#InstaxInterviews: bülow

Rising German pop singer bülow opens up.
bülow interview
Photo: Joel Lim/ZYRUP

Bülow (pronounced boo-low) greets me with a gentle smile as I approach her at a rooftop garden in the hotel she’s holding up in while in Singapore. Her demeanour is relaxed, and like my interview with Lauv two years ago, I’m immediately put at ease.

Coincidentally (but in hindsight, probably not so much of a coincidence after all), the 19-year-old is currently on tour with Lauv – bülow is the opening act for the Asian leg of his world tour. It’s her second day in Singapore, and in a few hours, she will be performing to another sold-out crowd at the Capitol Theatre.

I note that as a listener, seeing her tour with Lauv makes total sense: they are the Princess and Prince of Heartbreak Songs, respectively. Bülow laughs and agrees, and shares how Lauv and his team are “so nice and genuine and easy to work with”.

Like Lauv, bülow has seen an impressive debut – her first two EPs, Damaged Vol. 1 (2017) and Damaged Vol. 2 (2018) put her on the map, and her latest EP released earlier this year, Crystalline, has made her one to watch. It’s no surprise that she picked up the Juno Award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year in March.

During our interview, the ‘Sweet Little Lies’ singer gushes over her excitement at seeing Asia for the first time and her thoughts on being vulnerable with her music.

bülow interview
Photo: Joel Lim/ZYRUP

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Is there anything in particular that you hope to do while you’re here?
I’m excited for the food, I feel like that is the obvious one. But I was also really excited to see what the crowd was going to be like. We had a show last night and we have another show at the same place today, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the crowd is going to be. The crowd [in Singapore] was very different [from] India. Here, it felt more conservative. It felt like it needed a bit more energy, but it kind of challenged me to give a bit more into the show.

It’s what a lot of artistes say about Singapore crowds too, that we are very chill and respectful. You mentioned food, so what have you tried so far?
We tried the snake fruit
(Editor’s note: A snake fruit is also known as Buah Salak), it almost tasted like an apple but it was kind of like a unique version of an apple. I want to try the durian next, I’ve heard so much about it. I’m nervous.

Go for D24 durians – they’re the best.
D24, got it!

How excited are you to be bringing your music to Asia? How has the response been so far?
I’m so excited. This is my first time coming to Asia. The response has been really good. We only have had two shows so far, so I feel like there is so much more to see. We are kind of at the beginning of the tour, but so far, my experiences have been amazing. Just seeing how polarising the two countries have been, it’s going to be cool to see the evolution [throughout the tour]. It’s also been two so so different cities so far. Singapore is very clean, so it was crazy going from something that was more of an organised chaos that was unique to India. It was fascinating being there, to going to something that is so, so different.

You have asked your parents on many occasions to drop out of school to concentrate on your music career. What made you so sure that this career path is for you?
I don’t think there was a moment where I just knew; it was more of a gradual and organic thing. Music was just something I started doing from the age of 8 – I was always writing, and doing covers of my favourite songs. When I moved to the UK, I started busking a lot, singing in the streets. And then it started to turn into something that I was doing every day and when I graduated from school, I was doing more and more.

From busking on the streets to performing on stage, how has it been different for you as a performer?
It is very different because you have such passive listeners when they are just walking by you, and when you’re performing on stage all eyes are on you. It’s almost more intimidating as people go to performances with expectations, and when performing on the streets, most people don’t even realise that you are there. Performing on the streets gave me a bit more of a tougher skin.

You’re incredibly honest and genuine in your music. Was it easy for you to open up about these details?
It is important for me to be around people who are accepting and supporting, people who open to being experimental in the studio is the perfect environment to me if not it is hard to be open and have no filter. Having the right team is so important.

How is it like to be performing those intimate songs in front of other people? Writing the songs is one thing, but presenting it in front of an audience – does that take a lot from you?
It’s terrifying. I feel like transferring anything from the studio, which is such a personal thing, to being so open, to so many people, is very scary, but the more I do it the more I get out of it too, and the more I am learning about what is making people connect to my music. So every time I’m performing, I’m learning so much more about each song that I am creating, so it actually helps my future self.

And what would you say was your biggest learning point?
I think just how accepting some people have been to my music. Sometimes people don’t like when you are brutally honest, so I think to have people see that side of you is really cool.

Are you able to share a little more about the inspiration for your latest EP Crystalline, and how it differs from Damaged Volume 1 and 2?
The ‘Crystalline’ theme was something that was accumulating across two years, so a lot of time was spent on it and most of the songs were written in school. With this EP, I wanted to show more sides to me and different genres to show that artists don’t have to just be defined by one genre. The name of the EP also shows the different sides to music artistes.

In preparation for the tour with Lauv, both of you made a playlist together – is it possible to walk us through the thought process of the curation of the playlist?
We wanted to have music that pumps you up before going on stage so it was a compilation of all of our favourite songs that have energy to it. They were kind of all the songs that we listen to before we go on stage.

What is that one song that you must listen to before you go on stage?
I think right now it’s been a lot of Trippy Redd’s ‘Topanga’. It has become a tradition.

Do you still get nervous going on stage having done this for a while?
One hundred per cent. Some nights I feel more nervous than others. I think it won’t be human if I didn’t get nervous before I go on stage.

On stage, what songs are you most excited to perform? Is there one song that people respond the most to?
I get most excited to perform ‘Get Stupid’. I can always kind of feel the energy shifting a bit whenever I play that song and it’s a really good feeling. It has a reggae beat to it and you see people getting into it for that one.

One last question before we go. What can we expect from you in the near future?
Loads more new music and content. We are working on loads of music videos and just getting more onto the visual side. More features as well. So just loads more.

bülow interview
Photo: Joel Lim/ZYRUP

Portions of this interview were edited for clarity and brevity.

Listen to latest EP by bülow, Crystalline, below: