Back in 2016, Bishop Briggs tore through the alt-pop scene as if a flash fire — sudden and all-consuming, and yet slightly mysterious, blazing up the charts only to leave her listeners still sifting through the dust. Her breakthrough single, the guttural, soul-searing “River,” offered an intimate, poetic portrait of anticipation and lust, but the person behind it, at least at first, was more demure. "There’s a mystery surrounding Bishop Briggs,” wrote The Fader. “Who’s that girl Bishop?” wondered Brooklyn magazine. In early interviews, she even declined to reveal her real name (which is, for the record, Sarah McLaughlin).

But after two years, a trove of singles, and an opening slot on Coldplay's 2016 tour, Briggs is finally ready to let herself be seen — or, as she would put it, to "live her truth." Her debut album, Church of Scars, is a testament to this mentality, backing raw, barrel-chested blues trap with candid reflections on life and love, and giving rise to some of the most honest work she's ever made.

"The more that I wrote, the more direct and vulnerable I became with both the people listening and with myself," Briggs, 25, tells PopCrush. "It's a challenge, to not hide behind poetry and metaphors, and I kept a lot of those things intact because they’re true to me, but I also really leaned into being more direct and saying exactly how I feel."

Much of the project centers around what Briggs calls a long, tumultuous love affair with music. She grew up listening to old school acts like Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding, road-testing her performance chops in karaoke bars — a rite of passage in cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong, where she split her childhood. At 18, she moved to Los Angeles for college, where she cut her teeth gigging at any venue that would have her, and, eventually, landed a record deal.

"I think [music] can break your heart a little bit, when it comes to commercialization or being marketed as a product" Briggs says. "But I don't know any greater love. It's something that fills me so much and it's also something that I really use as a tool of therapy. It’s something I’ve been really grateful for, perhaps just for my sanity."

But Church of Scars was also culled from the relationships she's forged and broken throughout her whirlwind rise — beginning with, as many great albums do, a breakup.

"It all really began with 'Wild Horses,' which was one of the first tracks that I ever released. That was written during a time where I didn't know if I could be in a relationship and happy. I didn't know what that meant," Briggs explains. "I think sometimes there's a perception that you leave relationships because it's bad and you're fighting, but sometimes you just need to find out who you are on your own, or perhaps you've lost yourself within that relationship. It’s not always about anger. Sometimes it's despair."

It's an apt starting point for the record, tracing the highs and lows of heartache from the hellbent, triumphant "White Flag" to the brooding and bitter "Lying." Church of Scars, though, is not so much a breakup album as it is a liberation, burning Briggs' once enigmatic aura and leaving her to rise from the ashes — still fiery, but free.

Church of Scars is out now.

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