Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Laura Izibor

Pete Lewis samples some bubbly Irish charm, chatting to Dublin-born-and-raised soulful singer/songwriter Laura Izibor. Who this month releases her punchy, upbeat single ’Shine’ ahead of her soon-come debut LP ’Let The Truth Be Told’

Born to an Irish mother and Nigerian father, 21-year-old Laura was first introduced to the piano at 13 and impressively made Irish music history in 2006 by becoming the first unreleased artist ever to be nominated - and win - a Meteor Irish Music Award (Ireland’s equivalent to a Brit). Since acclaimed as “undoubtedly one of the greatest voices Ireland has ever produced” - and with her music already invoking stylistic comparisons to seminal soul singers like Candi Staton and Roberta Flack - she is currently being tipped across-the-board as one of 2009’s hottest ’Artists to Watch’.

Indeed, with her forthcoming debut album anchored firmly in classic R&B, it effectively combines a reverence for the traditions of vintage, warm piano-driven soul with a fresh twist of modern sensibility. As can be heard on tracks ranging from the funky, uplifting ’From My Heart To Yours’ and intense, groove-driven ‘Don’t Stay’; to the sincere, aching love lament ’If Tonight Is My Last’.

With her career having prestigiously already encompassed support slots for such bona fide soul legends as Al Green, Aretha Franklin and James Brown, a nevertheless still-down-to-earth Ms. Izibor (affectionately known to her folks back home as “The Soul Of Ireland”!) makes for an entertaining and relaxed interviewee, as she enjoys a breezy introductory chat with ‘B&S’ within the confines of Atlantic Records Kensington HQ.

Her uplifting new single ’Shine’

“’Shine’, when you listen to it, is basically self-explanatory. It’s really about just getting off your backside and doing what you’ve always WANTED to do, because life is short. It’s definitely the most upbeat and feel-good song on my album, and there’s no denying it. So, when we do it live, the energy is just RIDICULOUS! I mean, I remember one day a woman actually e-mailed me and was like ‘I’d been meaning to quit my job ‘cause l’m bloody miserable. And, now I’ve heard your song, I’ve finally decided ”That’s IT! I’m DOING it!”’… And to me, to have that kind of impact through your song is just something you can only DREAM of! So I think it’s especially great to be coming out with something like ‘Shine’ right now, at this time. Because the whole recession thing is affecting everybody - my family included - and sometimes you just have to see the BRIGHT side of life.”

How Laura feels about her forthcoming debut LP ’Let The Truth Be Told’

“The title pretty much says it all. I was blessed to have been able to write the whole record, and it is my TRUTH. It’s a very sincere record. And, while musically it is really hard to describe, genre-wise I always sorta say the foundation is soul, then it varies to R&B, and then on to pop. I mean, I actually think the reason why the album sounds the way it does is because I’VE never been able to define it, and the people AROUND me haven’t either. Which has been a blessing, and a real pain-in-the-arse as well! Because the record company is kinda like ‘She’s talented, but where is she gonna fit? Is she urban? Is she mainstream pop?’… Whereas l’m like ’Listen pal, I’ll just write the songs. Seeing where it fits in is YOUR job! Let people call it what they WANNA call it. Because I just love the artists that I love - the greats like Aretha - and I just do what I do!’... Basically I lock myself in a room; I have a piano; I press ’record’... And what comes out comes out!”

How growing up as one of relatively-few mixed-race people in Ireland impacted on her

“Sometimes - when you’re a young kid - anything that makes you different, you resent. If it’s your hair, you wanna pull it out… If it’s your skin you wanna CHANGE it… But then, as you get older, it’s more a case of ‘How can I stand out and how can I BE different?’… So, while of course there were times when it would have been great to have girlfriends I could have discussed things like Afro-hair with, in many ways being a mixed-race Irish girl was a BLESSING. You know, I learned early on not to see colour and to see people for who they really ARE - because I had no CHOICE! For example, a lotta my siblings are white, but then I have a really black brother who’s three - from the exact same parents! And so now, when I go off to The States, straightaway it’s like ‘What’s up girl? What’s up sista?’. But then I can still go home to Ireland, and it’s like ‘Alright, what’s the story?’!… So in that way it’s made me very well-rounded as a person AND musically. Though, having said that, being black in Ireland is actually not very unusual any more. It’s not the way it was when I was growing up!”

Becoming, in 2006, the first unreleased artist ever to win an Ireland’s Meteor Award

“It was AMAZING! I don’t usually get extremely nervous - I might sometimes get butterflies from excitement - but that night I was definitely ready for the toilet! I was sitting in the chair and - when they flashed the video for the nominations - I was probably the only artist there thinking ‘I don’t wanna win! I can’t go up there! What am I gonna SAY!’!... And then I saw the security guards - who always know who the winner is - walking up towards me. And I was like ‘Oh no! Please walk up to the person behind me! Why are you stopping? Why are you here?’... But then, after being announced as the winner, I did go up and blurt something out... Though it wasn’t until the day after - once I’d calmed down - that I actually thought to myself ’You know what? This specific award is really nice!’… You know, it was ‘Best New Hope’ - and so I didn’t feel any PRESSURE. It just felt like it was my homeland saying to me ‘Good on you, love - and best of luck!’. So yeah, it was a really, really nice thing to win.” o;e’, and so I din[;’t feel any PRESSURE. It jsu fel lieik itw aw m honefla sahig o tem;GOod on yo k lov-e and best of lukc!’. So yeahtkit wa relal , relay niice thing to win.”

Laura’s music already having widespread exposure Stateside through its use in numerous Hollywood movies and US TV series

“Oh yeah, I feel bloody FANTASTIC about that! It’s CRAZY! It’s all actually been down to the record label’s LA office (Laura is signed directly to Atlantic/Warner US) and their great movie department. It started off with ‘Shine’ - that was the first song - being used in ‘Nanny Diaries’ (starring Scarlett Johannsen). Then it was (the Hilary Swank film) ’P.S. I Love You’. From there it was the Tyler Perry film ‘Why Did I Get Married’; then it went on to “Step Up 2 The Streets’, ‘The Hills’, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’... And I think a lot of it is down to the fact that - though the movie industry is big - at the same time it‘s actually really small, and people run into one another all the time. So it’s literally like they all go to see each other’s movies. I mean, at one point we had two companies after the same song - because they’re like ’Who’s the girl in the credits? Has she got any other songs?’… You know, it’s just sort of word-of-mouth. Plus we got the ‘American Idol’ charity show as well - ‘Shine’ was playing the whole way through it. So it’s actually quite exciting now when I do gigs. ’Cause I can actually see people’s reactions of ‘I KNOW this song!’... And I’m like ‘Yeah, that’s ‘cause you’ve been HEARING it! You just haven’t known who was SINGING it!’!”

Laura supports John Legend on his UK tour from March 9 to March 14

The single 'Shine' is released March 2. The album 'Let The Truth Be Told' follows May 18, both through Atlantic.

To buy 'Shine' now, just click the 'buy now' button below.

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