When Phoenix-born vocalist Taylor Upsahl met British record company executive David Massey in her late teens, she was unaware of his illustrious career, which began with managing New Wave band Wang Chung in 1982 and led to high-ranking position at labels including Epic, Daylight, Mercury and, until June 2018, Island. She only knew that he immediately grasped what she was trying to create with her slinky, finger-snapping soul-pop. So they kept in touch. “Then one day he just reached out and said, ‘I’m re-launching Arista Records, and I want you to be the very first artist signed.’ It was just crazy,” says the 20-year-old, who — as UPSAHL — issued her first EP “Hindsight 20/20.” She adds, “Arista lets the artist do what they want and then trusts that vision, which is so rare at major labels.”
Did you attend public high school?
No, not all. When I was 10 years old, my parents put me in a performing arts school, from fifth grade through 12th. So I went there and was literally taking art classes every day until I graduated. It was the best decision of my whole life, going to that school. It was so rad.
Were there any egos clashing there?
No, it was more like “High School Musical.” Growing up, “High School Musical” was just my thing. I was like, ‘This is the dream! I want to go to a school like this!’ And when I got to that school, everyone was so into music; it was this cool subculture of artistic kids. And I was always singing, singing before I could talk, pretty much.
Where did that love of music start?
Well, my dad was in punk rock bands, even before I was born. So we had a band room in the house with a bunch of instruments that I could explore. It was just something my dad did for fun, but he would meet all these other bands on the road, and whenever they came through Phoenix they would crash in our living room, so I was this 5-year-old girl regularly having breakfast with all these punk rock dudes. So I was always around that vibe, that scene. And there was never a decision, like, “Oh, I want to do music now.” It was just that that was the only thing I was any good at, and the only thing I wanted to do, and naturally my parents were totally supportive.
Now that you’re a posh Arista artiste, have you met any “High School Musical” stars yet?
Oh, my gosh. I would die! One day. It’s my goal. To meet Zac Efron. We’ll get there. We will get there!
IF YOU GO
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday, May 17
Tickets: $15 to $17
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.eventbrite.com