Back in April, we profiled our first artist, Izzy Bizu. What first caught my attention was Izzy’s captivating voice on the track “White Tiger”. Her infectious vocals made of a perfect listening experience. A deeper listen to her music catalog proved that “White Tiger” is only the beginning. Her captivating voice and honest lyrics leave no doubt that Izzy is a star in the making.
Since our interview, Izzy has been making a serious mark in the music industry. This summer she hit the European festival circuit, performing almost every weekend. She was also the face and voice of H&M’s Forever Summer campaign and provided the theme song for the Euro 2016 Tournament.
Now that her debut album, A Moment of Madness, is finally here we are treated to more incredible music from Izzy. I recently had a conversation with her to talk about her evolution as an artist, her festival experiences, and her appreciation for Anderson .Paak. Enjoy the interview and be sure to stream the album in full below.
Sonic Selects (SS): Where did you start as an artist?
Izzy Bizu: First, I was in a girl band. Two years after that we got dropped. I needed to figure out what I was going to do with myself. So I ended up going to music college where I met my guitarist, Mika. I started jamming and improvising for the first time with live instruments. A year after college, I went to a few open mics and really gave this a go. I won my second open mic.
From there I went to my guitarist, Mika’s house and said ‘We should finish off the songs that we’ve been messing around with this year’. Because we were really casual about it. Then we ended up making the [Coolbeanz] EP and after the EP we made an album. Things really grew from there.
SS: When did you develop your passion for music?
Izzy: Yea it’s so funny because after we got dropped I didn’t know what I wanted. It’s such an amazing feeling. I felt free. There were so many opportunities out there. So I took a leap and went to music college. When I started playing with the band in the rehearsal room I was just so happy. It really helped me find my genre of music.
I still wasn’t sure I wanted to do music until I did the open mics. After I did the open mics I was like ‘Oh my god, I love this too much!’
SS: What was that first open mic like? You must have been a little bit nervous putting yourself out there as an artist for the first time.
Izzy: Yea, oh my god. I had my cross on. I was praying. I felt like I needed every sort of good energy to be around me not to mess up. But then I went on stage and started singing and felt really liberated. Then after that, I wanted to carry on doing this.
SS: Thinking back to that first open mic performance, did you perform your original songs or covers?
Izzy: It’s really funny because the first ever open mic I did a cover of Rodriguez – “Sugarman”. We thought we practiced enough and we didn’t. So I learned from that and we tried to do another cover. I did a cover of a jazz song “Summertime”. Then after I built up some confidence I finished one of my own songs. On my third open mic we did “White Tiger” and “Hit the High Road”.
SS: Your Coolbeanz EP had an acoustic sound. With the songs you put out recently, there is a lot more instrumentation. How has your sound evolved since your EP?
Izzy: The way music changes from person to person is tied to whatever is going on in their life. When I was doing the EP, I was fresh out of college and it was all very instant. I was in a park everything was so crazy and colorful.
Then going to the album, it has a lot more life experience. I moved out for the first time. I get rushes of these crazy memories
I had all these new feelings. The drums became more dramatic. The guitars became more scatty. The horns were more provocative. It all had to do with the mood of the album. I arranged more instruments to get a fuller sound. There is still that side of me that still loves acoustic. I love both. Those are the two sides of me.
SS: How has your band grown since you’ve released your EP?
Izzy: I’ve been with my guitarist, Mika for five years. I’ve been with my drummer, Ben for three, three and a half years. Ben and Mika, those are my boys I’ve been with them since I was seventeen/eighteen. Then the rest of the boys joined me just a year ago.
But you know when you spend so much time with people on the road you get close to them way quicker. They become part of your family. You have to be open with each other because you’re spending so much time together. You’re spending your downtime with them, you’re going to the bar, partying with them and playing.
SS: The band is a very important part to your live performance. What do you want someone to take away when they see you perform live?
Izzy: There are a couple songs where I talk about the traits about myself that I’m really not proud of. I feel like when you live in the city everyone needs to put on this really happy face and they never get to talk about their feelings that much. I want someone to feel like they’ve just had a hug. I want someone to feel really comfortable and feel that things aren’t too serious.
SS: You were really busy this summer performing at a lot of festivals including Glastonbury, Wild Life, and Lowlands just to name a few. What was your experience like performing at so many festivals this summer?
Izzy: We’ve done festivals before but not like this. We literally did a festival every weekend this summer. It was incredible. I get to meet artists that I love. I met Anderson .Paak and literally died when I met him. I couldn’t believe it. I watched him play and he was amazing. Are you a fan?
SS: Yes! I got to see him live this past May and his performance was incredible. He performed “Come Down” and the crowd went nuts when he performed on the drums.
Izzy: Yea, he’s so inspiring. I love that someone like that is out right now. I love that sort of music.
SS: The great thing about Anderson .Paak is that he blends a lot of different genres into his music and I can hear the same thing with the music you’re putting out. You use a lot of different types of music in a natural way.
Izzy: Aw, thank you! That’s because I love so many different types of music. I love indie. I love rock, soul, and jazz.
SS: How has performing at all these festivals this summer helped your live show? What have you taken away from your experiences?
Izzy: You have to be really quick when it comes to festivals. You have an hour to get your sound right. I remember the first festival I did. I was like, ‘Oh my god’ because I’m used to doing a twenty minute sound check. To get it all done in one minute is much different. So you have to be really quick and make sure everything’s right.
Also, just reconnecting with the crowd. Because they want to party and have been partying for two days. Sometimes they’re hungover and you have to give them some energy.
I’ve also learned how to relax in festivals. I’ve learned how to camp. Glastonbury was probably my hardest camping experience. It rained in my tent. Then I tried to blow up my blow-up mattress and I realized I forgot the plug to plug it in. So I decided then to stay awake for the whole festival. It was a good experience, though.
SS: The UK music scene feels like a really collaborative environment. What do you enjoy about creating music in the UK?
Izzy: Yea, the music scene in the UK is awesome. You keep bumping into the same people. I love that because you’ll be on the road for so long. You miss your friends and family. So It’s so nice to see a familiar face after you’ve been on the road.
There’s always loads of jam nights and open mics going on. The best part about it is that you can play pretty much anywhere you want really. There are no restrictions.
SS: So the last question I had for you in our last interview was, ‘What are your three favorite tracks you’re listening to at the moment?’ One of those songs was Honne’s “Warm on a Lonely Night”. Then two weeks later you dropped your collaborative track with them. Was that planned?
Izzy: That was so not pre-planned. So I’ve got to give my drummer, Ben, the claim to fame. He was listening to Honne before me. He came to me one day as was like, “Izzy you need to listen to this.” and they were was so sick! Then one night I had a glass of wine and I’m such a lightweight. **Laughs** Then I literally “tweeted” them saying, ‘this is such a great record! Can we jam?’ And within an hour they replied. I couldn’t believe it.
SS: Looking at the tracklist, your collaboration with Honne is the only one on your album. Are there artists that you wish to collaborate with in the near future?
Izzy: Yea, Anderson .Paak. I’d love to work with Sam Henshaw. I love those live artists they are the ones that really inspire me. Those are the ones I want to work with.
SS: Finally, what should someone expect to hear when they hear you for the first time?
Izzy: Melancholic lyrics with an uplifting groove. Honest lyrics and I think people will really get to know me when they listen to the lyrics. I want people to have a listen to it and see how they feel. I’m really excited to see the response!