The queer Persian pop princess we’ve all been waiting for has been solidifying herself as our latest obsession. Gia Woods is ridiculously talented, undeniably sexy, and sooooo gay. With hypnotizing vocals and a nostalgic hyper-pop sound, she’s going to be at the top of all of our post-pandemic going out playlists.
Originally debuting (and coming out of the closet) in 2015 with her song “Only A Girl,” she is by no means new to the music scene, but certainly staying exciting and innovative as an artist. Since then, she has put out single after single, performed at LA Pride, was included in OUT Magazine's OUT100, featured in Calvin Klein’s Pride collection campaign, and was set to go on tour right as the pandemic hit. Over the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been releasing new music like crazy, putting out her first album Cut Season in October 2020. She is now, once again, blessing us with new music! “Enough of You,” the first track off Gia Woods’ upcoming EP, Heartbreak County, just released June 18 (today!).
Gia Woods was eager to share her inspirations behind the upcoming EP, her creative process, and her hopes for the future with BUST.
How has the pandemic been treating you? It seems like we're kind of getting out of the woods here.
Yeah, it's been really crazy. I feel like things are moving so fast, and I'm just trying to catch up because literally a month ago, we were just isolated and secluded from everything and everyone. And [now] all of a sudden, it's just like go go go go. And the thing is, since everybody has been so suppressed for so long, we're all trying to pile our schedules, trying to get everything done and go to all the different events going on. I'm like, "Oh my god," I can't keep up with it; it's driving me nuts. Every weekend there's a party now, or a show. So, I feel like right now, more than ever, things are moving so fast, which is exciting.
Have you been keeping busy? Seeing friends, working on more music?
I basically have already made the first project; it's done, so that's exciting. Right now, I'm just trying to play as many shows as possible and dropping music once a month. I'm excited because there's just so much coming out and, during the pandemic, I feel like I was planning everything up until this point. So now, it's actually perfect timing that the world is opening up, and I'm putting music out because the music deserves to be heard at the clubs and the bar. I want everyone to dance to it. I'm an artist. I always write, but the music's done, so for me, right now, it's just focusing on playing all the live shows and getting prepped for everything related to that while also having a social life and seeing my friends, which has honestly been so nice. I need that balance.
You've been so busy this past year. Do you feel like the pandemic just happened to land on a productive period for you, or do you feel like the isolation has gotten your creative juices flowing?
I think a bit of both. I feel like the isolation has definitely gotten me motivated because I think I was so in my head, and then really reflecting on the past year in my life and what I wanted to write about for this new music. Everything I write is about my personal life, but I feel like I have to go live in order to even know what to write about. And for me, with my first project I ever put out, I already had so much going on and I had so much to say. With this, it was such an intense, deep analyzation of my actual full life, and I feel like that's kind of how I got inspired for this new project, which is called Heartbreak County. It's about my life here in LA.
I was isolated from everything and I was just thinking and thinking, and all this inspiration kind of came in. I started making all the moves to start planning it, so it really was kind of nice. I know it wasn't great at all for, like, a million people, and for me, it obviously wasn’t great in a lot of ways too. But this time did give me so much to think about, reflect, and try to get to know myself better, not only as an artist but just as a human and what I needed to learn from this time. I feel like I've really evolved.
Could you tell me a bit more about the creative process of making this EP and working on “Enough of You,” and what this first single in particular means to you?
This song was actually the first song I wrote. That was kind of the starting point for the project. I knew I wanted to make dance music, but I just didn't know what that would be and how that would sound like. The creative process was more interesting than anything I've ever done. I had a mood board for everything—from the artwork, to the clothes I want to be wearing, to the flyers, to the logo. So, I kind of had all the imagery in a mood board for everybody to see. Whether it was producers and writers I would go in the room with, or creative directors or stylists. It was almost like we all knew what we were getting into. I think that really helped get everything in a place where it wasn't just scattered; everything was so cohesive. And then I just made a huge playlist of music I was inspired by. A lot of the music is nostalgic from my childhood, and thanks to my sister... she really inspired a lot of music that I grew up listening to. I was like, okay, I want to live in this world and I want to watch all the live performances of all my favorite artists. And so I just did all my homework. And then I started writing. It all started happening at the same time.
“Enough of You” was actually a song written over Zoom, which is really weird because I’ve never, ever done that. None of the songs I wrote over Zoom happened to be that crazy. It's really hard to connect with someone on the screen, but with this girl, who I've written with multiple times, she's also a really good friend of mine. We know each other, so it wasn't like we're getting on a Zoom and we're like “okay, let's write a song.” But for me, this was so natural. We got on Zoom and I had this idea on the guitar. I was playing these chords and I was just singing these melodies. I really wanted to write a song about how you can be addicted to a person, but it also goes in so many ways. Addiction is so strong and powerful. It can mean anything, and for me, my addiction could be towards a place, a person, or a thing. But I feel like I have this strong pull towards something, I really feel like I'm obsessed with it. I can't get enough of it. So that's kind of what I was saying in the session. I want to write a song that has a double meaning.
Each song on Heartbreak County is meant to tackle fame, sex, God, or addiction. Could you tell me about what these themes mean to you, and why they are so important to your EP?
A lot of it has to do with my life in LA, and I feel like all of those things are LA—like religion, or sex and politics and fame, especially. I felt like I wanted to tap into all the main things that I feel are my city, and [that] I really wanted to pull from. A lot of the LA landmarks. Growing up here and seeing people move here from all around the world, whether it's to be in the entertainment business or not. I feel like everyone comes here to follow their dreams because it's kind of like the city where you want to make it. So, I kind of wanted to write about the dark side of it, and the heartbreak around that, so I felt like all those categories are the most you can really indulge in the city. I felt like that was the best way to explain the story of my life here.
What made you switch from dentistry to pursuing music full-time after graduating high school?
Honestly, I don't even know. I was young, and I think it was my family putting pressure on me. I come from an old-fashioned Persian household, so for them, it was like, “get a normal job.” A lot of the people in my family are doctors or lawyers. I feel like in my family, it is common to have one of those jobs. So I felt like, “Oh well, that job means I'm gonna make a lot of money and I'm going to be a doctor, so whatever.” But really, why was I saying that? Through a lot of my childhood, it was like, “Oh, what do you want to be when you grow up?” and I was like, “I want to be a dentist because I like teeth.” Like, what the hell? What does that even mean? I don't actually give a fuck about that. Luckily, that didn't happen. But yeah, it was very off brand. No thank you.
Your debut single “Only A Girl” came out (if you’ll excuse the pun) in 2015. It’s crazy to think about how long ago that was. How do you find that you’ve changed as an artist and as a person, and what do you think has had the greatest influences on this change?
I feel like I’ve just been making and writing music that is genuine to me as an artist. I don't think you start making music and you're like, “This is it. I know what I'm doing.” I think that some people get lucky and they just know. But for me, it's just been a process to get to this point. Since then, I've been evolving not only as an artist, but as a writer [too]. As a person, I feel like I evolved in the ways that I know what I want to say in my music more, and the style of [my] music. I've experimented a lot, which has been really cool. My first project did come out during the pandemic, which was insane, but that was kind of like the first taste of “okay, this is a body of work that I was involved in from the ground to the end.” And the songs that I was releasing during those years since my first single—they were just songs I was putting out; they were singles. I think that wasn't enough for me to share who I am as an artist and have people really get in my world.
I think the cool thing about doing projects is that you really get to invite people to listen to every song and feel like they're hearing the entire story from beginning to end and just getting to know you and all the stuff that you're saying and feeling. I think that I've just evolved in what I want to say, and the story that I want to share. I think even writing-wise, my writing has gotten better, [which] takes time. You just have to keep writing a million shitty songs until you get to a place where you're like, “I can tell what I like, what I don't like, and what's good and not [good] at this point.” Mentally, I've really evolved in knowing what I want to say in my music and trying different styles, so that's been really cool. I think that's why I grew up listening to people like Madonna, who is one of my biggest inspirations because she didn't just stick to one sound. She was never boxed, she was always just making music and releasing it. For me, that's how I feel like I want to keep going. As I keep growing and evolving, I want to keep making more music and trying different things. I don't want anyone to define me as one thing.
What would you say defines who you feel you are as an artist?
My biggest thing is always just being genuine. I just want anyone who listens to my music to feel good and feel like they can relate. I feel like we need more Gen Z voices, especially LGBTQ voices. I feel like my biggest goal is to be an artist that people can come to for anything—whether it's love, advice on growing up, or your sexuality. All that stuff.
I would love to hear more about your experience as a queer woman of color and the influences your identity has had on your music.
I feel like since I grew up in such an old-fashioned Persian household, I was always so suppressed and I've never really had an outlet. I didn't have any queer friends. I didn't even know that being queer was normal. Growing up, I was so closeted from everything. Now, I feel like I finally have blossomed. I've made so many friends that have experienced similar backgrounds and came from a family that weren’t accepting. Being queer, having a voice, and celebrating Pride is so important to me because for so long, I didn't get to celebrate it. I lived two different lives. At home, I was one person, and then when I left home, I was another person. But even then, I didn't even fully know myself when I was young, and what I was feeling.
So I think it's so special and important that we have Pride Month. I just feel so honored. If I could see myself when I was younger and see that I'm going to get to this point, I would cry. It's just really crazy to see how much I've grown. I see that now I feel comfortable in my skin and in my sexuality because there were moments growing up when I was in denial about it. A lot of my growth was tapping into that mental state of accepting myself just for me, and then being able to get to that point to actually help other people understand that you're fine—you're normal, there's nothing wrong with you, and what you're feeling is completely normal.
I heard you performed at the “Thrive With Pride” concert just a few days ago on June 10. Congratulations! But this isn’t your first Pride event; in fact, you’ve performed at LA Pride previously during non-pandemic times. How does it compare?
It was really cool. It's my second time performing at Pride, so it felt like deja vu. But also, it was so awesome because it was a different experience. It was live streamed. But I loved it so much. I felt so excited just to be able to play. My first show after the pandemic is LA Pride; that's pretty iconic.
You said in an interview last year that it’s your dream to go on a European tour. Do you have any plans on touring in the near future?
Right now, [I’m] just focusing on playing all the clubs and bars [as much as] possible. And then eventually—definitely, you know, depending on the state of the world. Hopefully things stay good. I would love to go on a tour. But playing live shows, at any festival or any venue, is what I'm focused on right now. Eventually [I’ll] tour though. I'm excited.
After a thorough stalking of your Instagram, I’ve found that your style is very much giving out-of-this-world, futuristic Y2K pop princess. I’m absolutely obsessed! Please tell me some of your greatest fashion influences and how this has bled into your music.
I don't know if you noticed that I always wear a bodysuit. I literally sleep in bodysuits. I wanted to express what I was feeling with the music externally and I felt like, “What do I feel comfortable wearing when I'm walking down the street, when I'm dancing, when I'm in the studio?” and I always loved bodysuits. That felt the most comfortable for me as an artist to wear everyday in my day-to-day life.
I sort of pull from so much old fashion from the 90s, definitely some 80s influence. I love Jean Paul Gaultier, Rick Owens, and so many different fashion designers. I also love Naomi Campbell and Grace Jones. I just got started looking up different body suits from different eras, and it kind of just started coming together. I don't know, it's weird. It just came to me and then I was like—okay, this is a uniform. I love it.
What do you hope people take away from “Enough Of You” and Heartbreak County?
That you're not alone. I feel like for me, growing up, I felt really isolated from everything and everyone, especially in my family. Because my parents’ first language is Farsi, I felt this huge disconnect growing up because I couldn't really talk to them and say how I was feeling day to day. My siblings had already moved out of the house and I was also really quiet and shy growing up, so I really didn’t have that many friends. But now it's so funny because I'm the most outgoing person ever. It's so crazy.
I want the music to make people feel things. I want people to dance, I want people to blast the music in their car, I want people to feel like there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. And I think that that's what music is for me. I want people to feel like they're not on their own. And you can be wherever you are, but as long as you have the music, and the littlest things like going out and having fun with your friends—that's the stuff that I think makes life worth living. I think that's the best way to release any kind of pain; it’s listening to music and having fun. That's what music is for.
You can check out "Enough Of You" here.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Photos Credit: Callum Walker Hutchinson
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Leah Overstreet is a rising sophomore at Columbia University majoring in Creative Writing with a concentration in Women's and Gender Studies. She is a fan of strong opinions, questionable fashion choices, and independently owned bookstores. She loves to spend her time writing about the queer experience, pop culture, sex, and feminism (hopefully with the company of a snack or two… or three). You can follow her @Leah.S.Overstreet on instagram.