The multi-hyphenate and daughter of an ‘80s music legend chats collaborating with her dad on latest track.
Izzy Kershaw’s latest single “Paranoid” was written following a particularly testing time for the artist. “At university, I came out as transgender to a group of friends I made,” she explains below, “who turned out to be not particularly understanding about it and I ended up having a bit of a mental health crisis because of that.” As time passed, Izzy was ready to channel the pain she’d endured into music, however, not without an optimistic spin. She asked her dad and collaborator, ‘80s hitmaker Nik Kershaw, to write lyrics for the track’s middle eight section, with the specification that they alluded to hope in the distance.
The result is “Paranoid”, the father-daughter team-up’s buoyant alt-pop triumph that’s more than compatible with Izzy’s summarisation of her sound – “Fast, crunchy, and emotional – as all good breakfasts should be”. We unpack that description below, as well as how she’s accumulated her multiple musical talents and the interaction between her artistry and her ADHD.
Hear “Paranoid” for yourself and read our chat with the artist below…
Hey Izzy! How’s your day been? What are you looking forward to today apart from doing this interview?
It’s been alright. I spent the morning casting people for an upcoming music video before the interview. I’m looking forward to the video, but I’m also looking forward to seeing if I can squeeze in a little bit of Super Smash Bros Ultimate with my friends before I get too busy.
Congratulations on “Paranoid”! It’s based on what sounds like a really difficult time for you at university. How was it exploring this experience in your work?
I was at a point where those experiences feel distant enough that I can write about them from the other side of the tunnel but close enough that I could go back and remember how they felt. It was pretty cathartic, honestly. At university, I came out as transgender to a group of friends I made who turned out to be not particularly understanding about it and I ended up having a bit of a mental health crisis because of that. I wrote the lyrics during lockdown. The loneliness of lockdown felt kind of similar to the loneliness I felt at uni, so it was easier to put myself back in those shoes again.
You’re a music producer, singer, and songwriter, what came first for you?
Weirdly none of the above. I actually started with classical composition first, although I was in a bunch of different bands when I was in my teens as either a singer, guitarist, bassist or drummer. However, I guess from the selection you gave me, probably music production. When I was 14 I got a laptop with ProTools on it as a Christmas gift, and I filled up a couple of external drives full of weird experimental electronic music that will very likely never see the light of day. Because of that I really fell in love with music production.
You’ve described your work as “fast, crunchy, and emotional – as all good breakfasts should be”. We love that! Can you unpack how that manifests in your music?
I guess I really just write a lot about quite heavy subjects, but at the same time I try not to take myself too seriously, and I think that statement kind of captures that. I’ll sometimes put stupid memes from the days of Vine into my work, whilst I’m simultaneously writing about something really heavy. I very rarely write music under 100bpm, and I’m a very big fan of blending different types of distortion. I especially like really gritty digital distortion, like bit-crushing.
You’ve spoken about the link between time and your experiences of ADHD in your work. Can you tell us more about this relationship?
When you’ve got ADHD, time is a lot more abstract than it is for other people. Sometimes I can get too focused on a project, working all day and night on it, only to realise I haven’t eaten or drunk anything since 10 AM. I feel like time escapes me a lot, so it ends up being a subject I write about quite often, even if it’s only tangentially related. In the past, I’d often tell myself ‘I can do it later, and then later never comes, but now I’ve swapped to telling myself ‘there is only now. Which has made me a lot more productive, but also makes me a nightmare to get hold of, and I’m very aware of that. I guess I’m kind of all or nothing when it comes to managing my time. ADHD hugely impacts my life in both negative and positive ways, so I think it’d feel weird not to write about it. I think ADHD and creativity go hand in hand. It’s easy to get bored with ADHD and boredom is a really good tool for writing because I naturally just start writing in my head to deal with it. Sometimes I will even create a space to be bored in just for that purpose.
Your dad is a veteran of the music game, as hit ‘80s songwriter Nik Kershaw. You wrote “Paranoid” with him – what’s it like collaborating with your dad?
Honestly, it was a really amazing experience. Before I started releasing music under [the moniker] Izzy Kershaw, I was releasing music under ‘Izzy Spint’, because I didn’t want that shadow looming over me. I later came to the conclusion that Kershaw is my name too and I was stubbornly shooting myself in the foot for no good reason. I think after excepting that about myself, the idea of working with my dad on a song seemed more like a fun experience instead of something terrifying. I asked to work with him in lockdown when we were both bored out of our nut because I thought it would be a good distraction for the both of us. He asked that if we were to collaborate, we would treat each other the same way we’d treat any other collaborator. Initially, my dad was just going to sing on the track and he encouraged me to put together the lyrics and production on my own. I wanted it to be more of a collaborative experience, so I asked him to write a part of the middle eighth. After lockdown, we met up to mix the track together in person. Dad was kind of ruthless when it came to cutting stuff, but it gave me this perspective that complex doesn’t always mean good. It was just lovely seeing his process because I never got to see too much of that growing up. I feel like it taught me a lot and that experience definitely affects how I write now.
Your music borrows from an array of different sounds. What tracks have you got on repeat right now though?
In my eyes, good pop music, or I guess in my case, alternative pop music, always borrows from things outside the genre. My music listening habits change very drastically from week to week, but this week I’ve been listening to “venus fly trap” by brakence, the entire album Planet Pimp by SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS. “Tick Tock”, by Joji. “Str8 Acting” by Lynks and lastly “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai.
The sky would appear to be the limit with your work, however, for you personally, what would you really love to achieve?
I think I’d like to go touring around the world and meet some of my fans. I’ve got a lot of fans in Germany, so I’d really like to play there. It would also be great to go to Japan as I’ve always wanted to visit Harajuku bridge and check out the clothing stores there. I’d also like to meet some of my musical heroes like Joji, Bjork or Nobuo Uematsu.
And lastly, what’s next in the Izzy Kershaw odyssey?
It’s funny you mention “odyssey”, because I’ve been brushing up on my Greek myths for some current writing inspiration, which is one part of completing my slow-release album. I’ve nearly finished a track with Sadie Nencini, I’m mostly just waiting on her to write her part and get that recorded. The rest is pretty much finished. Then I’m going to be writing a track with Indy Hawkes, who you might know as Chesney’s son. I’m filming a music video for “Paranoid” this coming weekend, and then a music video for my track “Bread and Wine and Lust”. After I finish my album I want to concentrate on touring if I can get the funds for it. At the moment I’m just really enjoying the support I’ve been given by my fans, who have been asking a lot about a tour, and I want to be able to deliver on that for them.