IZZY THOMAS INTERVIEW
Izzy Thomas is one of Hull’s most talented singer-songwriters, having made a name for herself over the past few years by relentlessly writing and performing. Here, in an exclusive interview with ‘Pulse’ scribe Steve Rudd, she bares all…
You’re a singer-songwriter from Hull. What would you say are the best things about Hull’s music-scene right now, and where are the best places to catch you ‘in song’?
I’d say the best thing about it is how much it’s improving! It’s becoming a lot more recognised as a city now than it has been for years, and the music scene is growing all the time now thanks to there being more festivals such as Humber Street Sesh, Trinity, and the Freedom Festival. It gives more Hull musicians a platform to showcase themselves. I play all over! One of the places I like gigging in Hull, though, is a bar called Garbutts; it’s very classy and always has a good crowd.
For the past few years, you’ve been tirelessly playing gigs. Do you prefer to perform your songs acoustically, or with a full band?
Honestly, with a full band! It has so much more power, especially in uptempo, hard-hitting songs. I like to be loud! It’s just a matter of finding the right musicians that are hard-working and not already in ten bands! Plus, you can dance and stuff! I do like gigging acoustically, though, because you get to set your own tempo on things if need be. However, I think it also depends on what song it is, like there’s one song on my EP I’ve recently recorded that me and one of my producers were messing around with in the studio… he was playing around on keys whilst I was singing, and it sounded so nice just stripped to voice and piano. It’s amazing how one instrument like piano can sound so full just on its own. In fact, I honestly think that’s why a lot of piano and voice songs are hugely successful; Adele & Rihanna have had Number Ones with songs like “Someone Like You” and “Stay”. Piano songs just speak to the soul.
Your passion for all kinds of music is palpable, with elements of blues, soul, pop, rock and hip-hop all present in your music. Have you always nurtured such a sensationally eclectic taste in music?
Yes! From a young age I’ve always had quite a diverse taste in music. First artist I was mad about was Michael Jackson; he was just unstoppable as an artist as he could do funk, blues, pop, rock, anything. I’ll always have my rock roots, though, as I had it instilled from a young age by my dad! He’d play records by Free, Bad Company and Queen. I remember always pestering him to play Michael Jackson’s “Bad” record, one of the best records ever made.
As I grew older, I really started getting into Destiny’s Child; they were so good! Then I got into punky bands like Blink 182, Greenday, and Blondie.
I think as you grow, both as a person and a musician, you know more about how music is produced, so you can appreciate intelligent music more and distinguish between the “nice, catchy tunes” and the songs that have had blood, sweat and tears put into them!
As well as performing legions of your own gigs, you’ve sung at countless festivals, including Oxjam, the Fringe Festival, and the Freedom Festival. What do you enjoy most about performing to large crowds?
The energy you get from them. I mean, sometimes I’ve played to smaller crowds, and they’ve been just as loud and energetic, but with a big crowd, you know that the larger the number, the greater chance you have of at least one person going home and being like, “I’m going to check out that artist; I liked their stuff!”
You cite an astonishing array of influences, from Jacko to Kravitz, from Audioslave to Blondie. What, for you, makes a great singer or band, and who have you been listening to lately?
I’m all about diversity as a vocalist. You have to have your own style to be able to be classed as an artist and not just a vocalist, but Christina Aguilera has been a massive influence for me. Like M.J., she can go from singing a sensitive ballad to blasting out soaring vocals on a rock beat. It’s really important, as you’ve got to think about your audience and focus on making tracks that don’t all sound the same on your album.
Lately, I’ve been discovering so much incredible underground music, some semi-discovered, some not yet, but I don’t care, I’ll listen to anything if it’s good, whether they’re signed or not. It’s usually at that time when they’re at their most raw. I’m really into an electronic blues-rock band at the minute called Kill It Kid; they’re awesome! As for Deap Vally, I first saw them at last year’s Leeds Fest… they’re kinda like an all-female version of The White Stripes. I love the dirty guitar tones! I’m also into an artist called Jody Brock, and a rapper called King Kash.
Aside from your music, do you enjoy expressing your creativity in any other ways when you’re not singing or playing guitar?
I’ve always been a bit arty. To be honest, a lot more arty than academic! I used to draw all the time as a kid. I’m also a part-time photographer, so it helps with the income!
Of all the songs you’ve so far written, do you have a personal favourite? If so, why that particular song?
Ermm, it’s hard to pick a favorite. As big headed as it sounds, blood, sweat and tears have gone into every song that I and my producers (Wilfred Nymande & PNT Worldwyde) have made, so I’m really proud of them all! They’re all very different, so I like them for different reasons. If I had to pick, I’d probably say either “Sell Your Soul” or “Wicked Way”. “Sell Your Soul” carries a very political view of the music industry that I’ve wanted to express in the right way for a long while, and “Wicked Way” is just a very lighthearted, fun song! It’s got a very hip-hop kind of beat to it, so it’s fun singing to that rhythm as it makes you want to dance!
Looking ahead, what kind of musical endeavours are you looking forward to embracing in 2014?
Gigs, gigs, and more gigs! This year is all about really getting out there and expanding my fan-base by doing more festivals. Also, it’s about working with different producers. I love my producers; they’re incredible at what they do, not just production-wise, but as friends. However, I think it’s healthy to also work with new people, as it’s all part of learning and finding inspiration from different things. I’m also looking forward to more radio play! Now that I’ve actually got my EP done, I can package myself properly to radio shows, bloggers, and magazines.
Finally, how can folk learn more about you and your music?
An official website is on its way! A lot of people either look me up simply by typing “Izzy Thomas music” into Google, and things like my Facebook page, Twitter, SoundCloud and ReverbNation profiles come up. Or just come to one of my gigs! I post dates up all the time on my sites. I like communicating with my supporters; it’s one of the best things about being an artist.
(Questions by Steve Rudd; Answers by Izzy Thomas)
Steve Rudd’s first book – “Pulse” – is available here