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Bishop Briggs on her leap from karaoke to Coldplay, 'American Idol' and her own tour

Bishop Briggs
Bishop Briggs Submitted

Bishop Briggs fell in love with performing through karaoke.

While growing up in Tokyo with her native Scottish parents, Briggs (born Sarah McLaughlin), frequented the city’s karaoke bars, showcasing her love for the sounds of Motown, the Beatles and other classic pop music.

After graduating from high school in Hong Kong, she moved to Los Angeles and started performing her own songs in clubs, which is how she was discovered by a record-label representative.

In 2015, after changing her name to Bishop Briggs (the town in Scotland where her parents were born), she released her first single, “Wild Horses,” which was later included in an automobile commercial.

On April 20, Briggs released her debut full-length, “Church of Scars,” a collection of indie-pop-rock songs. She will perform many of its songs at the Truman in downtown Kansas City on May 10.

Briggs talked to The Star recently about making that album and about her recent appearance on “American Idol” as a mentor.

Q: The album comes out Friday. What about the recording excites you the most?

A: I’m more nervous than excited. It has been such a long time coming for me mentally. Whenever you put out something that is completely you or reveals a certain part of your life or your mindset, it’s always a bit scary. But I’m really proud of the album.

Q: Talk about the recording process. What did you discover or learn while making the album?

A: It was a long process. The album really started two and a half years ago.

The biggest thing I learned was how important it is to be direct with your lyrics and not hide behind poetry or metaphors and sometimes it’s OK to be direct.

One of the tracks on there is called “Water.” It was produced by John Hill. It’s a song that means so much to me. It was the last addition to the album; I wrote it a couple of months ago, actually. It’s the track that gives a clue to the kind of music I’ll be coming out with next and what’s been happening in my life.

Q: How much influence did you have over the sound of the album?

A: I think that’s what I really liked about this whole thing from the beginning.

The producers I worked with — we all had our different backgrounds. Mine was Hozier, Alabama Shakes, the Black Keys, Janis Joplin, the Beatles, the Motown world, Otis Redding, Etta James. I knew I wanted all that mixed with lyrics straight from my diary. And melodies that lent themselves to my roots, which include a brief stint in a gospel choir.

So that was the dream: creating a sound that combined everything that made me fall in love with music.

Q: Were you at all surprised with how it turned out?

A: You really live with these songs. You’re listening to them over and over and over. I think the thing that was new for me was listening to them in order, start to finish, and hearing this journey of what’s been happening.

There are songs on this album like “River” and “Wild Horses” that were the first two songs I ever released. So to have them in a body of work among songs like “Lyin’” and “Water” is really exciting and makes me feel like I’ve grown as a writer.

Q: This is your first headlining tour. You will be at the Truman here in Kansas City on May 10. What can people expect to see?

A: My shows are always very high-energy. Lots of sweat. Something I’ll bring to this tour that I haven’t necessarily brought to other tours is I’ll really be letting people in on my process and mindset and having moments in the show that will have people walk away and want to write or create themselves. The hope with all my shows is people will lose themselves the same way I lose myself on stage.

Q: A couple years ago you opened several shows for Coldplay on their arena tour. What did that experience teach you?

A: That was so insane. It was such a big opportunity that I almost couldn’t be nervous because it's so overwhelming. I learned how important the live show is and how important it is to give it your all every night. And keep it fresh every night. Every night was different and had something special that felt real.

The other thing I learned that I really want is good catering like them someday. It was like old-school British food mixed with vegan treats. I gained so much weight and I was really happy at that time.

Q: You were recently a mentor on “American Idol.” What was that experience like?

A: That was so surreal to be asked. I was standing there among other mentors and artists I respect so much. I just decided to embrace the experience.

Q: What advice did you give the contestants you mentored?

A: The advice I would give to anyone: to play as many shows as you can, to write all the time and have standards. Those are the road rules I followed.

Q: On "Idol," you sang the INXS song “Never Tear Us Apart." Your cover of that was also part of the “Fifty Shades Freed” soundtrack. How did that song come to you?

A: I’d had it in my back pocket. I don’t know how that placement happened but I’m truly thankful for the experience and to be part of something that really is a pinnacle thing in our culture, a phenomenon if you will — even just the book.

My favorite part of doing the cover was to maintain the spirit of INXS while adding the things that make me feel like myself.

If you go

Bishop Briggs performs May 10 at the Truman, 601 E. Truman Road. Matt Maeson opens at 8 p.m. Tickets to the all-ages show are $23 to $73. www.thetrumankc.com

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