Laura Izibor: Dublin’s Got Soul


Laura Izibor interview
By Marsha Gosho Oakes

Known for spawning synchronised finger-clicking posterboys in groups of five, Dublin is hardly considered a soulful haven in Europe [or anywhere, for that matter] – but that’s all about to change. Well, one singer at a time: cue Laura Izibor. The 22 old curly-haired Irish soulstress fell in love with making music the minute she bought her first piano five years ago, with the prize money she won from a songwriting competition. The ball immediately began rolling towards the live circuit, she explains, “Growing up in Dublin, my manager had me doing gigs straight away when I was 16; on my own with just a keyboard or piano or whatever was available.”

Since her household wasn’t full of music to inspire her, she had to discover her own classics. “I wish I had one of those stories but I don’t. I kind of found it myself – I heard it on the radio and was like ‘who’s that guy?’ – Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield, all those. Then on the flipside,” she says, “my sister was listening to Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits, Led Zeppelin, so it was all going in, and I think you can hear that in the music – it’s a nice merging of soul and then the complete alternative side.”

Faced with the challenge of holding the attention of rooms of distracted “noisy, drunk Irish men,” the positive audience responses somewhat surprised her – and helped her to develop how to “make these guys shut up and listen to me.” “When I first started gigging I was like ‘They’re just not gonna get it, they won’t get me, I’ve gotta go to America or London or something,’ but once I started gigging they were amazing. I supported [James Brown] and that was a real eye opener because it was like going into a church in Georgia – in Dublin – they were just going crazy for him and shouting back all the soulful things and I was like, ‘Wow, Dublin’s got soul!’” she laughs. “We need more Irish soulful R&B artists.”

laura-iziborFormerly signed to Jive Records, Laura began recording her album in New York when she was 17. However, signing that deal is not always the end of the struggle for artists, it’s often just the beginning – she found out the stressful way. Her debut album, Let The Truth Be Told, features songs ranging over the five year period since she began writing seriously. “I changed labels in-between so [the album] sort of got dragged all around, and there are songs from when I was 15 and songs just written this year,” she says. “But it’s all strangely come together and it does sound like one sound…I’m the songwriter of them all, so that’s the glue”.

With dreams of collaborating with John Legend (“I can see the two pianos on stage, us singing”) due to their shared penchant for the keys, comparisons to Alicia Keys are rife – and not entirely unwarranted. Whether it’s the songwriting, the occasional similarities in vocal delivery, or the keys themselves – listeners can’t help but make that association. However it is evident that Laura is no carbon copy – she brings her own energy, character and style to the table. Speaking on the comparisons, Laura says, “When you come in and your foot’s in the door, people don’t wanna go ‘it’s totally her, it sounds like nothing else’ – it’s always gotta be ‘oh yeah it’s original, but it sounds a little bit like this…’ or ‘she’s a little bit like that.’ So completely happy and comfortable with that…Alicia Keys is somebody that I respect, I think she’s amazing.”

laurathumbnail_8Leaving us with a few music industry tips for up-and-coming artists, the soulful young lady says, “Without sounding patronising to younger people, the only thing that I would say is not to get lazy but take your time. Don’t try to rush in like ‘I’ve gotta get a record deal, ’cause that was what I was like; ‘I’ll have a record out in a year, I’ll get this and that.’ It’s developing, it’s working on your craft, working on your songs, it’s getting out and getting your fanbase,” she advises.

“I think it should be a law against kids getting in the industry; I’d hate to be where I am now at 16, 17 – because you just have to grow up first of all. This industry is so crazy. And then musically and as a songwriter, you need to live a little bit. So I’d say work on who you are, work on your music, and just stay focused on it. Song competitions are great because you can win equipment, you can win money, and you can get in the industry slowly.

“Just really work on your craft, that’s the main thing. The way the industry’s going now doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get a record deal to reach the top – you can build your fanbase. So just make sure that you’re really, really really good – and then go out there.”

Let The Truth Be Told is out now on Atlantic Records.