Towa Bird, the Hong Kong-born singer who is half-English and half-Filipino, is one of the featured artists for ESPN’s Music of the Month with her song “Wild Heart.” Bird spoke to ESPN Music about her experience representing the Asian and Queer communities for AAPI Heritage Month and ahead of Pride Month.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
ESPN Music: What was your life like before you turned to music?
Towa Bird: My life before was primarily centered around sports actually. That's what I thought I was going to do professionally. As a 10 year old, you probably don't have the best read on what your life is going to become. And then my life did a full 180. I noodled around when I was young but at 12 my focus shifted and I started playing guitar.
EM: You talked about how you were inspired by Prince and Joan Jett. Was there anything specifically about their type of music that really drew you in?
Towa: I think it was the gender fluidity and androgyny they presented as artists and as people. I really felt that through their lyrics and through their music their openness and self-expression. Embracing their sexuality embracing their fluidity, I think that really resonated with me at a young age. And I felt empathy towards that, and felt like I could do that for myself as well.
EM: What does it mean to you to be able to represent the AAPI community, especially on an entertainment channel like ESPN?
Towa: It's a huge deal. It feels massive for me, just because I know that if I was a little bit younger, I could look up to someone who looks like me. That representation from the AAPI community — that would be massive for a younger version of Towa. So I think it's a huge deal personally. I love to see more representation of Asian folk in mainstream media. And I think the more that we can do, the better younger generations.
EM: And your song “Wild Heart.” What makes that song really mesh with sports? It might not be a sports song necessarily but it works really well.
Towa: My early life was spent playing sports and watching sports and consuming sports, whether that be in stadiums or on television, hearing those kinds of big anthemic songs in stadiums and feeling echoes and the reverberations of the songs filling the space. That definitely has an influence on this song and my album. I remember hearing David Bowie songs and “Sweet Caroline” and all of these big rock and pop anthems and being really inspired by that.
EM: And next month is pride month as well. So not only are you a great representation for the AAPI community, but also for the queer community. What does it mean to be able to represent these two communities in your music and just kind of how you live your life?
Towa: I think, again, to be someone to the younger generation. And being able to be clear and be open and allow for people to see that part of me and to hear it in the music is great. And again, a privilege and I'm so happy to be able to do it.
EM: You moved to Los Angeles a year and a half ago. How has that transition been for you coming to the states and being in a music scene like LA?
Towa: I mean, massively inspiring. It's huge, it’s a big life change, getting acclimated to the new culture, finding a whole new group of friends and trying to maintain connections to the UK whilst also trying to be present in my own life. But it's totally the right move. I'm just really happy to be in this chapter of my life.
EM: Your debut album is coming out soon. What can people expect from it?
Towa: I think you can get a feel for my album when listening to "Wild Heart" and "Boomerang." The album is upbeat with lots of energy and uptempo songs. I think it's important for me to be vulnerable in my music, to allow people to get a feel for me and my life.
EM: Anything else you want people to know about you?
Towa: I want them to come in with a fresh mind and just kind of take everything as it is. And I want people to put their own spin and interpretations on my music and make it their own. Because it's everyone's as much as it is mine. So I would love for people to come in open-minded and just be down for it.
EM: Finally, looking at where you are now, what would you tell yourself at age 12, the kid who picked up the guitar who started playing and strumming along to The Kinks?
Towa: I'd say, practice hard, work hard and start writing songs, because that's so fun. And that's such a great part of my job. And I can't believe it's my job. So just be open and keep going.