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24th April 2022

Interview & Digital Editor: Pankhuri Bhutani

UK singer-songwriters Lizzie Freeborn and Amy Woodburn are a cross-generational duo who joined hands in 2020 to offer a musical response to raising the profile of the climate crisis. The two combine their love for cinematic arrangements, dynamic harmonies, and sultry grooves to sing for life on earth.

Since their 2020 debut, they have featured on BBC Introducing, Music Declares Emergency, The Conscious Festival, FATEA, and Climate Live receiving critical acclaim from eco and music press around the world. The duo that collectively goes by the name ISYLA recently sat down with us in order to discuss insights into their musical journey. 

Hi there Lizzie and Amy. Thank you for joining us on ReVamp! How has the start of this year been going for you?

Pretty exciting to be honest! We have been bringing out our new material and getting a live set ready for the Spring and Summer with our fabulous new session player. Compared to the start of the previous year when Lizzie and I were still not really allowed to hug each other, a definite upgrade.

Is there anything that you two are currently doing in order to maintain your creativity during times like these?

Lizzie and I are both neuro-diverse (Lizzie has Autism and I have ADHD) and I am not convinced that creativity is something we ever maintain but rather something we resist in order to make space for other less exciting life stuff — like cleaning the kitchen and remembering to have lunch.

I think the early stages of the pandemic were pretty brutal for Lizzie as she had just emerged from college and her imagined new life didn’t exist. It’s perhaps not the same for us as for other bands as we have only existed in a COVID world. We don’t know any different!

You are about to release your new album ‘Of Blood And Star’ on April 22nd (Earth Day) which further represents our deeper connections with the Earth. Huge congratulations on that! How did both of you come up with this massive decision to use your artistry and your platform to deliver such an impactful message?

All my life I have had bonkers ideas and really the concept of ISYLA was just another on the long list. Somehow this one stuck. Lizzie and I had met once briefly at a climate action group, and I convinced her to help me knock about some ideas about songwriting for change in climate.

Essentially strangers to one another that conversation ended in her agreeing to sing some songs I would write for her and ISYLA was born. Lizzie is a powerful storyteller with her voice, makeup, fire spinning, and hoop art. Writing songs is actually the only thing that I have ever been really good at; we feel like we are a good match. Music is massive in our culture. It seemed to us there was a need for artists to use this medium as a tool to spread awareness in a very accessible way. 

I love that we are across generations. It felt strange and sort of unlikely to appeal to me initially — but now it feels really special and powerful. We are rather brain-linked in some sort of ET and Eliot sort of a way and it sometimes feels like we are the same person existing in two different timelines.

How did the songwriting process go for this project? Where did you garner your inspiration from?

Of Blood and Star was written in Summer through to Autumn of 2020. As our second piece of work (debut album Where She Walks was released in May 2020) we began to recognize that we needed to work hard to develop our own sonic blend. I used to write from my own perspective as a young person (I am now 43). 

Music rather belongs to the youth, so it was a fun challenge to design lyrics that would honor this, work with Lizzies 21-year-old vocal but still be, in some way, authentically mine. In the end, it made me realize that regardless of our age there were many common themes that resonated. Eco anxiety, fear of the ‘other’, the drive to protect who and what we love, our fragility, our humanity, our passion, our privilege, and our imperfection.

Of Blood and Star sees our first co-write with Colours of the Rain, and an awakening to our cinematic edge as artists. We love to be swept off and transported by artists like London Grammar, Calandra, Radiohead, and Aurora.

What was the creative process like with the project? Did you face any kind of challenges during the production stage of the album?

As the album was written during the first stage of the pandemic it was sadly a much more fractured process than we would have liked. We did however get in a room with four incredible folk session players in a fortuitous breath between lockdowns.

Many skills and experiences that would make up the first chapter of being a band, playing, singing and writing together, and of course gigging, are those we are now developing. This skipping of such an important stage of gelling as artists is felt most, I think, in that it was a missed opportunity for Lizzie’s artistic voice to shine through more.

What are the top three things on your bucket list regarding your future years?

Oh dear, how ambitious do I admit to being? It would be great to break through to national radio. That is after all the entire point of our project: for people to hear the music and its message. To be honest, since we are playing catch up with the live our ambitions there are quite modest. We would like to play to some real, smiley faces, please! The next collection of songs will be a truly collaborative effort. We are so excited to have more time to develop our ideas in the future.

Lastly, is there any message that the two of you wish to give to your fans reading this interview right now?

To anyone with whom our music resonates: Music is magic! Feel its strength, find your own voice whatever it may be, and make it count. The future is uncertain and scary, but there is power in the collective.

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