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In Conversation With: Gia Woods

Getting our hearts broken (and fixed) with Gia Woods’ upcoming Heartbreak County vol. 2

Los Angeles is a fever dream. Heartbreaks are always agonising. An outfit can never be too lavish. There is no one who can embody all of life’s ups and downs and provocations quite like Gia Woods. A careful observer (both inwardly and outwardly), the LA-based musician takes us on one hell of a ride to Heartbreak County, where feverish beats and flaming vocals reveal the stories hiding behind the city’s blinding lights and Gia’s own dazzling persona. With absolutely zero bullshit in her whole entire being, Woods is a popstar of the new generation who came to serve us realness on a bejewelled silver plate. 

Hi Gia! How are you today?

Very good! My new song Pretty Cold Heart is out today, so I’m very excited.

Can’t wait to hear it! Could you please tell me a bit more about the forthcoming album that the track is a part of?

Heartbreak County has two volumes, the first one is out already and I’m releasing the second one now. Heartbreak County essentially means Los Angeles to me. Growing up here, I’ve seen so many people move here to chase their dreams, anything from music, acting, writing – any form of artistry involving fame. It’s interesting to see people think that their life is going to go one way, and then it turns out to be something completely different.

Hollywood’s spell.

Exactly. LA has this fantasy around it, but it’s not real. There is a lot more heartbreak that people actually see, which is the theme for the project. However, right after the first volume was released, I went through a personal heartbreak myself. I just got out of a relationship and realized that the project wasn’t done – now I’m experiencing an actual heartbreak in Heartbreak County. I started working on it right after the breakup – I wanted to put out the exact raw emotions I was feeling as I was going through them.

It’s like a live broadcast of all the breakup stages. Such a rollercoaster.

Yeah, it definitely encapsulates the messy, the slutty, the sad and the ugly stages of a breakup. It’s got the uptempo songs that come from escapism, but you can still sense that there is a sensitive emotional person behind it. All the songs are about what I was feeling – in the beginning, they are just about trying to make myself feel good, to remind myself that I’m hot and wanted and I don’t need another person to validate me. It’s towards the end when it gets to the real sad shit. I wrote Pretty Cold Heart as soon as I started seeing the person. I was going through a rough time – I lost my dad, which was the most painful experience I’ve ever had. Covid happened right after, so the two of those things together were really tough.

I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s so powerful how you could channel that and find comfort within your music.

It was definitely a really dark time and music helped me a lot. I’d just go to the studio and put myself through therapy within my writing. Obviously, it wasn’t the best time to get into a relationship and I was aware that I wasn’t going to be the best partner. It was interesting to come back to the song now – I was literally a shell of a human being but this person had so much hope that they could still love me and help me get through it. Deep down I knew I wouldn’t be able to give them what they deserved but they still wanted a piece of my pretty cold heart. It’s like a 360 story and now I’m asking myself, why didn’t I just listen to my intuition?

A full circle. Still, any relationship is there to serve a purpose, it’s a learning curve.

Definitely. They taught me things that I needed to learn and hopefully vice versa.

We loved your latest drop Cover Girl! How did that fit into the whole project?

I wrote it right after the breakup, it was my big party phase. It comes back to this LA fantasy and all these parties and events and cover girls. I was meeting so many people and one of them happened to be a literal cover girl. She was the definition of an It-girl, I was so drawn to her for some reason. And Hollywood has that about it – its cover girls and fashion icons and rockstars who everyone is obsessed with. It was interesting to actually experience the feeling of wanting to be around that person.

It’s giving ‘pop-disco-synth-princess’! Could you tell me a bit more about how you create your sound and what draws you to it?

Honestly, I just love dance music, it really influences my work. I grew up listening to artists like Madonna and in the last two years I really came back to that era. I was going back to back to back at looking who inspired those artists, how they worked. I got to explore a lot of layers of their music, how they drew people in with their melodies and lyrics. Bassline is always the most important in my opinion. I wanted the intro to resemble a heartbeat, to intrigue and pull you in, and then boom! I just want my songs to take the listeners on an adventure. All my favourite dance records take you on a journey, but people just don’t tend to associate dance music with that.

Yeah, I think dance music is sometimes perceived in very simple terms. The name is also misleading – a lot of people have this image of EDM festivals and excessive strobe lights when they think of dance music, which is so limited.

Exactly. I also used to think about dance music in the wrong way. I think it’s because EDM was a big moment for a second there, and it immediately comes to mind when you hear ‘dance music.’ I feel like now people start to realise how much depth and variety there is to the genre. It’s uptempo but it can be sad, it just gives multiple emotions in one place. I love disco, French dance, house – I just want to explore all of its layers in my music.

It’s really reflected in your own music too, this idea of a balance and range of emotion.

You should be allowed to feel two things at once.

Your visuals are also as striking as your sound! From music videos, to social media and your style. How would you say the visual narratives you create complement the musical ones?

I love colour and I love theatre – my favourite film is Moulin Rouge. I love everything exotic, intense expressions, and I try to reflect that in my visuals. I always aim to create my artwork like a painting – almost so that you can print it put it on your wall. Every time the thinking behind is ‘how can we make it bigger than just a picture?’. I constantly look up artworks from different ages, and take so much inspiration from David Lachapelle and that era of photography. I also just looove Tumblr! Tumblr over Pinterest any day.

Tumblr is so underrated!

Thank you. I feel like it’s just so much more intimate and tailored to what you like. When you’re on it, no one has to know who you are and what you do. I’m always drawn to things that give me a sense of privacy.

I imagine social media presence can be both super fun yet very exhausting, especially when you have a big platform.

Well, everyone has a big platform now – everyone is basically famous now. Fame has just changed so much – everyone is TikTok famous. What does ‘fame’ even mean anymore?

What does it mean to you?

I guess it’s about being able to do what I love and not have to have a plan B. A world tour would be the peak – I don’t care that much about awards and other stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be striving for the top of the top, but being able to make a living off my music for the rest of my life and simply be happy is what I truly want.

Your work has been described as “a cutthroat queer anthem.” What does this mean to you? Quite a title!

For me, it’s just about having no filter. I grew up in very old-fashioned Persian household, very shy and very closeted. It wasn’t until my first record that I really started becoming myself and owning my sexuality. My whole life before I started music as a career, I wasn’t really honest about who I really was, it was as if I was acting the whole time. So now in my music I don’t want to hold myself back, let’s just get straight to the point, you know? I’m an artist, this is my therapy, this is who I am – either you like it or you don’t.

And what do you want your audience to take away from this?

I guess I want my audience to know that there are no rules. There is no right or wrong way of handling yourself and your experience. I want them to listen to my music and think ‘okay, this is what Gia went through and look where she is now. I can do that for my life too.’ I hope it will be a reminder that it’s okay to put up a front sometimes, to lose yourself for a moment, to make mistakes. We all go through such different things but at their core they’re actually quite similar. No one’s life is perfect, even if it may seem that way. Through the whole record it’s a bit unclear who I’m talking about and then the last track reveals it all. It all happened and it’s fucked up and still hurts. But it’s life, I’m excited for people to see the vulnerable side of side of me. It’s time to introduce the emo Gia.

Images courtesy of Gia Woods

Words by Evita Shrestha