Talking with IZ.M.B about “Recover” and Her New Album ‘Nowhere Town’

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IZ.M.B
       

Singer-songwriter IZ.M.B recently unveiled the lyric video for “Recover,” a song about not only recovering from a broken heart but also moving on from the unexpected circumstances of the last two years.

“Recover” is a track lifted from her just-released album, Nowhere Town, a 12-track collection of entrancing, evocative music.

Originally from New Jersey, IZ.M.B began singing when she was five years old and was writing songs at age 15. By the time she was 16, she released her debut album, Blue Collar Romeo.

In keeping with her desire to focus attention on her music rather than her person, IZ.M.B elected to release a lyric video for “Recover.”

IZ.M.B explains, “I wanted people to really truly read the lyrics, and I wanted them to see what I was saying.”

Written by IZ.M.B, “Recover” features the talents of Doug Gallo, Arnez Hayes, Ryan Hillsinger, and Grace Fox.

Vaguely reminiscent of Liz Phair, “Recover” drips with alt-rock flavors from the ‘90s, highlighted by the crème de la crème voice of IZ.M.B, at once alluring, potent, and vibrant.

“Crawling these paper walls / Practicing my wolf calls / Trying to recover / From the queen mother of every heartbreak / That ever broke another.”

Guitar Girl Magazine spoke with IZ.M.B to find out more about “Recover,” her new album, and her definition of tone.

What three things can’t you live without?

In no particular order, the three things I can’t live without are my guitars, family and friends (including my pets, because they are pretty much my best friends ever), and sushi.

What inspired your new single/lyric video, “Recover?”

The thing that inspired my new single was the pandemic and how I was trying to recover from all of the loss I was facing at the time, both big picture and personal. Due to the lockdown, I had lost everything from relationships to high school graduation. However, through it all, I realized instead of worrying about things I couldn’t change, I needed to focus on recovery. For me, the best path to recovery was music. As for the lyric video, I chose that approach because I wanted people to truly pay attention to the words I was singing. Ultimately, the thing that helped me recover from all of the disappointment and heartache was music – and not just my own. At the time, in addition to creating my own work, listening to the songs of my favorite artists was like therapy.

Walk us through your mindset as you approached recording the song.

When it came time to record ‘Recover,’ a million things were going through my mind. I felt like I was in the eye of the storm. I had written an entire album in a very short period of time while in lockdown. The creative side of that process had been hugely cathartic, but now it was time to record it. Unfortunately, the pandemic was far from over. As a result, my day-to-day life was still a challenge. For one, studio time was hard to schedule, because we didn’t know if and when another lockdown would come. Also, while I was still writing new songs, recording had become my most effective form of therapy. Now that ‘Nowhere Town’ was ready, I felt like I was bursting. I needed to put a voice to all of the emotions I had been dealing with for months. All of those feelings naturally surfaced while recording ‘Recover.’ I felt like a geyser finally erupting. I think all of the raw emotion I vented in the sound booth really added power to the finished version of the song. Also, at the time, I feel like life had this really weird dynamic. So many of us were trying to be strong for one another while we were hurting inside. I feel like that kind of encapsulates what the entire ‘Nowhere Town’ album is about. Yes, a lot of the songs come from a very vulnerable place, but in the end, there’s more fight than quit in the narrative.

You have a new album, Nowhere Town, that’s just out. What can you share about it?

‘Nowhere Town’ is honestly like a personal diary – with each song serving as an entry in that diary. All told, the story it tells is one of heartbreak and redemption. As a result, emotionally, it was a tough album to record. While it was the fastest album I’ve written to date, it certainly wasn’t the easiest. My concept for ‘Nowhere Town,’ which evolved organically, is how the biggest obstacles often initiate change. Before ‘Nowhere Town.’ there was ‘Blue Collar Romeo,’ my first album. I was a high school teenager with a great life. Everything was bubble gum and rainbows, and it shows when you listen to that album. ‘Nowhere Town’ is more like trial by fire – how the reality of adulthood finally sets in the first time life punches you in the mouth. Also, it represents the terrible moment when we learn what true loss really means – when we look in the mirror and see an adult staring back knowingly at us. What ‘Nowhere Town’ isn’t, is a white flag. It’s not about surrender. It’s about the scars that give us character.

What’s the story behind the name IZ.M.B?

Ahh, and there it is: the chink in my armor when it comes to being totally transparent. Well, here’s a hint about how I got my name. It’s not just a stage name, it’s based on who I am. On streaming platforms and music videos you never see my whole face. The closest I’ve come is one photo shoot during which I wore dark sunglasses. Also, I’m often animated in some way. I do this because I want my music to be about the music, not about me. IZ.M.B is a blank canvas. To be honest, she’s my best friend. It’s weird. When I feel like I can’t talk to anyone else, I often turn to my guitar and a transformation takes place. I become IZ.M.B. Often, it feels like I’m ranting to her and she’s just sitting there listening. Ultimately, when I write, I just paint whatever I’m feeling onto her canvas. It’s really cathartic. Then, I get the answers I need after I’m done painting. Also, I know not everyone is going through the same things as me, but the emotions they feel may be similar. That’s why IZ.M.B is a blank canvas. I want my listeners to mold her into whoever they want her to be. I want them to use her to paint a new picture of their own and make the songs she sings theirs. I feel like by keeping her face somewhat hidden, it gives listeners the artistic freedom to turn all of IZ.M.B’s songs into whatever they want them to be. This is just as much their diary as it is mine.

How did you get started in music?

I started vocal training when I was only 5 years old. One of my mom’s friends, who is an amazingly talented musician, started a children’s choir. Fortunately, my mom signed me up. That’s when my parents said, wow, she has a natural talent for this. Shortly after that, my parents added piano lessons, and I picked that up pretty quickly too. However, I never really took music seriously until high school. I kind of regret that it took me so long to take my musicianship more seriously. I guess I thought nothing would come of it. It truly wasn’t until I stopped performing musical theater at my high school that things changed. I formed a band and really started to focus on guitar, mandolin, bass, and songwriting. In retrospect, I really do owe my high school band, Blue Collar Romeo, a large debt of gratitude. Along with my mentors, my bandmates were the ones who really pushed me to fully develop my musicianship. I don’t think I would be who I am today without them. They changed my life, and honestly, I credit them, along with my mom’s friend, with the start of my music career.

Where are you from?

I’m from the garden state, New Jersey. Specifically, South Jersey. So yeah, I grew up listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen. Guess that’s why I love writing on guitar and singing about the open road. Anyways, I loved growing up in South Jersey. So much so, it’ll always be home even if I don’t settle down there. Right now, between music and my future schooling, a lot is up in the air. Currently, I’m based out of Philly, because I’m attending Drexel University. However, I’d like to apply to Berklee NYC to pursue my master’s in audio engineering and songwriting. After that, I guess I’ll go where my music takes me. Also, it’s important to me to surround myself with people I love. Regardless of where I end up, I’ll always remember my South Jersey roots.

Did your hometown impact your sound?

Oh yeah, I definitely think my hometown impacted my sound. For some reason, the town I grew up in just had a bunch of dads playing rock music and it kinda stuck with me and my friends. Also, my dad was born and raised in New Jersey, so his incredible love of Bruce Springsteen’s entire catalog isn’t surprising. In fact, my dad once told me, if his life was a movie, Springsteen would be the soundtrack (P.S. – Bruce, if you happen to read this article, please work with me one day! It would make my dad’s life complete!) But yeah, I grew up with summer barbecues and rock n’ roll, so my friends and I kinda adopted it as we got older. From there, we started branching out to other styles of music like alt-rock. Also, I think a lot of the stories I have to tell come from being raised in a small town. For the longest time, I was pretty sheltered, living there. I never really got a chance to break out and see something new. Now that I am, it’s nice being free to live my life my own way, but at the same time, I miss the small-town girl who wrote ‘Blue Collar Romeo.’ Life is crazy like that. I think, nowadays, every day my sound changes a little bit, but Jersey will always have a special place both in my heart and my music.

Which singers/musicians influenced your sound?

God, that list is endless. I guess some of my biggest influences include The Smiths, The Strokes, The Wallows, Dante Elephante, The Cranberries, Tame Impala, and Fleetwood Mac. My musical taste is all over the place. One second, I could be vibing out to ‘Weird Fishes’ by Radiohead, and the next, I could jamming to Doja Cat. I think every musician has something to offer when it comes to inspiring me and my sound.

What kind of guitar do you play?

I started off playing on a Nylon string guitar that I had borrowed from my first guitar teacher. The first song I learned on it was ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles. After that, I started playing acoustic guitar and for my 16th birthday, my parents gave me a red electric guitar that I named Roxanne. All of my guitars have names. I currently own 6 guitars, 1 bass, and 1 mandolin… all of which have names, because we name the things we love.

What is your definition of tone? And is your tone evolving, or remaining pretty much the same?

Asking a music theory kid the definition of tone is always a treat. To me, tone generally refers to the sound. However, I always describe tones in descriptive ways such as being round, sharp, warm, cold, dull, etc. I also sometimes like to use colors to describe tones. I like to think my tone is changing. I think every song I write can have a different tone depending on the emotions/meaning behind the song. A happier song may have a warmer tone while a sad song may have a darker one. When I’m writing I think it’s important to have good reasons for the choices I make. So, I ask questions like, ‘Should the bass have a duller, rounder sound, kinda like a thud to make the song more sultry. Honestly, it all depends on what I’m going for when I develop a specific sound.

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, TV, or other media?

The thing that inspires my writing the most is my life. Just life experiences. Other than that, books pretty much are great for inspiration. I definitely took more inspiration from books on ‘Blue Collar Romeo’ than I did on ‘Nowhere Town,’ but there are still some literary influences there – just not as many. In high school, I was always enrolled in honors and AP English classes. As a result, I love taking inspiration from my favorite authors/books and incorporating it in my writing. I guess that’s what makes some of my lyrics more fun for me. For example, at first glance, my song, ‘Cold Brew’ sounds like it’s just about coffee. However, as you listen it becomes apparent it’s a metaphor for a once passionate relationship that has grown cold. I actually named the song ‘Cold Brew’ because the person who this song is about adores cold brew coffee. I just love the lyrics of that song, and the phrasing, ‘Mr. Empty Cup’ because I feel as if the person I was with at the time had completely lost feelings, making them an empty cup. Also, the last few lyrics of the song really get to me as well: “feeling black and bitter, and now I’m just a steaming cup starting to reconsider why I’m still with you. Things were just heating up but now it’s a cold brew.” All of my words tend to be analogous to something bigger. I like secret messages. I often feel like authors probably hide certain, personal messages throughout their work. I think that’s what makes reading so fun for me. I like reading between the lines, looking for the bigger picture – for the true meaning.

What can you share about your writing process?

My writing process is kinda weird. I just sit down and I ask myself, what’s going on right now and how do I feel about it? Then I just begin to write. Often, I will grab my dad and ask him at some point to sit in on the writing session. He’s a really great sounding board. He’ll make suggestions ranging from musical to lyrical ones. He’s a visual artist and writer, so he often sees music and my craft in a similar light. Also, he has very high standards. It helps having someone who you trust to bounce ideas off of. I find I write best in either my bedroom or my living room back in New Jersey. Those tend to be the places I’ll write some of my best stuff.

Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?

Personally, I think there are so many hardworking artists to respect for their work ethic. One person I really love and have seen taking on the music industry in a really big way is Joji. Recently, his music has just been hitting so hard, and I absolutely love his album, ‘Nectar.’ Another artist who is just as inspiring is Jacob Collier. I feel like he challenges my ear and pushes me to look at music in a different light, which is super cool. I also really love how Latin artists have started to make an impact on the industry. I grew up listening to Shakira. Seeing more female Latin artists blossoming in the industry is so cool. As a Latina woman, it’s refreshing to see them making real headway in the industry, really opening things up for the next generation.

What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Music videos? Live gigs? New material?

I’m definitely always writing and planning my next project. After all, the recording studio is my happy place. In the meantime, I’m just enjoying ‘Nowhere Town’ being out there and available to listen to. Also, I’m super excited for people to hear me on a collaborative project called Gorilla Apocalypse. Other than that, I have performances coming up. Overall, a very packed schedule, but I don’t think my listeners have to worry about me going on a hiatus anytime soon. I promise I still have a lot more to say in song.

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