You know we love a bit of alternative pop here at Wonderland. The type that makes you cry in a good way, tearing your heartstrings into equal lines of some sort of bloody pulp as if they’d been through a paper shredder.
Maybe that’s a tad extreme, but you get the gist, and so does London-based songwriter IZZA on her latest track “Lows”. The song came together during a Shepherds Bush studio session with Amy McKnight, with the singer trying to rescue herself from a black hole of anxiousness after a testing week. Not sure if she was on the right path as it were, IZZA wanted to write something that would lift her spirits – and it did.
Music and songwriting especially have been apart of IZZA’s life ever since she can remember, growing up in a performing arts household where she’d bounce from Bill Withers to Amy Winehouse and Disclosure as she honed in on the stories she wanted to tell. “Lows” is the effervescent culmination of all those years, a mix of dark and soulful pop that posits IZZA as a sonic force to be reckoned with.
We spoke to the spellbinding singer below, and talked influences, dream collaborations and where she hopes to take things in 2021…
Hey Izza! How have things been for you recently?
Hey, things have been really good this week actually thank you. I was in the studio all day Sunday to record something very special and it was so great being out and actually making music again, which I haven’t really been able to do since lockdown happened in March. Also it’s just great to have my debut single “Lows” out in the world. When you’ve been working on something for so long it’s just amazing to be able to finally share it with the people.
When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
Music really just happened to me. I remember being in the garden of my childhood home and just singing and making up lyrics about the birds in the garden, when I was like 7 years old – I think I probably knew back then already. We had a piano in the house as well, so often I would just find myself sitting there playing chords that sounded nice and singing along to them. I think It just naturally felt like the more comfortable way to express myself..through music. When I was 9 years old my choir teacher told my parents it might be worth giving me singing lessons, so they looked into it and since then I had classical singing lessons twice a week till I was 16 years old really. I always told people I wanted to be a singer and songwriter, but I think I properly realised that I didn’t want to do anything else in life apart from music after studying Geography at King’s College London. I did the BA next to managing my own band at the time, just to have that ‘proper’ degree. Although I really enjoyed the time – I met some of my best friends then – I just knew that music was the only thing I wanted to do and I threw myself into it full-time.
How would you describe your sound?
I describe my sound as Dark Soul Pop. I love the catchy pop melodies that can stay in your head and make you feel good for hours, but I’m also super influenced by soul music and a lot of my songs come from darker places that turn into brighter places after writing music.
Have these crazy times impacted your music and creativity at all?
Yes definitely. I would say these weird times have been an emotional rollercoaster for me (I can imagine it’s been the same for many of us). Not being able to play shows, do recording sessions and studio sessions, or being able to see my friends and my family has been hard. I feel like the very thing that made me fall in love with London – the music scene, the buzz, the intimate hot sweaty gigs you can go to every day of the week, the inspiring people you can meet unexpectedly – everything is on hold. And I don’t think it’s easy for any us, but it’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel shit about it. In a weird way I also had a lot of time for self-reflection and dealing with things that I might not have had a chance to spend so much time on before. I’d like to think that this time, including Covid and its effects on everyone‘s life and the Music industry (esp live!), the BLM movement, the terrible Trump and Boris Johnson saga (like how are these two leaders of actual countries?!?) has some sort of positive outcome for everyone. And that people learn to be nicer to each other and actually come together. Maybe we’ll look back one day and be like ‘remember 2020? That year was really necessary for all of us to finally make a change’.
How do you think growing up with parents in the performing arts shaped your approach to your craft?
Oh it’s definitely been extremely helpful. I was very lucky because from early on my parents supported my decision to chose music as a career path. My dad even suggested I should go do a music course in my gap year after school. That’s how I ended up doing a 3months ‘Popular Music’ course at Tech Music Schools in London back then. Those 3 months turned into years and now I’m still here. When you’re a self-employed musician and independent artists a lot of the time people don’t understand what your actually doing all day – that you’re doing all sorts of jobs including accounting, planning, admin, organising, PR, social media, rehearsing, performing, etc. My mum has had her own film production company for years, so she was always able to give me advice on so many things, which can all feel quite overwhelming when you start. What my mum and my dad have both been doing is always telling me to remember that I’m doing this all for the joy of music, and at times where it’s been really stressful they’ve always reminded me that I should just play my piano and write and sing and do what I love, and forget about all the other things involved in the ‘music business’. They’ve definitely been my greatest support and I am so grateful for that.
Congratulations on your new single – “Lows” – what’s it all about?
Thank you so much – this is a special song for me and I’m so happy it’s finally out! “Lows” came about when Amy (Amy McKnight) and I were writing together in her studio in Shepherds Bush. I had a dark couple of days before that. I was anxious and not sure if I was on the right path. I wanted to write something that would pick me up. And it did. Lows is about dealing with anxiety and depression in your everyday life. It’s a song that says ‘it’s ok not to be ok. It’s okay to have your demons. You can learn to live with them. Invite them to a party and make them dance.’
What’s the reaction been like so far?
I’ve had a lot of great response which has been absolutely incredible. People feel good listening to the song. And I’ve received messages from people saying how much they can relate to the lyrics and how it makes them feel much more positive. This is exactly what the song means to me, so I’m super happy I can make people feel good with my music.
How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
I hate drama and I wish I could take people out of their own little drama bubbles sometimes, so they understand it‘s not all that bad. My favourite thing is to look at the stars. Sometimes I would look for so long, I just get sucked in by the sky and the universe and then I look back at the world from a completely different perspective. And I realise how small and insignificant I am. Beautifully insignificant. It makes me feel like I can do anything I want. And why would I want to spend this short time I have with drama and negativity. If I could make people feel like this with my music – that would be the dream. I want to spread a positive message with my songs, by showing the dark and the light. Pro a world where people can accept, respect and support each other no matter what their skin colour or religion is, who they love or where they come from.
Who would be your dream collaborators?
Those change a lot and they are many of them. Right now it would be Tom Misch, Mahalia and Skin from Skunk Anansie.
Where do you pull most of your influences and inspirations from?
My music is definitely influenced by my personal experiences, but also experiences of friends and family, and everything that is happening in the world around us. It’s like my songs are partly a working progress of myself, and partly a response to things that are happening on earth (maybe from the perspective of aliens).
Musically I feel like my influences always change. I am not one of those artists, who grew up with their parents listening to this specific artist and now I make music that is influenced by them. I’m generally influenced by Soul & Jazz as well as Pop and Electronic Music, but my musical influences are from a variety of genres, anything from Amy Winehouse, Bill Withers and Disclosure to Skunk Anansie and Mahalia.
Have you got any plans for a full-length album or EP?
Oh yes definitely. There are plans for an EP but more info shall be revealed next year.
What do you hope the next year will bring?
A lot of travelling, packed intimate gigs, and lots of hugging!