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Rising Musician Towa Bird On Imposter Syndrome And Embracing Her Identity

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

Last weekend, HC at UCLA had the opportunity to attend an amazing concert opened by Towa Bird, an on-the-rise rock musician. Not only did we get to see her sick guitar skills at work, but we also got the chance to talk with her in person (and yes, she is as sweet as she seems on stage). As a foreign, mixed, queer musician — someone who doesn’t fit into the normal “boxes” of society — she had plenty to share about her imposter syndrome, inspirations and journey as a musician. Here’s how it went:

Her Campus Media: I wanted to ask you about your latest release, “This Isn’t Me”. You talked a lot about your imposter syndrome in that song; could you tell me a bit more about your journey with that?

Towa Bird: Yeah! I didn’t grow up in this kind of world. I grew up in Thailand and Hong-Kong. I didn’t grow up in LA, New York. So when I first moved here and I was exposed to this industry, I could feel some sort of superficiality there and I wasn’t used to it. So that song is sort of about me trying to adjust to that different pace of life. I’ve found that there’s a lot of individuality here — a lot of focus on the self. And I didn’t grow up with those kinds of values. So I’ve just been adjusting to that.

HCM: And how do you adjust to that?

TB: I don’t know if I’ll ever really adjust to it. To me, it’s still absurd. And I hope that stays with me. I want to always be in a place of awe and humility, because it’s just this insane world.

HCM: Is there anything that you tell yourself or do when you feel like maybe you don’t belong in this world?

TB: In my youth I spent a long time trying to figure out who I was, especially as a queer, mixed person. And [I] don’t really fit into any box. Like, I’m not British enough, I’m not Filipino enough, I’m not straight enough, I’m not gay enough, I’m not a woman, I’m not a man; I’m sort of in between all of those things. In order to figure that out about yourself, it takes a certain level of security. You’re not “normal”, you’re something different and you have to be able to live with that. You have to own it. 

Photo credits to Thong Luc

HCM: You mentioned you were inspired by musicians like Joan Jett, Prince, etc. Was there anything specific about those musicians that made something click in you?

TB: Yeah! Firstly they’re all rock guitar-players. Joan Jett, Prince, Bowie, Hendrix: they’re all instrumentalists. And then they also have that androgynous edge to them. I got to take musical inspiration from them, but also the style, personality, the way they view themselves and present themselves. 

HCM: And what about your day-to-day life? Where do you draw inspiration from the things that are more ordinary?

TB: I mean I’m Filipino so one of the values I grew up with is that everything is community-centered. Family — whether that be chosen or blood family — first. So the people that I choose to have in my life are the most important thing, always. 

HCM: How did you develop a sound that feels authentic to you and your journey?

TB: I think it’s one of those things that’s forever-changing. But what it really came down to is thinking about how I first fell in love with music and revisiting all of those things — 70s rock ‘n roll, 90s and 2000s indie rock — and just being like, “Let’s make that, but me.”

HCM: When you look back at how far you’ve come as a musician, what are you proudest of?

TB: Honestly, this is pretty cool. I’m opening up for one of my friends who is on the up in her career; Reneé [Rapp] is amazing. So to have her ask me to do this, travel this country, it’s really cool. [I’m] able to play my music for a bunch of different people every night and convince them that my music is worth listening to. So I would say that this tour is up there for sure.

HCM: And finally, if you could say one thing to all of the artists, musicians, writers — the people who are just getting started — what would it be?

TB: Practice your craft. Just be as honest as possible. I know that’s really scary. It’s easy to see other musicians doing something and say, “I want to do that.” But sometimes it’s better to look inwards first at what’s bubbling underneath the surface. Because that’s where you’re going to get those real songs.

Photo credits to Thong Luc

After the interview, opening numbers and special performances, I can say without a doubt that Towa Bird has earned her place as a rock ‘n roll musician on the rise. She’s funny, humble and sweet (I mean, she hugged me two seconds after I met her). Plus, I’m sure that being incredibly attractive doesn’t hurt. But more than any of that, she is insanely talented. I’m picky about what music I like, and she blew it out of the park.

So, after you finish this article, go play American Hero. Or buy tickets to the “Snow Hard Feelings” tour with her, Alexander23, and Reneé Rapp. Or do both. (Both would be good).

Keep on flying, Towa Bird. We want to see how high you can soar.

Jessica is a first year English major at UCLA. She loves both reading and writing, having even published her debut novel "The World Above the Waves" in 2022. When she isn't delving into literature, you can find her playing d&d, listening to music, or wherever either her twin sister or girlfriend are. She's so excited to be a part of the Her Campus team.