Conversation Curated by Ritika Sharma
The other night I got the chance to talk with rising star Towa Bird. After raging to her songs all week alone in my bedroom I was very excited to meet the bird behind the soaring hits like “Boomerang” and “Wild Heart”. I was not quite sure what I expected from Towa but upon conversing what I found was a fashionable, crazylicous, kind, and cool musician who I think is going to be a force within this industry.
Our Conversation Below!
Ritika: Your songs have a very danceable element… is this something you go into the studio with the intention of making, or is it something that just comes naturally?
Towa: I literally write my songs for live ..because the catalyst for my love for music started with being inspired by live performers. So I’ve always thought about things with a live perspective. I wrote this whole album thinking “How is this going to be received by a crowd?”, whether that means literally putting crowd noise into the song and like again the call and response, there’s so much of that, that just connects all of the music
Ritika: I think that’s a beautiful thing because you’re able to still have these intimate moments lyrically. Like with the song “This Isn’t Me”, it’s still a very heart-wrenching song… but I’m also still able to say “Okay let’s dance!” It almost has this beautiful contradictory element to it.
Ritika: I wanted to talk about guitar because I play guitar!
Towa: You do!
Ritika: Yeah and I believe there are these pivotal moments in music and a musician’s journey that are ingrained in your mind. I vividly remember when I was six, my dad gifted me the Hannah Montana movie, and the song “Butterfly Fly Away” was just that moment! Do any pivotal moments like that come to mind?
Towa: One hundred percent, I love this question, this is a great question by the way. When I was twelve I was left home alone, just one afternoon, bored out of my mind. I went on my dad’s laptop, and this was the YouTube era and then I found the Jimi Hendrix documentary on YouTube and I watched the whole thing and just fell in love with his energy, his presence on stage. The way he expressed himself on the guitar, and I was like “Woah” that sounds like a voice, that’s really sick… it’s a voice! From that moment on it just filled me with so much energy that I was like “This is what I want to do” and just like that at 12 years old everything around me.. just shifted, and then I’m in.. and then guitar forever.
Ritika: Were there any moments like that for things like songwriting persay? Or other mediums of expression?
Towa: Songwriting came a little bit later to me, it wasn’t as brain flick on. I think it was because it was such a hard skill to grasp, it’s so personal. It’s not like you can read a book about how to write a song about your life. Whereas like on guitar you can learn chords and scales and stuff. So yeah it kind of came a little later but I remember one of my first songs when I was 17 or 18 and it was actually good. Like that was the first good song I wrote
Ritika: Is it out right now?
Towa: No and it will never see the light of day. I don’t think I even recorded it but like it’s in here
*points to her head*
and I remember playing it for a couple of people and everyone being like “You’re actually an insane lyricist and singer and why are you not doing this, that’s silly”
Ritika: It’s crazy how some of the best people who are the best at what they do have this imposter syndrome too, and that it took your friends or other people to believe in that craft for you to believe as well.
Towa: Totally and it’s a nice reminder to always encourage the people around you, even though it seems so obvious to you that your friends or family are talented. Sometimes they just need a kick up the ass.
Ritika: Beautifully said
Towa: I’m pretty poetic.
Ritika: To continue on, I read that you started in the production and songwriting world. So that’s very artist-facing like you are catering to them, and now it’s…all about you. Is there a shift in perspective when you go into the studio or do you have the same kind of process?
Towa: Well yeah to me they are kind of apples to oranges because I am there to serve the vision of someone else when I am working for someone else. With them, producing for them. To me, it is so important that their life and their vision is the most cared for. Whereas in my session I get to spearhead it and tell my story. It just does feel like a different style.
Ritika: Yeah that’s interesting cause I notice that some producers have a style, and artists go to them with the intention that they will sort of “infiltrate” their style into the specific song. So it’s interesting that you are keeping care to them like it’s not necessarily a “Towa style” it’s whatever the artist wants for that session.
Towa: They will get a Towa style, unfortunately, they will get a Towa style because people usually come to me for a certain thing. They want the fucking guitar and they want all of the stuff that I do.
Like Alexander and Reneé asked me to play on “Tummy Hurts” because they wanted that sound on that song, so they were like “We know the person who does that.”
Ritika: …Ok here comes my more serious question. If you haven’t noticed I am Asian.
Ritika: Amazing! And I feel this weird line because I think you are so much more than the labels that society created, even with other labels concerning your queerness. That’s why there’s a line between celebrating it and it being everything people know about you. It’s a very difficult line because it’s almost like if you’re not sharing it enough, people are like “You’re not proud” but if you’re sharing it too much, it becomes your whole identity.
Towa: Uh huhhh!
Ritika: Could you talk a little bit about this experience because I think it is a very complicated thing that specifically Asian artists coming into this space are having to deal with.
Towa: It’s a toss-up, I always go between both because it’s so complicated, it’s so nuanced and every situation is always different. The vocabulary and the way that people talk about it differs situationally and it can be almost borderline offensive, and sometimes it is… But I think at the end of the day what like always is my north star when it comes to thinking about this is that I know there are kids either in Asia or growing up in a Western society that are Asian that don’t feel as though they have that person to look up to that looks like that. If I can be that to any sort of extent to someone then I don’t give a fuck about anything else and like I’ve done my job…. I will say tokenism is annoying especially when white guys talk about it and the way that they talk about my identity and love to be like “queer, Asian, androgynous, guitar” but then I think about that kid and then I’m like… it all kinda just goes away.
Ritika: I love that
…So I am from the radio station so POV you’re a DJ, on WUOG 90.5 FM
Towa: WUOG 90.5 FM
Ritika: Exactly, what are you playing? What’s the first song on your shift?
Towa: Love this question, I am playing… wait what time?
Ritika: Ooo um I had a 10 pm shift, so you also have a 10 pm shift
Towa: Period, we are opening with fucking “1999” by Troye Sivan and Charlie XCX
Ritika: That will wake me up
Towa: That was kind of a rogue one for me
Ritika: Yeah I honestly did not expect that
Towa: I also have a second answer, It’s “Hot and Cold” by Katy Perry
Ritika: I like that this fits Georgia weather right now
… To end this conversation I wanted to talk about the music industry because it’s so big, there’s a lot of work that goes into creating and releasing music. Could you shout out someone behind the scenes who has helped in a big or small way?
Towa: Jacob Epstein, Zach Morgenroth, my managers, the best dudes that I have ever met in my life, so kind, they fight for me forever, love them, um Vanessa Angiuli my A&R at Interscope, discovered me, found me, queen, kept me
Ritika: Aw kept you
Towa: …My agent…
Towa: Shoutout, dude the girlies on my team just kill it
Ritika: All the girlies shoutout!
Towa: Just the girlies, and I want to shout out my band… I love them… my boys
Ritika: All the boys’ shoutout!
Our conversation ended there, what a lovely conversation it was! Thank you to Towa and Team Towa for welcoming WUOG 90.5 FM into your house for the night. It’s clear that Towa is made from love and her music exudes this. Towa’s new album “American Hero” comes out soon and I can’t wait to find even more songs that I can air guitar to alone in my room. Linked below is Towa’s recent single from her upcoming debut record, I would describe it as a WLW relationship through the lens of a 90s video game.
Alright, goodnight, or good morning, or good afternoon, and goodbye.