Isolda, Singer-Songwriter, Pianist in London, England

“It’s been important to me to keep in touch with the feminine. I am interested in how the feminine aspect finds expression in such art forms as music. The music industry is very male-dominated. There have been great improvements in terms of how many women you see recording now; but still, there are many more male bands than female bands. When you see a woman performer, she’s almost always a solo artist. Women are just more independent anyway and men tend to group together. I’ve always been a solo artist myself but now I’m looking for a band because it’s just musically interesting when you can add other instruments like drums. You can be more dynamic in terms of sound. But I would only want to do this if I could retain creative control over the sound.

In the past there has perhaps been more room for originality in music. This becomes a tougher challenge with each generation – how to be truly unique as nowadays there there is so much variety out there. It has become increasingly difficult to be original.

When I see artists out there who are doing something a little bit different and willing to take a risk, it is really quite poetic. There’s a difference between music that’s written to please others and music that an artist has written to please themself.

But at the same time, there’s the aspect of being a performer that is all about making an emotional connection with your audience. Because that’s what’s going to make them sit up and listen, remember you, and keep coming back. The thing about playing gigs in town is that not all the gigs have a strict policy about the crowd keeping silent. So for the performer it becomes like a gauge: If you’ve made the room grow quiet, then you know you’ve connected. I resist the urge to fight the noise of the crowd and instead, try to go quieter.

Isolda, LondonWhen I perform, sometimes it seems they are journeying with me through each song as it unfolds, and when that is happening I can feel the audience’s trust. That arrival point is a two-way street, because when I can feel the energy of the audience coming towards me, mine also reaches out to them more powerfully. I try to start a gig with a song that lulls them in gently and then develops quite dramatically, like “This Skin”, for instance. That is a risk because it is quite an atypical sort of song; but that risk is what pushes me to allow the performance to travel in a way that isn’t formulaic. The ultimate in performance is to leave room for an element of surprise.

The tension and quieting of the crowd then becomes that space for me to fill, but it doesn’t always start off that way, because a lot of the time when an audience sees a solo girl at the piano they have preconceptions of ‘pretty’ music. I try to make music that is beautiful but also that has a passion and authenticity, and so a rawness to it. It is important for me to allow the darkness in my soul to reveal itself in a way that is integrated with the light; for we all consist of light and shadow.

When I am connecting with an audience, it feels that I have become one, not just with the audience, but also with myself, and my instrument.

I write my own songs, so I have a notebook I carry around; and if certain words or phrases come to mind, I immediately write them down. I’ve also learned over the years how to go inside myself and see what’s there. Half of the creative process is to bring that out. If you don’t, if you avoid going deep down inside, you get stuck, and your music starts sounding the same.

Even when it’s not a particularly creative day, I don’t let it get me down anymore. I’ve learned that creativity is a moving process. In those days in which I may feel stuck, I say, ‘Well today I’m going to just play,’ and so I sit down at the piano and new things do come up.

Composing music for me can be a very concrete way of immortalizing a powerful feeling or event by encoding it into a song. When you hear the song, it can take you right back to that particular moment when you wrote it, what you were feeling, what the weather was like that day, your mood. Whether that intensity of feeling was pleasant or unpleasant, it can inspire me to encode it in a song, so that each song represents a fragment of my life.

“This Skin” started off as a poem I wrote about two or three months before the music came. But then when I wrote the music, I just one night played a sequence of chords for about a few minutes. I’d already hit ‘RECORD’ before I started playing, and the notes just seemed to round up naturally, and then I improvised the singing right over it, and it happened that it all just fit quite perfectly.

Isolda, LondonThere are tricks you learn over the years as far as how to access your creativity, but there’s also just pure skill that comes from learning and honing your craft. I have a music degree, so my knowledge of harmony and arranging is what I fall back upon on those days when the creative flow just dries up. When the inspiration’s not there, you’re still a professional and you can still sit down and apply your craft.

At the end of the day, this is a journey. If you do choose the path of the artist, you need to remain excited about the journey, about the creative process itself. Because if you don’t, then you might as well give up now. As tempting as it is to remain in your comfort zone, if you don’t grow, you’ll simply get stale. You must leave room for uncertainty, for surprise. For the unknown.

Music is our original and primal language and makes us remember what we thought we had forgotten. And the beauty of music is that it reminds us that nothing lasts forever.”

 

 

 

Further Notes

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