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Izzy Kershaw Interview

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When did you decide that a career in music was for you?


I've known that I wanted to do something in music from the age of fifteen. At first I wanted to write music for video games, or compose music for film. Something where I could be behind the action and not necessarily front and centre.

I studied contemporary composition at the Birmingham Conservatoire in hopes of fulfilling those early life wishes, but I slowly began to realise that I was just being taught to write music for a university lecturer to wax philosophical about, rather than being taught to write music that touched other people’s souls in the way that I wanted to. For me making music is about sharing and communication, and I realised that writing pop music was the best way to actually get that across.

It was strange seeing so many classical musicians work so hard to perform in a genre they didn’t even listen to or resonate with that frequently. On Spotify, there is a section that shows you what your friends are currently listening to, and the people on my course were always listening to pop, RnB, metal, etc. We were all studying long dead rock stars of their time like Vivaldi, Prokofiev or Messiaen and totally ignoring the very real relevance of the ones we were listening to every day.

I decided I wanted to be a part of that story, and in order to do that, I needed to be unafraid of being seen. Very Recently I quit my day job to pursue my music career full time, and it’s been utterly liberating. I’m so excited to see where this heads from here.


Who are your musical inspirations and why?

I feel like this list changes often, depending on how I’m feeling and what is important to me at the time. But the top three I can think of that are relevant to me now are Miyavi, Joji and Steve Vai.

Miyavi and Steve Vai are both huge inspirations when it comes to my guitar technique. I’ve studied Miyavi’s slap guitar technique religiously, and adore Steve Vai’s legato playing.

Joji, had a big influence on me when it came to music production and song writing as a whole. He has a very minimalist approach, but with huge emotional effect. Growing up, I definitely valued technique and skill higher than I should have, listening to Joji really showed me that raw emotion and giving the audience space to feel what they’re feeling, is actually more important. Not that I believe Joji isn’t skilled. In fact, I think he’s incredibly musically talented. Joji just knows when and how to use his musicianship.


Can you tell me 3 things about yourself that people might not already know?

1. I can eat any two combinations of food as long as I like both foods separately. Smoked salmon is good, but so is a peanut-butter and jam sandwich. If someone asked me to eat a peanut-butter, jam and smoked salmon sandwich, I would genuinely enjoy the experience. A lot of my friends have, in horror, questioned my food choices. I suppose it’s not a surprise that I also like to combine strange combinations in my music. Pharrell Williams once said that the best pop music is often a fusion between multiple different styles, I believe the same applies to sandwiches.
2. I have a near encyclopaedic knowledge of magic the gathering cards. I can also pick up other trading card games really quickly and will immediately try and figure out the best strategy by playing it out in my head over and over. I can’t stop myself from doing this, it’s basically just a train I have to ride until it decides to stop.
3.  I main Ganondorf in Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and I get very, very competitive about it. I only play with three stocks, No items and seven minutes on the clock, and I will tech your stage spikes nine times out of ten.


What song of yours best describes you and why?

This may feel like a cop out, but I really feel like most of my songs take a small aspect about myself and then amplifies it to be larger than life. A few years ago, I would have told you that my song ‘Time to Spend With You’, would have totally fit me. However after being medicated for my ADHD and going through a bit of therapy, it’s definitely less accurate than it used to be. I will say, the recent album I’m working on is being made in a very short space of time. I’ve written, produced, and mixed five songs in the last month, so the whole album will be a pretty accurate snippet of who I am in this moment. (Though please don’t take this album too literally - I’m claiming artistic licence here!)


What has been the best gig you have done to date and why?

Probably a gig I did at Voodoo Daddies in Norwich last year. Before heading on stage, I always get huge anxiety spikes, which I think is a good thing. If I didn’t feel anxious before going on stage, then that probably means I don’t care enough. Usually my anxiety carries over on to the stage, where I have to manage it along side getting my lyrics right, hitting the right notes and coming across as confident and in control. This time, however, the moment I stepped on stage, my anxiety just vanished and was instead replaced with a kind of adrenaline soaked focus, which was new for me. I think because of that I gave a much better performance and instead of wearing a mask of confidence, I just felt confident. As time goes on, I think that will occur more and more. At least I hope it will.


If you could perform a gig at any venue where would it be and why?

The Las Vegas Sphere. For those who don’t know, the Las Vegas Sphere is a giant dome made of high definition screens. The most interesting part, of course, would be coming up with all the visuals to go with the show. If I ever had a tour budget big enough to play there, then getting involved with the process of putting on a night to remember at that venue would be such an exciting project. I love a good project!


What has been your best achievement to date and what would you like to achieve in the future?

Probably quitting my job recently. I know that doesn’t really seem like that big of an achievement compared to some of the other things I’ve done in life, but I realised I just needed to not care about what other people wanted from me and just do what I wanted. I didn’t want to wake up ten years from now in a job I might be content enough in but which wasn’t moving me towards a life I could use my actual talents in. I don’t want to feel like I never really gave it a shot. So far it’s going really well! I went from eight hundred followers on my instagram to about two thousand in the span of just over a month of posting content. I’ve proved to myself that it’s just time and effort that pays off.


Tell me a story from backstage or after a gig?


I’m incredibly lucky enough to not have any crazy gig stories. After every gig I usually go around and talk to friends and fans about the show and then watch the rest of the acts. So far, my fans have all been really respectful and nice people.


What do you like best about being a musician and why?

Honestly, the process. I love the act of creating more than I necessarily even value the end result. Not that the end result isn’t satisfying, but the main thing I’m thinking when I finish a piece now is ‘I wonder what I’m going to do next?’. I also love the people I get to meet through it and feeling like there’s always more to learn. There’s never an end to music, so it always feels like there’s a purpose.


If you were not in the job you are now what would you be doing?

I did train to be a hairdresser after university in hopes that I’d enjoy it, and let me tell you… listening to middle class ladies tell you about their divorce, as well as listening to their weird moans of pleasure whilst I scrub their scalp in the basin was not what I thought that job would be like. I honestly have no idea what I’d do, music is all I’ve really wanted to do. I’ve been learning Japanese on and off, so maybe I’d be a translator depending on how soon AI takes over that job.


What has been the best gig you have been too as a fan and can you tell us about it?


Seeing The Gorrilaz playing the lion’s den at Boomtown Festival was probably one of my favourite experiences. Huge multimedia screen, loads of live backing singers, incredibly tight playing and great stage presence. Sometimes when you go to a show and it just sounds exactly like it did on record, you wonder why you even went, this was definitely not one of those occasions. Songs seamlessly transitioned into other songs, using soundscapes to lead you there.

Also Damon Albarn never did that annoying thing of pointing the microphone at the audience in the hope that they’ll do his job for him. I can see the appeal for a singer to do that, because it gives your voice a rest and it must feel amazing to hear an entire crowd sing back your lyrics, but I feel like your fans come to hear you sing, and when the energy is right, we’ll all be singing along anyway.


What would your ideal festival line up be and why?


I’d probably want to see all the bands I loved as a teenager first, and then slowly work my way through to the bands I love now. I think that would be interesting. The order would probably go like this:

Slipknot, My Chemical Romance, From First To Last, Bring Me The Horizon, Fallout Boy, Mystery Jets, Miyavi, Daft Punk, Bjork, Radiohead, Steve Vai, Anohni, Woodkid, フジ ファブリック, Jamiriquai, Lady Gaga, Bonobo, SOIL & “PIMP” SESSIONS, Yaeji, The Weeknd, Billie Eilish, Jacob Colier, Childish Gambino, Caroline Polachek, Coldplay, AURORA, YUNGBLUD, Poppy, Lynks, Miley Cyrus, Lil Nas X, Polyphia and then finish it off with Joji.


What would you say is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?


It’s okay to be cringe. Worrying about being ‘cringe’ is probably the best way to paralyse yourself into not acting and doing nothing. When you are seen by the world, some people aren’t going to like it. That’s ok. Not everyone is meant to like you. It’s better to be cringe than to be a bland oatmeal cake that never does anything adventurous or dangerous. I am cringe, but I am free.


What things make you happy and what things annoy you?


I think seeing other people live their dream so they make themselves happy first, makes me happy.

Seeing someone trip over themselves to make everyone around them happy other than themselves makes me sad when it’s not directed me, and annoyed when it is directed at me.

Live for yourself first, then we can be friends.


What things do you like to do when you are away from music?


I allow myself to have one social connection a week to break up the content grind. I’ll usually go for a walk with a friend or grab a coffee, or I might go bouldering. I also like working out, making new commander decks to play magic the gathering with friends, and playing challenging video games. I’m slowly working my way through the game Lies of P whenever I have a spare hour or two. It’s a really difficult action horror game where you play as Pinocchio in a dark steam punk setting. In the fifteen minute breaks I sometimes give myself when I’m editing, I’ll learn a little bit of Japanese on duolingo as well. 私はベストを尽くしている!


Do you think social media and the internet are a good thing in the music industry?

Absolutely. I know a lot of people complain about having to use social media, and there are definitely downsides, but imagine being told as a musician in the late 90’s that in a few years you’d be able to do most of the stuff your record label can do, but you’ll be doing it all yourself, just by twiddling your thumbs on the toilet. It’s kind of mad if you really think about it.


How important do you think your look and image is when it comes to being in the music industry?


I think it’s important to look after yourself and how you appear to others. I work out, I watch what I eat, I have a skin care routine and I love interesting fashion.  But I also think it’s important not to get too caught up in that. It’s easy to tell yourself ‘I’m not attractive enough to do this’, but there are plenty of artists who aren’t exactly known for their looks that make themselves unabashedly known to the world. To me that’s actually very admirable. It’s important not to take yourself too seriously. Every time I’ve tried to take myself too seriously, I just end up depressed. It’s not worth it.


Can you tell us about any tattoos you have and the significance of them to you?


It’s a secret ;)


If you run the country for a day what would you change about it and why?

I feel like if I had a record label they’d ask me to say something light hearted like ‘Free ice cream for everyone’, but honestly I’d probably crack down on tax havens, stop funding wars abroad, completely revamp the entire infrastructure of the NHS and increase it’s funding. Increase the national minimum wage to match the rate of inflation of when it was first instated, meaning around £21 an hour. That may seem like an insane increase, but I’m pretty sure that’s what the minimum wage should be if it increased in exact tandem to inflation. It’s going to be a very busy day.


What would your ideal day consist of?

I’d probably wake up feeling refreshed, have some fantastic sex, not too long not too short. I’d then work out, meditate, start a new piece of music in my studio with zero creative resistance and make some easy content. The AI captions app I have gets the captions right first time, then I’d post the video without any desire to mindlessly doom scroll whilst it uploads. I’d then see a friend for about thirty minutes for coffee, come back to finish the music I was effortlessly writing with plenty of time to go out in the evening to a new friend’s party. Then the evening would end with me writing in my journal and again having some great sex followed by an incredibly deep sleep.


If you could say one thing to your fans what would it be and why?

You guys keep me going. I have so much love for all of you. I know everyone says that, but there’s a reason it gets said. It’s because it’s true.


How would you answer the question Who is Izzy Kershaw and what are the differences between you as a music artist and you away from music ?

People who know me separately from my music but don’t know me very well have often said I come across as quite aloof. I’m neurodivergent so my face looks a lot more relaxed than I actually feel. Hilariously, I’ve even heard that some people think I’m ‘too cool’ which makes them feel scared to talk to me. Which I honestly hate hearing, because I feel like I’m happy to talk to most people.

People who know me really well, get to see that I’m just a hyperactive little dork that just gets anxious in large social settings. I like asking questions more than I enjoy talking about myself, because I already know me, so from my point of view, I’m the least interesting thing in the room. This is probably the most I’ve ever talked about myself in one go.

In my reels and my music, I’m trying to show the audience a little bit more of that hyperactive dork that I let my close friends see. So music Izzy, and real Izzy are pretty similar honestly. I’m not trying to play a character or anything. I will say in some of my music I will explore some darker emotions that I don’t necessarily let control my real life. In ‘Bread and Wine and Lust’ I explore the feeling of letting your ego get in the way of saying sorry. In real life you have to learn to drop that and give a real apology instead of saying ‘Fuck it, I just can’t seem to recall.’


What was the first record or song you purchased and why?

Robbie Williams album ‘Sing When You’re Winning’. I just really liked the song Rock DJ. There is no poignant message or anything I particularly resonated with, it just made me want to dance. Which honestly, thinking about it, I try and make music people can get up and dance to even if the lyrics are dark. Maybe that album had more of an effect that I thought it did.


What would say to someone thinking about becoming a musician and getting into the music industry?


It is possible, but it’s hard work and no one is going to pick you up and carry you. No matter who they are and who they know. It’s your responsibility to figure out how you are going to do it. That doesn’t mean you never ask for help, or that you should do everything on your own. But if you expect someone to carry you there, you’re never going to have the work ethic you need to get where you want to go.


If you could collaborate with any other band/singer or musician who would you choose and why?

Honestly I love collaborating with anyone I have a connection with, or even anyone whose music I love. I have a very varied music taste, so that’s most people really. I will say, I’d love to collaborate with Eliot Sumner. Through all the interviews I’ve seen with them, we’ve been through pretty similar experiences. Collaborations can be about the music, but you’d also have to get on with the person. It’s hard to say how well you’d get on with someone through the lens of a camera, but I get a feeling that a collaboration with Eliot would at least be a fun connection. I have a few collaborations in the works, but I don’t like to tell people about them until they fully come to fruition. If a collaborator has to back out or reschedule after I’ve told my fans, it then feels like I’ve let my fans down. Which I hate doing.


If you could have written one song from history which would it have been and why?

For me writing is more about the process than the end result. So I really don’t feel like I would have wanted to write anything from history. I know that’s bit of a fantasy for some people. There’s that film about a world where the Beatles never existed, but one person still knows all the songs so he pawns them off as his own and gets famous. Never actually seen it, but I really hope the lesson he learns at the end is that being seen for someone else’s work means that you were never seen in the first place, so ultimately it’s completely hollow.


What things make you uncomfortable?


I will say, I try to make a habit of doing things I find uncomfortable. I think it’s easy to give in to fear and let it rule you, but the more you let it do that the stronger it becomes. So here’s my top worst three:


Packing to go somewhere. I will lose everything I’ve ever owned and then find it again in a perpetual cycle for an hour before I eventually manage to corral my objects into a bag. I generally choose to pack extremely lightly just to avoid this, especially if I’m going to a social event on my own. It makes my heart beat like an engine about to explode, even if I seem calm on the outside. In a similar vein, I’ve had a panic attacks when I’ve tried to do public speaking. Singing and playing music doesn’t do the same thing to me though.


People who only ever talk about themselves and never asks questions… I suppose it’s slightly ironic saying this in an interview where I’m here to talk about myself, but here we are. Basically, I like conversations that feel like a two-way street where both parties feel like they have to put in the effort to get to know one another. I want someone to be as interested in me as I am in them.


Having people assume subtext in my speech. I choose my words very carefully and literally. I don’t really do ‘subtext’. So often if I’m communicating with someone who is a little more on the nuerotypical side of the spectrum, if they assume I’m saying something I’m not, it can feel pretty uncomfortable. I’m trying not to care about it as much as I used to. Being misunderstood is going to happen to everyone, but I’ve definitely got some wounds surrounding that from growing up as an undiagnosed neurodivergent child.


If you wrote a book about yourself what would it have in it?

I already find interviews like these hard enough as it is! Don’t think I’d ever like to write a book about myself. If there ever is a book written about me, I hope someone else writes it. I feel like writing a book about yourself is sort of like trying to write your own wikipedia page. If you’ve done something noteworthy enough, someone will do it for you.

I’ve heard someone has based a witch on me in their fantasy novel. So maybe that’s close enough for me.

Wouldn’t mind writing a book about some experiences that I got over and how I got over them, because that feels like it would have something useful for someone else to get out of it, other than a feeling of satiation over their own curiosity.


What has the rest of the year got in store for you?

I’m currently working on an Album with the working title ‘Disputations’, and I’ve been releasing reels on Instagram and TikTok about my music like crazy! A lot of my reels talk through my writing process, or the technicalities of music production and mixing. I really like sharing my process and I’m planning on a whole year of that to just see where it goes. I’m really excited for where it’s heading. I’ve recently made a Patreon as well, where I’ll be uploading sample packs, in depth tutorials, early access to music and more to come. There’s also a music course I’m interested in that was famously completed by Ed Sheeran that I’m considering signing up for as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rest of my plans. Most of this year is going to be about getting myself out there, making new connections and trying to expand from here. I’ve stolen this phrase from a friend, but I’m going to be telling myself “It’s Izzy’s big year!”

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