gia woods is making more than 'queer pop music'
The young artist talks transcending labels, self-acceptance, and the release of her new dreamy track 'Feel It' premiering on i-D.
“Feel It” single art by Jussie.
“Sometimes I wouldn’t even sing in choir class because I didn’t want anyone to hear my voice,” Gia Woods said to me on the phone from LA last week. It’s hard to believe the pop princess was ever afraid to be heard, considering her songs are streamed by millions of listeners around the world.
The 22-year-old artist has come a long way since being discovered during a high school talent show in 2014. Over the past five years she has released a slew of carefree love songs including her new dreamy upbeat track “Feel It” premiering today on i-D.
Woods first catapulted to viral fame in 2015, with the life-changing release of “Only a Girl.” The debut single not only marked the beginning of her career, but her coming out. “Since a lot of songs I wrote weren’t specifically stating ‘he’ or ‘she,’ I remember the day that song was written, I just wanted to be honest,” said Woods. Her music video for the track garnered over 10 million views on YouTube and attracted thousands of fans to the burgeoning pop star.
Growing up in LA, Woods was always interested in music. She played the violin as a kid, and eventually taught herself how to play the guitar. She would sort through her sister’s CD collection looking for new artists, which lead her to one of her biggest influences — Madonna. “[I listened to] whatever my older sister was listening to, so I am really happy she had good taste in music,” Woods said with a laugh. “When I have kids, I want them to have one older sibling that can put them on to the good stuff.”
It was Woods’ sister who secretly signed her up for the fateful choir class, that would lead to her being scouted her senior year. Still too afraid to sing in front of her classmates, she had originally opted for a different elective, but her sister intervened.
“It is crazy how that class kind of lead me to being here now. The person who scouted me happened to be in the crowd,” explained Woods. “It kind of just spiraled and I started getting into studios and writing songs with actual producers. I was still going to school. I decided to just not go to college at that point — I was like this is what I want to do. It was crazy how it all happened at really the best timing possible.”
It’s in the studio that Woods did a lot of self-discovery, not only around her music, but also her sexuality. When she decided to drop “Only a Girl” four years ago, she hadn’t even come out to her “old-fashioned” Persian parents or her manager, and at 18 years old, she was still getting comfortable with the idea herself.
“I had some difficulties accepting it in the very beginning, because I was conditioned to think that wasn’t really a thing or not normal,” Woods said. “I think that was coming out to myself. It was the perfect first record to introduce to whoever wanted to be part of my world.”
The same-sex love song quickly aligned Woods with other queer artists like Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan, and King Princess, who are changing the industry by openly representing the LGBTQ community and unapologetically sharing their experiences.
“There weren’t that many songs that were super open in that way,” said Woods, about “Only a Girl.” “I know ‘I Kissed A Girl’ by Katy Perry was for me the closest it gets, but no one was expecting a real song from a real person. I think the timing of that was really important for the music industry in general. I think a lot of people have been wanting an honest song that they can relate to in that way. The feedback is amazing.”
That honestly is prevalent throughout Woods’ music, whether she is singing about succumbing to temptation like on her flirty earworm “Jump the Fence” or that feeling of infatuation over a new crush like on her energetic new track “Feel It.”
Fans are constantly telling Woods how grateful they are for her music, and how it has helped them accept their own sexuality. While Woods is happy to be embraced by the LGBTQ community, she is performing at Pride events around the country this month, she does want people to know that she is making more than just “queer pop music.”
“I definitely don’t want to just be defined by my sexuality, it is a part of me, but I don’t think that is all of me,” said Woods. “If you are listening to a song I wrote, it may be about a girl, but I think that sometimes it is important to realize that this is normal. I want it to be normalized.”
As Woods continues to roll out new music (one track each month since February), she is helping reach that goal. After two years of recording music, the young artist has fine-tuned her sound, which mixes the sultry California sound of Lana Del Ray and the catchy pop proclivities of Lorde, to make the perfect party anthems.
“I feel like for so long I wasn’t releasing music and I was just discovering my sound and where I wanted to take it,” says Woods. “These couple years were really critical for me. I am just really excited to put these songs out. I am ready to be in everyone’s faces every month.”