Towa Bird is one of those TikTok pandemic success stories they'll later study at university. During Covid-19, the then London-based British-Filipino musician began recording videos of herself playing guitar solos over tracks like Gym Class Heroes' Cupid's Chokehold / Breakfast in America (a video that got over 4m views) and Tame Impala's The Less I Know the Better (viewed by 2.8m). It wasn't long before she caught the attention of the music industry. But it wasn't record labels that called first, it was Filipino-American pop star Olivia Rodrigo.
Rodrigo, who, like everyone else, discovered Bird on TikTok, asked if she would consider playing guitar in her upcoming documentary Driving Home 2 U (A Sour Film). Naturally, Bird got on the first plane to Los Angeles — a city she'd never visited before prior — and, eventually, signed with Rodrigo's label, Interscope Records, permanently moving across oceans in the process. The time since has been a blur: meeting and working with musicians like Billie Eilish, finishing her yet-to-be-released album American Hero, releasing queer love songs inspired by her relationship — gaining a legion of dedicated fans in the process — and, most recently, touring the states with one of music's (other) hottest new names, Reneé Rapp.
Below, we catch up about the wild ride thus far.
You’ve been in the US for two years now. How are you finding it, and L.A., overall?
It took a second to get adjusted culturally and to acclimate and find my community. I had to shake a lot of my British isms and slang, which may have ended up being a positive thing in the long run! And at this point, I actually really like L.A. I found that coming off a tour and taking some time away made me appreciate it much more. It can be quite peaceful here.
By tour, you're talking about opening for Reneé Rapp, which I can imagine was quite a crazy experience.
We just finished the two-month-long North America leg! Honestly, it’s an incredible privilege to be able to open for her, to play for her audience and rooms of that size at this point in my career?! I’m still a baby girl. I only have four songs out. And we are playing rooms up to 7k capacity. So wild! Also, the hangs are absolutely immense. Top quality people. Unfortunately, Reneé is the best.
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Performing live – and especially to a crowd of that size – is pretty new to you. Do you get nervous? How does it feel when you’re on the stage?
Throughout the tour, I was getting increasingly less and less nervous. The audience was so welcoming to me and my show just got stronger and stronger every night that by halfway through we were cruising and having so much fun. But the day of the first show? I felt completely unhinged. I had never felt that nervous before in my life. I felt like I was on the verge of an anxiety attack all day — entirely exhilarating. It's funny to look back on that now and see how much confidence I've gained.
You played at the iconic Greek Theatre, how was that?
One of the first shows that I ever went to when I landed in L.A. was at the Greek. I remember being so taken aback by how grand the venue was and then to be on that stage playing a sold-out show 18 months later is so bizarre. That was an incredible evening. We had an epic after party too.
I’ve been loving the way you’ve been releasing music this year. What has been the general plan around it?
Thanks very much! And thank you for taking the time to listen. My whole album is finished and has been since last year. The plan is to slowly release and continue to write more music in the process. Playing released and unreleased songs from the album live has been informative in understanding what people react to and therefore I can better tailor my time spent in the studio.
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What's your process like when it comes to writing songs? Where do you find inspiration?
It changes song by song. But I only have written songs based on formative lived experiences. I find inspiration in the people around me, the people I love, my community and my experiences navigating the world as the person that I am. And I’m a guitarist before anything so I tend to always think about how the voice and the guitar can sit side by side and work together in my music.
What’s your favourite song of yours to date?
I know you moved around a lot growing up: living in both Hong Kong and Thailand before London. Where would you call home?
I can’t even really answer this question, and I'm not sure that I have ever been able to. My friend Alexander makes fun of me, he says that when people ask where I’m from I change the answer slightly every time depending on how I'm feeling that day. So I think that should illustrate that.
It's very cool that you made videos of yourself making music and they found this huge audience all on their own - there was no middle man and it was part of this social media democratisation of a lot of different industries, but hugely entertainment. What are your thoughts about the way the music industry will evolve in the years to come?
I hope that it’ll become more Artist friendly, I’m seeing a lot of people start to educate themselves on Artist welfare and the way in which Artists are viewed and treated by bigger corporations and I’m hopeful for things to become more fair. It would be nice to get healthcare support.
What music did you listen to growing up? Who would you say your biggest influences were?
I grew up on a mixture of '60s/'70s Classic Rock from my Dad and '00s Punk/Alt Rock from my older sister. And as I grew older, I started to expand my tastes and now I annoyingly listen to most genres. However, if you listen to my music and think about what I grew up on, it really makes a lot of sense. The dots are connected.
You’ve just finished your first tour. What’s the plan now?
Back to L.A., try and reset after two months of constant travel and zero privacy. Then start working on new music ASAP. I can't wait.