Singer Bishop Briggs on Going Viral, Grief, and Performing While Pregnant

Bishop Briggs is a powerhouse of a performer—vocally, yes, but also physically. When she's onstage, she's running, jumping and throwing her whole body into the music.

That kind of physicality is tough to accomplish on a huge stage in the desert heat as it is. But Bishop Briggs is performing at both weekends of Coachella 2022 in her third trimester of pregnancy, too.

Newsweek sat down with Briggs ahead of her first Coachella performance last week. She'll take the stage again this coming Friday, April 22.

You are very pregnant and you are performing at Coachella. How are you doing? How do you feel?

I feel unhinged. No. I actually finally feel really powerful and good and positive, and I think that might be the things I'm telling myself to feel, perhaps. But thankfully, I've been rehearsing a lot, so I do feel as though I have experience with performing and being pregnant, but it's going to be so different once we're out there, I'm sure.

I assume you have to sort of tinker with the way that you normally do a live performance. I was looking at the Lollapalooza performance from a couple of years ago, and you are such an animated performer—you're jumping around, you're running. It is very much a physical performance, and I assume that changes a little bit when you have another person on board.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, not really. [laughs]

I have been rehearsing because honestly, I kind of black out when I'm onstage. It really is just so much adrenaline and excitement.

And I have learned from the doctors [that] baby is chilling, baby is happy when we're doing cardio or jumping around. I've learned that the baby is sleeping, actually! So there's that. But yeah, I have been in full training mode, so I still run in place for the whole set. It's kind of like performing in a place that has an altitude change. It's a different thing. But once you are aware of it, you can sort of train your body if you have to.

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Bishop Briggs opened up to Newsweek about playing Coachella while pregnant. Here, she performs during the first weekend of the festival. Frazer Harrison/Getty

You have just released a package of singles—"High Water" and "Art of Survival." They are very different from the viral hits that put you on my radar. I think "River," for me, was my Bishop Briggs introduction, because of all the saucy TikToks. So, becoming a viral sensation and then having the viral sensation fizzle out and then jump back up—how do you navigate that?

Well, I love you calling me a viral sensation. I hope that's a compliment.

It is, absolutely!

I do watch all the videos. I don't know if you feel this too, but sometimes you hear your 13-year-old self looking at where you are, and 13-year-old me would be freaking out. I mean, I'm currently freaking out, but I think I will always be that self-conscious, insecure 13-year-old that really loves music and loses herself in music. So the idea that I can be this age and connect with people of all different ages, where they're connecting to the song and being creative and creating these dances? It really is a full circle moment and the coolest thing ever.

Let's talk about "High Water" and "Art of Survival," because I think tonally they are very different from what you have put out in the past. And there is a good reason for that—you lost your sister early last year, so a little bit over a year ago.

I am a big sister of a little sister, and so I feel that very keenly and I think the pain is very palpable in this new music. Tell me about your sister. What was she like?

Thank you. She obviously. I mean, I don't know if this is obvious, but [she was] the best person ever. And truly the person that I love the most in this world. And so when it came to recording "High Water," it really is just me crying in a vocal booth. Whereas with "Art of Survival," it was really trying to think of how she would want me to live and trying to find that, trying to find that will to live again.

I hear that, particularly in "Art of Survival." There's one recurring line, "today I woke up a fighter," right? And then toward the end of the song, it changes to "maybe I was born a fighter."

Yes!

That switch, I think, is a really transformative one. It's a couple of words, but it changes the entire tone of the song—to realize that it was probably in you the whole time, right?

Oh my gosh. Just hearing you react and tell me your thoughts and feelings on those changes... those changes, when you're [writing and recording], you're like, "Oh, who knows if anyone will notice," right? But it means a lot because yeah. I want to perform [these songs] enough and have sort of the fake it till you make it—maybe if I have this in my brain and I do change the lyrics, even if it's just that final line of like, maybe I am capable of everything that's coming towards me. Maybe the more I sing it, the more that will come true. Sure hope.

As you worked through this grief, was it your automatic instinct to write? Or were you sort of frozen for a little bit?

It was very difficult. It was a stream of consciousness. A lot of those lyrics were on my phone and I hated that they were on my phone. I hated what they represented. I hated what they meant, but it really was helpful to at least write down the lyrics.

When it came to singing that first vocal take, which is what you hear on "High Water," that chorus—I had never sung it out loud. I'd always sang it sort of falsetto and to myself. And when that came out, I have never, never sung like that in my life, and I think it's because I really was screaming out for help.

When we got to the bridge, we were layering a vocal and I just started saying "I miss you so much, I miss you." We had to stop because I couldn't... I was just supposed to be repeating "high water." And then I just said, I miss you so much. I miss you, you know? It was very therapeutic.

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Bishop Briggs' recent singles are about the untimely passing of her sister. Frazer Harrison/Getty

I think it was in the Paper magazine feature where you talked a little bit about choosing to heal publicly from something really, really traumatic and awful and earth shattering. And that is a choice. Someone in the public eye could absolutely become a recluse and figure it out on their own. What do you hope people take away from your sort of public slog through grief?

I think as a society, we are really navigating mental health awareness. And I felt that the tools were really limited and I felt very alone. And so there was this idea of, OK, if I say this out loud, maybe I can share resources. Maybe we can create a community where you won't be shunned from society in some way. So that was really the goal, was to create a community. But I do want to say it took me a long time to be there in that headspace. I think once I had the song, I could, because I'm so used to expressing myself in music. Then it was like, OK, maybe I can take a step forward, but even that it took a really long time.

What are you most excited to teach your kid when they're here? What are you most excited to show them?

Oh! I think that your sensitivity is your power. Yeah.

What was the last song that you had stuck in your head?

I think it would have to be Catie Turner's "God Must Hate Me."

What sticks about it?

Oh, I—I listened to it in my car and started crying. It felt as if they were in the car with me. Singing to me. It's extremely intimate, and I think it's a song that everyone needs to hear right now.

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