Laura Izibor Interview
You may not know the name yet, but I suspect that will change in 2009. Laura Izibor, born into a "non-musical" home in Dublin just 21 years ago, and propelled to make this music after a childhood during which she gradually discovered for herself the likes of Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye, has superstar written all over her. Debut album ‘Let the Truth be Told’ is released in May but those of us who’ve had their sticky hands on a sampler for a few months now have high hopes. She plays piano like you wouldn't know and sings with soul and fire. New single 'Shine' takes its cure from Lauryn Hill's 'That Thing'. The devotional ballad 'If Tonight is my Last' drips diamonds and I've a rather soft spot indeed for the scintillating 'Don't Stay'. Bring on the album, I say.
We talk on the eve of the release of the new single amidst a continuing flurry of live activity. So, Laura, for someone so young, you sound like an old soul girl to me. Piano, smoky vocals, groove – this is not some heavily programmed assault on the mainstream, this is proper soul, like it should be. Where’s that come from ? “Oh I don’t know. I still go backward, you know : Jazmine Sullivan, Keziah Jones. Vocally, Jennifer Hudson is ridiculous ... TI inspires me. I like what he’s singing about ... it’s very real.”
You’ve got songs on all manner of TV and movie soundtracks and you’re playing with countless big nobs. Doors opening ? “Well, yeah. I got to open for Aretha Franklin in New York at Christmas and that was just ridiculous. I get so star struck. I’m really confident but I get shy – I’m a mad one like that.”
You’re a live act first and foremost, yes ? “I’m so happy when I’m onstage. I don’t have to worry about anything, it’s just me and the music. You have to jump through so many hoops to be a singer and playing live, that’s the real joy. I absolutely adore live gigs.” I saw you in Manchester back in December, supporting Estelle. I loved how you just walked out all smiles and the crowd just opened their arms to you. By the time you walked off, latecomers would have been forgiven for thinking you were the headliner. “Absolutely – tell me about it. You could feel the energy from the off. That was an excited crowd !”
What I love about the handful of tracks that trail the album is just how much has been left out. It’s not just the production, which is beautifully sparse and open, but the music itself is very free, breathes easy, and carries with it a real classic soul vibe as if you’ve taken heed of the classics. “Oh, that’s such a great compliment. You’re the first person to suss that out, thank you. I work with this great producer and, you know, I don’t have any of that ‘get the stylist in, get the hairdresser in.’ I didn’t set out to do any of that stuff. I wrote these songs when I was 16, 17. I came to the table with these songs. Thankfully, the record company’s view is – ‘You’ve got ‘em and we want to make ‘em sound better’. We really tried to keep it under-produced, let the songs breathe. Everything is very organic.”
So, album’s out in May. What’s the diary like ? Busy ? “Well, I’m supporting John Legend in Europe right now, then there’s a lot of live TV shows, then it’s back to the States. More gigs, more TV.”
With that in mind, I wonder, as someone so young who writes her own music, what do you make of our continuing obsession with the likes of X Factor and its quick fix route to stardom ? “There’s nothing wrong with it. If you wanna sing, you go for it. Personally, I couldn’t do that. Stand in front of those people and be judged.” Maybe that’s it, maybe it’s not the endeavour of those who take part that should bother us but the judgement of those who hold your future in their hands ? “Yeah. The only person who I’d want to judge me would be a peer or someone I really respected like a Jill Scott or an Al Green.” Damn right.
The album ‘Let the Truth be Told’ is released in May.