Tempelhof Sounds – In conversation with Bow Anderson
Scottish singer-songwriter Bow Anderson wasn’t always destined to be a singer, but a freak accident drove her into music and made her pursue her passion as a career. Now, Bow has released several acclaimed singles – some even went viral on TikTok – and there is no stopping her. This weekend, the singer will perform at Berlin’s Tempelhof Sounds Festival. KALTBLUT caught up with Bow the week before her show and we had a conversation about her songwriting process, her TikTok fame and her leg injury, which she obtained on the Team GB trampoline team.
Read the interview below, as well as KALTBLUT’s guide to Tempelhof Sounds here.
KALTBLUT: You’re playing at Tempelhof Sounds today. What can we expect? What’s your show gonna be like?
Bow: There’s a lot of new music it’s not released yet, which I’m excited to play. And there are some classics, like my first single “Sweater”, which got me where I am now. I’m really excited. I’m also playing “20s”, which is fun. A lot of people have messaged me asking if I’m planning to play the song and I was like maybe? Should I surprise people? But yeah, I’m really excited.
KALTBLUT: You’ve just said you’re playing a couple of new songs. Do you usually test out your new songs live before they’re released?
Bow: I guess so. It’s really interesting to play live, because sometimes their favourite song will be something you wouldn’t have expected. That happens quite a lot, and I’m always quite surprised. It definitely helps towards planning what I’m gonna do.
KALTBLUT: Who are you excited to see at the festival? Are you going to be there all weekend, or just on Sunday?
Bow: Just on Sunday. Holly Humberstone is playing. I’ve loved her since the beginning. She’s great. I used to be like, oh, bloody hell, have you heard of Holly Humberstone, and no one knew her, and now she’s blowing up. And I really want to see Griff, she’s got some sick tunes.
KALTBLUT: Your song “20s” went viral on TikTok. Did you expect that?
Bow: You know I didn’t plan to release “20s”, I just put it on TikTok, just like I usually put some demos on there sometimes. I uploaded it on Christmas Eve and thought nothing of it. It really resonated with people, and I was in denial still thinking I wasn’t gonna release the song, but then I did. I wrote it from a place of feeling a bit pressured in your 20s and trying to do 100 different things. I thought it was only me feeling like that. I was kind of using this as therapy, in a way, to vent, but then I realised that it made me feel comfortable because other people felt that way too. The power of TikTok is mad, though. I was on tour with Tom Walker, and the amount of people that knew me from TikTok was insane. I’m like a little granny too, I’m not that into technology, and I’m thinking, how does this work? How do these people know me from TikTok?
KALTBLUT: Do you feel more pressure now having to keep that momentum by releasing more songs that could work well on TikTok?
Bow: Sometimes I write loads of songs, put everything online and see what resonates. That’s not how it used to be. There’s just a lot of music, a lot of great music, too, and you’re trying to keep up with the pace, and that’s not why music was great.
I’m not that into technology, and I’m thinking, how does this work? How do these people know me from TikTok?
KALTBLUT: “20s” obviously resonates because it’s also a little bit about the pandemic, I believe. Do you feel that you now have to constantly release personal songs that resonate with people to kind of get that momentum?
Bow: I always write from personal experience anyway, I think it was just really specific. But I also think you can’t force something, as you don’t know what’s going to resonate. I didn’t write “20s” thinking, oh, this is going to really resonate with people and people are going to listen to the lyrics. I just wrote it because I was really stressed to get it out on paper. I think as long as you’re true to yourself, you’re having fun, and you write from a real place, people will see that. But it’s also just about trying not to think about it too much because as a creative person, as soon as you overthink it, you’re not having fun, and it ruins any kind of good music because you’re in your head.
KALTBLUT: And as you already said, your songs are very personal. How does it feel to put everything out there? I believe it’s like putting your diary out there in the world.
Bow: It is a bit scary, but I treat it like when it’s not out, it’s mine, and it’s for me. But, as soon as it’s out in the world, I feel like it’s not mine anymore, but it’s for other people. I hope it makes other people feel good or comfort in whatever sense. It’s theirs now.
I think as long as you’re true to yourself, you’re having fun, and you write from a real place, people will see that. But it’s also just about trying not to think about it too much because as a creative person, as soon as you overthink it, you’re not having fun, and it ruins any kind of good music because you’re in your head.
KALTBLUT: What I find interesting when listening to your music is that there’s such a wide pool of genres that seem to influence your sound. Is that on purpose, or does that come organically?
Bow: I’d say it’s a bit of both. I love soul music, and my melodies can be quite soulful at times just because I grew up listening to Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway and even Bruno Mars, he’s the modern-day soul-funk guy. I grew up on a lot of that. So the melodies naturally come like that. I also like Kendrick Lamar, Kanye, and Chance the Rapper. I love Gospel music, Hip Hop and Pop. It naturally comes together, and I just experiment and have fun trying different things.
KALTBLUT: Can you walk me through your songwriting process?
Bow: I don’t really have a certain structure. But quite often I’ll get concepts or title ideas when I’m doing something really random. I’ve been doing a spin class before, they play music and I’ve been like, oh, that’d be a really cool concept. I’ll write them all in my notes. And sometimes, when I’m out and about and music’s playing with chord progressions, it triggers melodies, and I just voice note everything. When I go into the session, depending on how I’m feeling that day, I’ll think about what I want to write about, I’ll sometimes look at concepts or even a melody, and it just goes from there.
KALTBLUT: Your music blew up right in the pandemic, so there were absolutely no live shows. What does it feel like for you now that there’s live shows again?
Bow: Yes, it was weird. During lockdown, I was sitting in my bedroom, and all these great things were happening and I thought this is the norm, this is how this works. Then obviously when we came out of lockdown, I realised that you get to do gigs, TV shows and all these opportunities. I love it. I know some artists don’t enjoy the live-aspect, which is absolutely understandable as well, but I love it. I’m meeting so many new people and getting to see so many new places and cities while playing music. Also, my band are my best mates, it’s just so fun. I love every part of it.
KALTBLUT: You had a really tragic accident while trampolining. Did that accident push you more towards music?
Bow: 100%. It’s funny. It sounds as if I was just in my backyard on the trampoline. I went to a performance school and did dancing, acting and singing and obviously because I was really badly injured, I couldn’t dance. They told me to come to sing, and that encouraged me. I think that’s when I found my voice. I fell in love with music. It was all I thought about and all I wanted to do. It was the only thing that felt right. I believe everything happens for a reason, and it was a tragic and awful injury, and I was in a really dark place, but it led me to something different.
KALTBLUT: Do you think your competitive sports background has helped you in your music career?
Bow: I think so. I’ve always been quite ambitious, and I never wanted to do something “normal”, I don’t know why. It definitely made me stronger. You have to have tough skin in this industry.
KALTBLUT: What’s next for you now? Are you focusing on live shows, or are you working on new music?
Bow: I’m doing quite a lot of both, actually. I’ve got quite a lot of festivals in the summer, and there will be some new music coming out, too. I’m doing a lot of writing at the moment.
KALTBLUT: How does that work when you’re on the road? Bow: It’s a nice change. If I was in the studio every single day, I think I’d go a bit crazy. It’s quite nice to escape it, play live and do something different. It triggers ideas and refreshes your brain.
Bow Anderson will be playing on Sunday, 12th June from 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM at Tempelhof Sound’s Echo Stage.
Follow @bowanderson on Instagram to keep up to date on her latest releases and shows. Cover photo by Annie Reid.
Johanna Urbancik is the host of the On The Ground podcast, in collaboration with KALTBLUT and Refuge Worldwide. Listen to the podcast here.