain as vulnerable as I can. When I'm on stage, that's the most free I feel."

Bishop Briggs' Australian tour dates are now on sale.

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