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An Interview With Towa Bird

Before the release of her forthcoming album, American Hero, and her current tour with Reneé Rapp and Alexander 23, Towa Bird sat down over Zoom with media to discuss the forthcoming music, her career to date, TikTok, and so much more.

Press shot for the rising singer-songwriter Towa Bird.
Photo courtesy of Thong Luc.

Is there a song from American Hero that you're most excited for your listeners to hear? Towa: This is a difficult one because it's kind of like always on a rotation every time I listen to it or every time I play live. Like things really start to stick out more and I start to gain respect for songs that I initially was like, Hmm, those are more like album tracks. But at the moment, I really love "This Isn't Me," the one that I just put out, which is why it came out and I loved playing it live and like being able to do the arrangement live for it and put it on the stage was the reason why I wanted to put it out so bad. I'm also really excited for people to hear a song called "A Party." Which is the closing track of the album. What was the inspiration behind "Wild Heart"? Towa: "Wild Heart" was about, the way that I used to navigate relationships, like romantic relationships. And I used to be a little bit of a... What are the words I used? To not respect my partners as much as I do now. It's kind of just like about emotional growth and learning how to respect myself and learning how to respect other people. Your guitar solos are so fun and amazing, and I love the one in "Boomerang." Are we going to see more across the album? Towa: Yeah, 100%. Like, I feel like it wouldn't be... A song without a "fuck off" like guitar moment that's just a little bit arrogant and cocky. I mean I have so much fun recording those silly little solos, so like I'm just trying to sprinkle them throughout the record. What role does fashion play in your identity as an artist? Towa: Oh, yeah, that's that's a great question! Massively. I think it's just like another medium of expression, like, just as important as music and guitar and lyricism. I think fashion and the way that I decorate myself, whether that be, like, through tattoos or through jewelry or through outfits, it's just another way for me to be the truest person in the world. So yeah, huge, a huge part. It also makes me feel so confident and cool. And I think that's like such a wonderful thing to be able to tap into. "This Isn't Me" draws from your experiences in Paris, reflecting on identity and belonging. How does your music serve as a medium for exploring complex themes like identity and queer love? Towa: It is just like such a beautiful form of expression to be able to songwrite and create and take from and draw from like real-life stories and real-life experiences, and then make that into a piece of art. I think that really is such a high form of privilege for me to be able to have. It really solidifies feelings when I experienced something to be able to write it into a song. It helps me create my mindset around that experience. And it helps me sort of put a lens over what actually happened and be able to introspect and reflect upon it. So through songwriting, it is a wonderful way to learn about yourself, learn how you respond, and learn how you feel. What do you hope listeners take away from the upcoming album, American Hero? Towa: I mean, there's a lot of like really high tempo, fun, like dancy songs, kind of like "Wild Heart" and "Boomerang: showcase that, and then there is. more like earnest and vulnerable songs and I hope that there is a song for everyone on there. I want people to have fun. I want people to listen to it and think about themselves and reflect upon their life. What was it like to work with Thomas Powers on your latest record? Towa: Oh my God, he's great! He's like just one of my close friends and it is so easy...He's so immediately accepting and safe with all of my ideas and even if it's a shit idea, he'll tell me in the nicest way possible way. He's the nicest, most, like, warm person, incredibly smart and really efficient and really wonderful. He's like the perfect creative partner. I'm really lucky to have met him. He did this thing which I'll always remember where before we even met we were set up in a session together and before we even met, he facetimed me and was like, hey dude, I just want to make sure because I'm a man and you're a woman, I don't want you to feel unsafe at any point. Let's just talk about this before we even get into a physical space with each other. We're going to be alone together, so I want to make sure that you're feeling comfortable with everything. And he just, like, went above and beyond initially without even meeting me without even knowing, like, what I was doing. He's just a good dude.

What artists inspire you? Towa: I grew up listening to all kinds of classic rock. That was like the way that I was introduced to music first through my dad. So I started listening to like Hendrix, The Who, The Beatles. Like... Zeppelin, all of those bands. So that was like, really how I learned how to love music and obviously, those styles are really guitar-centric. That allowed me to develop my love for the instrument too. Then now, you know, nowadays I'm kind of listening to slightly more like alternative indie, slightly more modern rock and like Brit-pop. My tastes are kind of all over the shop. I listen to a lot of like drill and hip-hop music. I listen to a lot of alternative, indie, pop, and soul. My main loves are classic rock and alternative rock. You talked about how you were inspired by artists like Jimi Hendrix and Prince. If you could collaborate with any artists, past included, who would it be and why? Towa: I think Hendrix, even though RIP. Same with Prince, RIP. And then also my friend Deb. Her artist name is Deb Never. Just another gaysian icon. Love her to bits. We have a matching tattoo, at this point. There has to be music, you know.

What is the story behind the name of your debut album, American Hero? Towa: A lot of the songs on the album were written kind of like in this transitionary period of my life, moving from the UK to the US, learning sort of like how to acclimate with American culture, and coming to terms with myself as an immigrant and as an alien in this country. As well as that my girlfriend is also American and a lot of the songs on there are to do with our relationship and I draw a lot of inspiration from our relationship. So you're seeing kind of like a lot of like vulnerability and a lot of like heart that I'm putting out there, which kind of is the opposite of hero and I'm not American. And so the title is completely ironic in a way. And when I think of kind of like American heroes, I think of like people like Chris Pratt and like, you know, literally Captain America, like tall, strong white guys, which again, isn't me. It was initially started as a joke and then the more and more I developed this project. It kind of just like stuck so it's just supposed to be a little subversive. If you had to pick three words to describe your upcoming album, what would they be? Towa: Gay, fun, and I think, vulnerable. What was it that initially drew you to guitar? Towa: My dad was a huge influence and he had a guitar kind of sitting around that was just sort of like a piece of furniture just sort of collecting dust and had like three strings on it and it was sort of almost listening to the music that I was listening to that he was listening to with, you know, like guitar solos and then I feel like you don't really hear that much of in pop these days and I would listen to the guitar solos and be like, hmm, those are pretty cool. Like, can I try and do that? And eventually just sort of like noodling around on that guitar and then getting one for Christmas for my own and just trying stuff out and trying to like emulate the sounds of the records that I was hearing. How does TikTok relate to your life as an artist? And how do you choose an aesthetic for your visuals? Towa: I think at the moment, TikTok and I have a tumultuous relationship. We've been through a lot together, me and her. I think it's a wonderful place to promote your music. It's really cool to be able to have access to that platform as a new artist. I'm thinking about bands back in the day, like all of the people that I grew up on, they didn't have TikTok, like they didn't have access to a massive audience. Then at the same time, it's kind of difficult, I won't lie to you. TikTok can be tedious sometimes, you know? I always like think about it, like TikTok is part of my job now. I feel like TikTok is one of the things that I least look forward to doing like, I would rather write songs than make a TikTok video. I'd rather play live than make a TikTok video. But then at the same time, I've worked in like bars in London and like pubs where I've literally had to like clean vomit. And I'm like, if making TikTok is like one of the worst parts of my job, then like, this is a fucking dream. Like this is crazy, you know, it's push and pull. It's okay. After all the growth and success you've currently gained to this point, what's one piece of advice you would tell your younger self? Towa: There are so many, I'm like immediately thinking of like, don't fuck it up. Like just don't drop the ball, dude. Like you have been given this crazy opportunity. Don't fuck it up!T hat's probably what I would say. Are there any specific songs for this upcoming tour that you're excited to perform live for everyone? Towa: Yeah. I mean, I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but there's a song that I always look forward to whenever I play live. It's kind of like right in the middle of the set and like every time I get there, I'm just so happy to be there. It's a song called "Bills." I get to put my guitar down, so I'm like free. I'm like off leash for the first half of the song, I get to run around a little bit and then like, I jump back on the guitar and just have that kind of dynamic. In the middle of the set is my favourite part. I think that's so, so cool. This fall you'll be touring with Renee Rapp and Alexander 23 on the Snow Hard Feelings Tour. What city are you looking forward to performing in the most and why? Towa: There are so many, there are so many that I'm so excited about. I really think New York, though. I think it's going to be exceptional and they've just added another show on Halloween, which I mean, I'm just so excited to look out into the crowd and just see everyone in costumes. And I'm still trying to figure out what my costume is going to be... I'm going to keep that to myself. I don't want to spoil anything, but yeah, I think I'm really excited for New York.


Check out more from Towa Bird: Instagram | TikTok | Twitter | YouTube | Website

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