Gia Woods is becoming her own role model
On a humid August day in Los Angeles, Gia Woods is brimming with sunny theoreticals, letting loose images of Pharrell and Madonna collaborations as well as stadium performances she hopes she’ll give in the near future. She also mentions her dream to one day team up with Daft Punk, a duo she’s been inspired by for years now. It’s idyllic stuff, but moments later, the 26-year-old spotlights one particular hypothetical that comes with an undertone of morbidness — a tour date that could lead to an arrest or much, much worse.
“One of my biggest goals is to be the first Persian queer artist to perform in Iran,” she says, noting that the nation’s anti-LGBTQ laws might not be so kind to a singer like herself. “If I went to Iran right now, I would probably not make it out alive.” She laughs, but the concert would be a punctuating accomplishment for an LA girl who’s in the process of becoming her own role model. Raised in a conservative Persian home, Woods once hid her sexuality from her friends and family. She came out to them on “Only a Girl,” a 2015 single that racked up millions of streams while propelling her professional career to the next level. For Woods, sexuality isn’t everything, but it’s more than an artistic throughline.
“It’s such a privilege to be an openly gay artist,” she shares. “Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of people to look up to. I just want my music to be there for people who could use that support.”
When she hasn’t been musing on advocacy or superstar production scenarios, Woods’ been hitting the gym, hiking, clubbing with fans or reading books for what she calls self-care. On a career level, she’s plotting the release of Heartbreak County, Vol. 2, a Technicolor portrait of romantic ambivalence, sweat-inducing lust and Eurodance bliss distilled over the course of seven songs. A sequel to 2021’s Heartbreak County, it was recorded after a breakup with her girlfriend earlier this year. The EP oscillates between self-reflection and escapist dance-floor thrills — an emotional recovery roadmap that begins with depression and ends with acceptance.
“A lot of people experience that pain where you start thinking, ‘Am I good enough? Am I the problem?’” she says. “The writing I start to pull from was just like, ‘No, I’m so much better than this breakup, and I’m gonna go find myself again,’” she adds. “I’m gonna go fucking put myself out there.”
If Woods’ reemergence had a theme song, it would sound a lot like Heartbreak County, Vol. 2’s “Hello,” a pulsing breakup anthem that marked the first track she recorded specifically for this project. Coasting over bouncy synths, Woods ventures off into defiance, closing the chapter of a doomed relationship for good. The opening track suggests a greeting, but Woods is clearly saying goodbye. Elsewhere on the EP, she embraces her thirst with “Lesbionic,” a psychedelic single that emanates sexuality and impulse: “My lips, my body, my hips, so naughty/You stare, you want it, you’re there, so watch me,” she sings in a near whisper, her sultry vocals emitting seduction. “It’s not iconic, it’s lesbionic.” The track was inspired by a market inefficiency in the world of thirst anthems by and for women.
“I feel like I’ve heard so many songs about women from a man’s perspective,” she says. “I wanted to write a song that was celebrating and embracing women all around the world — a woman lusting over other women.”
The festive vibes continue on her sparkling, BAYLI-assisted anthem “Spend It,” a track she says was influenced by upbeat, Y2K-era Timbaland and Neptunes production. “I literally don’t get sick of that song,” she says, practically smiling through the phone. “Every time it comes on, I’m so fucking excited.”
[Photo via Gia Woods]
While Heartbreak County, Vol. 2 channels the escape of fist-pumping and the glamor of LA nightlife, there are darker undertones even when the lights are on. It sounds confident, but “Hello” is a trauma response to her breakup — a cocktail of sadness and anger. With its stuttering synths “PCH,” an acronym for “Pretty Cold Heart,” scans as typical pop fun, but it’s also Woods’ sobering analysis of herself, someone whose experiences have taught her a guarded brand of love. “It was definitely one of those songs where I was like, ‘Damn, I’m a little shit,” she says, laughing. “It was cool to write about that perspective of things — kind of writing a song to myself,” she admits. The uptempo pace of her dance sounds encourages you to get lost in the rhythms, but the lyrics themselves can represent a stark reality.
“I always love counteracting that stuff,” she says. “I want people to feel one way. And then when they really look at the lyrics and they can understand what it’s about, they’re like, ‘Oh, fuck wait, this is what this. This is what the song is about.’”
As fearlessly sexual as it is utterly human, Heartbreak County, Vol. 2 is a snapshot of Gia Woods 2022, the near-complete opposite of the Woods who kept her feelings to herself years ago. “I was always the shy, quiet girl who was afraid to talk to anyone in the classroom that would rarely raise my hand,” she remembers. “I think that’s why in my music I’m so loud.”
While she hadn’t always planned on being a professional musician, the ingredients were there; she’d been in choir and orchestra since the sixth grade. Months before she was to decide whether she’d attend college, a prospective manager heard her sing during a school concert and offered to help start her career. Woods accepted, and she’s been growing ever since.
From 2015 on, she cultivated a buzz with local performances and intermittent singles. Her music was shaped by her experiences as a native of LA, which she calls Heartbreak County. The moniker sounds like a nickname for fractured romance, but Woods relates it to broken aspirations.
“Growing up, I saw so many people move here from all over the world to chase their dreams and make something out of themselves,” she explains. “I feel like I’ve witnessed more [of the] heartbreak of people not making it more so than they do.” With the impending release of her latest, Woods has the chance to continue putting distance between herself and the fate of the people she saw growing up. If she stumbles, though, there’s a good chance you’ll find at least some of the fall in her music.
“I feel like every project I make literally is a journal entry to a phase in my life,” she says. “I’m so much more aware of who I am, and I’m constantly still growing as an artist, and I love that I can do that through my music. I’m having the best time of my life.”
“I have so many big goals, and it’s not something that’s gonna happen overnight, but I wanna go all the way to the top,” she adds. “I want to use my platform to make a change in the world.” Now that would be iconic.