Laura Izibor. The name does not ring a bell? It will not be long before it does. The 21 year old singer from Dublin is a real revelation and her fame has preceded the release of her first album, Let the truth be told. The Irish-Nigerian artist has been a show opener for stars like Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Al Green… and John Legend on March, 7. This success is the result of her “soul, r’nb, pop” songs, stamped with authenticity and truth. Her truth. “Izzy” shared the story of her debut and her love for music with Afrik, “the first African media” to interview her.
Afrik-news.com : Why did you choose music?
Laura Izibor : What I’ll say, and I’m really cliché, is that it nearly chose me. I never sang and it was never something that I wanted to do. But in class one day, we had to do this exercise, which is apparently good for our confidence, of getting up and singing. The teacher said: “Tomorrow everybody has to come in and sing one of the verse of the songs, get up in front of the class and do it”. So, petrified, I got up and did it. It was the best thing that I’ve ever done because really the class and the teacher were just: “Really, you should try and do this for real”. I was like: “Me, really? Me, singing? No!”. And I went home and sang for my mom and she was just like: “Oh, my God! When did this happen?” (laughs). From then I got voice lessons and piano lessons and song writing just came naturally with the two. Once I got in deep I was like: “Ok, now I’m trying my best and just make sure I can do this forever”.
Afrik-news.com : The name of your album is Let the truth be told. What do you mean by that?
Laura Izibor : I just mean the whole record is my truth. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to write the whole record […] It’s all real, it’s all my truth, it’s all from my experiences. I think that’s why the fans connect. My fans really, really connect to me because they know there are not three other song writers in the room going: “No, no, no, this sounds better with this. No, no, no…”. They know it’s just me and the piano, and that’s it.
Afrik-news.com : Your album is very much about love songs. Why is that?
Laura Izibor : I think love is important to everybody. It’s the one thing that we all seem to crave or get addicted to. I saw this thing on ted.com. There was this lecturer and philosopher who studied the brain when in love. She said: “Look, I can rip love apart but I’ve been all over the world, I’ve been in every tribe, I’ve seen every animal you can think of, and not one of them does not either crave for a mate or has a mate”. And I just thought: “Wow! Even a little animal, even a caterpillar… everybody!” In singing, there are other things that I now definitely write about. They just didn’t make the album. (laughs)
Afrik-news.com : What other themes do you write about?
Laura Izibor : Friendships, friendships gone wrong, or… Emmm, yeah, I suppose it is love! (laughs)
Afrik-news.com : How would you define your music style?
Laura Izibor : Well, genre-wise I always say: combination of soul, r’nb and pop. And sound-wise, it’s very authentic: it’s not overproduced, the songs can breathe and are kind of honest… Yes, there’s a honesty in the lyrics.
Afrik-news.com : Who are the artists that influence your work?
Laura Izibor : On a tour back: Otis Redding, Roberta Flack, Candi Staton, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway. Contemporaries I’ll say Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, India Arie. She is special to my teens, you know, when you try to find yourself… When I have a daughter, I’m just gonna say: “Listen to India Arie and you’re gonna find yourself”. She’s a lover, she’s amazing.
Afrik-news.com : You said in an interview: “The only thing I can do well is me”…
Laura Izibor : I got kind of a rare opportunity to grow up a little bit in the [music] industry but not in the spotlight. And I’ve just seen how people try [to change you] and it’s not like this big thing that you imagine, [with] people coming and saying: “Change your hair! Change this!”. Because if somebody does that, that’s obvious you’re gonna say: “Hell no! You could just get gone!” The person slowly comes in and it’s very sneaky, and all of the sudden you’re sort of: “Oh! Hang on! I’m changing! You’re changing me! I’m not letting you change me!”. I like I can guarantee every artist has gone through that. But I thankfully spotted it. I was like: “Wow! You’re making feel bad for being me, making me feel that I am not what you would like me to be”. Somebody very wise told me that being yourself sometimes is one of the hardest challenges because you’re gonna make somebody angry. If you’re a people pleaser, everybody is gonna be happy because you’ll keep changing yourself for everyone in every situation. When you’re actually: “No, I’m just gonna be myself”, it’s a very difficult thing because some people are like: “But why don’t you wear that? But you look good in it! Why won’t you change it? I’m telling you!”, and it goes on. I realize it’s hard but at the same time when you find that kind of peace inside, if you like, it really comes effortlessly and you’re just like: “I’m not changing, I’m just being myself so you’re gonna have to alter your own plans”.
Afrik-news.com : Despite your age, your voice really seem mature…
Laura Izibor : It is. But it’s gotten there. It wasn’t when I was starting off because in a way I wasn’t one of those kids that were singing since they were two. I wasn’t really discovering my voice until thirteen till seventeen. And even through the recording process, still discovering: “Oh God! I can do that!” or “I can’t do that!”. The best way to find my voice was through live gigs because you’re not thinking. You’re getting carried away with adrenaline, you got a great band and the next minute you’re hitting notes that you didn’t know that you could hit, or you’re doing things you didn’t think you could do.
Afrik-news.com : Even before your first album is being released, one of your songs was played in the famous TV series Grey’s Anatomy, and another one in Nanny Diaries movie. You must be proud…
Laura Izibor : I am! Sometimes I take these things for granted, then I kind of go: “Hang on Laura, this is kind of a big deal…”. And that’s just surreal because for an unknown artist these things just rarely, rarely happen. I’m just praying that this still continue. I’d love it. But the dream of my mind will be to actually score a whole movie. That will be the next.
Afrik-news.com : You opened the show for great artists such as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Al Green, The Roots, Angie Stone… How do explain their enthusiasm for your music? Is it some kind of magic?
Laura Izibor : Look at the Irish, you’ll know! (laughs) It’s just we’ve been really blessed. Artists have allowed me to support Aretha Franklin [without wondering]: “How many records is she gonna sell? How many discs?”. They’re just like: “No, I just like her voice, I like her music. Yeah!”. And I’ve just been lucky to be in that kind of proximity with these great musical, free-minded people. So I feel really blessed.
Afrik-news.com : Your mother is Irish and your father Nigerian. How close do you feel to your Nigerian roots?
Laura Izibor : My father wasn’t in my life growing up. I’ve only reconnected with him in the past two and a half years because he had a baby boy with his new wife. I’m crazy for babies and I was like: “Oh my god! I have a baby brother. [Dad] Go away, I just want to see him! Go away we reconnect, that’s fine!”. The things are fine but through [my father’s absence] there wasn’t that much exposure to Nigerian culture than I wanted. But my favorite food is still Nigerian food, like ground rice and all these things. I have a knowledge of it. I know my grand-parents, I know my history, which tribe I’m from… that sort of things. But I want to physically go Nigeria. I need to meet my grand-mother. I absolutely would like to go there. You know, it’s horrible. It’s like this big chunk that has been brought here and I’ve family there, that I’ve spoken to… We all want to connect. Definitely, the next year or two I want to go over there and spend some time, hang in.
Afrik-news.com : Do you feel close to Africa in general?
Laura Izibor : I do! I always joke about this. Me and my brother, when we’re walking down the street and see an African person, there’s a natural connection that you can’t really explain. They don’t even know where I’m from but… So many of my boyfriends are like: “You know him right?” I just say: “No, let’s go. Don’t worry about it”. So it’s huge, it’s there. I feel Africa inside me and I feel that’s where my voice came from, really.
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