Welcome to 20 Minutes With. Presented by Music Photographer Anthony Washington and MetroMontage.com. 20 Minutes With features an interview with an artist in the music industry every month. This months edition of 20 Minutes With features an interview with Laura Izibor. I had the chance to sit down with Ms. Izibor before her performance at Artscape 2012 in Baltimore on Friday, July 20, 2012
At the young age of 25, Laura Izibor is in her 10th year in the music industry. Born in Dublin, Ireland, the Irish/Nigerian singer is the fourth of five children. At 15, she won the prestigious 2FM Song Contest. She signed her first record deal at 17, and was 22 when she released her debut album, Let the Truth Be Told. She has received accolades from VH1, Rolling Stone and Vibe, and has won numerous awards. Her music has been featured in television shows and movies such as Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Seven Pounds, Why Did I Get Married?, and The Practice.
Despite her accomplishments, the one thing that Ms. Izibor seems to be most proud of is being herself.
Tell me about the first music you can recall hearing as a child.
Like so many young girls, I destroyed my mother’s ears trying to sing Whitney Houston songs very badly. Then when I was 13 or 14, I heard James Brown’s “Please, Please, Please” and I was like, “Who is that?” I knew he sang “I Feel Good,” but I didn’t put two and two together, and I started doing a bit of research and figured it out. I remember hearing [Nina Simone’s]“My Baby Cares Just For Me,” which blew me away, and “At Last” by Etta James.
What inspired you to start writing songs?
I didn’t start singing until I was 13. Once I started singing, I started messing around with a piano in school. I could learn things by ear and I started playing other people’s songs, but then I got bored with that, so I said, “Alright, let me make my own chords and put some lyrics to it,” just for the pleasure of playing. It was easier than having to learn other people’s music.
You were raised primarily by your mother. Can you talk about the impact she has had on your life?
She fundamentally is the love of my life. But the love of your life drives you crazy as well.
I have a great relationship with my mother now, better than we’ve ever been. I took so much inspiration from her relationships, my sisters’ relationships, because I was 14 or 15, so I didn’t write songs about Billy around the corner breaking my heart because I didn’t have any boyfriends. I took a lot of their pain and their tears and stole them and put them in a song, you know.
I checked out your Facebook page and I saw that you were listening to Luther Vandross as you were traveling to Baltimore. Are you a big fan of Luther Vandross?
Honestly, I only got into him the last year. When I was younger, I used to think he was corny. I used to hear that song “Dance With My Father” and I was like, “That’s not for me at all.” It’s funny how we change musically and we change vocally. Then, one day I realized that man is a genius. The tone of his voice is silk, pure silk.
Who you think’s hot at 16 [and] when you’re 26 can be very different, you know. I’m addicted to Luther now.
What artists have had an influence on your playing and your creative process?
Definitely Otis Redding. His influence on a vocal front was that perfection was not necessary at all. In fact, your “flaws” are what can really make you unique. Because if you put Otis Redding next to a pitch machine he would be all over the place, and if he was perfect with his pitch, he would not have cut through to the soul as much as he did.
Nina Simone was very similar to that. Her aggression – she just really didn’t care what anybody thought. She would go from a reggae song to a classical song to whatever. And I like that ‘cause I cannot write in one genre and [have] that be it.
All musicians get put in a lane. Are there any musicians who are not in your “lane” who you really want to work with right now?
I love Coldplay. I love Chris Martin. I think he is one of the best songwriters of this generation. I love his voice and his songwriting absolutely melts my heart. I would like to do not necessarily a big old produced song, but just sit down at the piano and sing and play with him. That would be really cool.
In the 10 years that you have been in the industry, what are some of the biggest lessons you have learned?
You know, there are so many, but the biggest thing is you just have to be yourself. Really not give a shit what anybody thinks of you. Do it for yourself, what makes you happy. Clothes you want to wear, how you want to wear your hair, what you want to write, and not to have the fear that anyone has control over your life or decisions you make. Not to be caught under this fear of, “If such and such doesn’t like me, I’ll get dropped, then they won’t buy my records.” Not to live in that entrapment. Be free and just be yourself.
As an artist, do you have a goal or place that you want to be in your career in 10 to 15 years?
I don’t believe in that.
I think it is death to a human being, personally. Some people like that and they need that to set themselves. But for me, I think that is how we get bitter and we cause ourselves internal sickness, because then we’re 30 and we don’t have kids and we’re not married. Or we’re 35 and we don’t have five albums.
I want to do an acoustic album one day. Maybe join a cool little off-the-side band. Just me and two other members and do some proper jazz. Something like that, you know.
When you are not performing or traveling, what do you do to relax and unwind?
I live in London now. Just spending time with friends and family. Going to the cinema, good food, having friends over, meditation.
I love psychology and I love zoology. I’m revealing my nerdiness with wildlife. I’ll watch that all day. I think in another lifetime that I was supposed to be a zoologist. You know, I still have plans. I’ll study it in my lifetime.
Laura Izibor is currently working on a new, yet-to-be-titled album. To keep up with Ms. Izibor, visit lauraizibor.com.
Photos from Ms. Izibor’s recent performance at Artscape 2012 in Baltimore can be found below.