Bishop Briggs, others to open for Bleachers at Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre
With sheer vocal power, eerily forlorn lyricism and a knack for weaving old soul sounds into her brand of alternative pop, Bishop Briggs has become a rising star on the radio waves and the touring circuit.
The London-born artist who spent formative years in Tokyo and Hong Kong before moving to Los Angeles has had massive mainstream success with hit singles “Wild Horses” and “River” off of her debut EP, and she recently released her latest single, “Dream” to positive response.
Briggs will perform during an evening of music that begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and also features MisterWives and Welshly Arms playing in support of headliner Bleachers.
“I’m still taking it in,” Briggs, 25, said of the star-studded bill in a recent phone interview.
The artist’s unique blend of pop, trap, alternative rock and soul has developed over years of absorbing sounds that appealed to her.
“I grew up listening to Motown, so it was a lot of Aretha Franklin and Etta James and Otis Redding,” Briggs said. “I think all of those people are such truth tellers, and their way of telling truth is singing these soulful melodies.
“As I got older, I started listening to Janis Joplin, which is a whole other arena of soul. The combination of those two versions of soul plays into what I do now.”
Born Sarah Grace McLaughlin to Scottish parents in England, Briggs developed a taste for performing while singing in Tokyo’s thriving karaoke bar scene and followed through with music-school education on the secondary and collegiate levels. Her willingness to play public houses paid off when she was discovered in 2015 at a Los Angeles tavern by a former A&R representative.
Two years later, Briggs is poised to headline much of her 2017 tour — with exceptions being opening slots for Bleachers and Alt-J — under a stage name that alludes to her family history.
“My entire family lives in an area in Scotland called Bishopbriggs,” she said. “We visited them every summer, and they were always so supportive of me. When you are in a creative field, having that support is so important. When I introduce myself today, I’m proud, because I’m always reminded of my family.”
Briggs said what inspires her songwriting is constantly changing, which is why she loves writing so much.
“I’ve always been drawn to writing dark poetry,” she said. “If anything, my writing has evolved with the new addition of different production elements. I hope that’s made my music more elevated.”
While lyrics often start with Briggs writing in her notes, song composition, she said, can be affected by a variety of sources and experiences.
“I think my favorite thing and maybe something I am most proud to contribute to the room is coming up with melodies that make me feel something and hopefully make other people feel something.
“Those melodies can come from being a little emo person in the corner playing the piano. I’m also the person recording sounds in the airport. I’m always seeking inspiration.”
In April, Briggs said, her first headlining tour made her appreciate the differences between being an opening act and a main event.
“Being an opener is something that means so much to me,” she said. “You constantly feel inspired, because you’re watching bands and artists you admire. When it’s a headlining tour, it’s a whole different animal. I feel the connection with the audience. I feel like they know me. Finding that connection is so important.”
Excited and a bit nervous about performing “Dream” live, Briggs said the latest release is unlike anything she’s ever done.
“I am someone whose lyrics are laced with poetry,” she said. “(‘Dream’) was truly about a dream I had where I was screaming and nobody could hear me.”
As enthusiastic about her tourmates as she is about her new music, Briggs called the shared bills a “dream come true.”
“I love artists who are completely transparent; what you see is what you get,” she said. “I feel that with Bleachers and MisterWives. They are extremely kind and considerate and cool and unique. When you hear their music, I think you hear those things as well.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: Bleachers, Bishop Briggs, MisterWives, Welshly Arms and the Struts
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Additional information: Tickets cost $28 and are available through the Kirby Center box office, online at kirbycenter.org and by phone at 570-826-1100.