British singer songwriter Izzy Bizu has gotten comparisons to many soul greats—including Amy Winehouse and Sam Cook. We had a chance to chat with her, before this week’s performance, when she’ll hit the stage to open for Coldplay at Gillette Stadium.
Though Bizu has already had experience playing to large crowds (she performed at Glastonbury last year) this show will be different from the delirious (and drunken) camping crowd: “Brand new experience for me, I actually don’t know what to expect,” she admits. “I imagine it’ll be crazy and fun, but also nerve wracking as well.”
Bizu’s sound isn’t one that really fits Coldplay’s anthemic pop-rock (nor does it match the more recent rainbow-splattered electro-pop that is Kaleidoscope). Rather, it’s often an aching, jazzy R&B. (Though the orchestral, Lana-Del-Rey-style “Mad Behaviour” could bring to mind Viva La Vida days.)
When I asked Bizu to describe her album, A Moment of Madness, as a room to get a better sense of how she envisioned her sound, her imagination created a serene, cozy space: “It would be a round room, it would kinda look like a teepee, it’d have fairy lights… and then I’d want there to be like one lamp that would giving off a red light, like red-orange. And loads of cushions everywhere!” she exclaims. “Sorry, it’s too much, I love decoration so much,” Bizu says with a laugh.
Her ability to conjure up a strong image is a skill she hopes to apply to future music videos. Though in the past she has suggested ideas that were incorporated, she has yet to play a major role in visual direction. “I really want to be hands-on with it. I think I know more of what I want,” Bizu explains.
As we chatted about Boston (it’s her first time in the city) and travelling, I discovered that, funnily enough, Bizu has constantly crossed paths with fellow opener, British electronic duo AlunaGeorge. “I’ve bumped into her [Aluna Francis] in numerous airports. I think our program schedule was kind of similar. I was like, I’m seeing you backstage, I’m seeing you at the airport, and then we actually swapped numbers because I was like, I see you too much not to talk to you.”
When I asked her about the works that inspire her when it comes to visual direction, she excitedly described a recent Tyler, the Creator video: “Have you seen the new one? Oh my god, ok so like, I think the song that’s amazing is called Who Dat Boy? That video is just incredible. It’s so dark and amazing, and the colours are beautiful.”
In an interview with Vogue Bizu had mentioned she sometimes writes on the train, so I was curious to hear whether any of the new album had been conceived on a commute.
“Yeah, there was one song, “Mad Behaviour,” she says. “In my mind I was like, this is a reggae song, and then I got home and I played it to my bandmate… Then when I played it on the piano it just turned into, [something that was] way more different than what it was. Because I remembered it different, because I didn’t record it or anything. I just had the lyrics.”
Although she says “Mad Behaviour” was one of the most honest songs she has written, she has grown up a lot since writing it—in fact, the song was helpful in overcoming the feelings she sings about.
“That was coming from a really, really insecure place. I always felt like I was less or something. And it wasn’t the other person’s fault, it was mine. Well, it wasn’t really anyone’s fault, you can’t blame yourself for insecurity,” she explains. “I was just acting in a certain way because I was insecure, and always scared of losing that person and… it’s just kind of ridiculous. It wasn’t logical,” she says.
She continued: “It’s so self destructive and I realized it after that whole thing ended. I was just like, oh my god, that was so silly. You can kind of almost train yourself to not feel those things that you just kind of have to carry on working on it. So, that’s still within me but I don’t think that I think like that anymore.”
While Bizu admits the song is no longer something that resonates with her, “Mad Behaviour” is a song she has noticed her fans often relate to. In fact, their empathetic reactions were partly what helped her heal: “I could see girls in the crowd that, maybe they’ve gone through something similar, and it made me feel better,” she explains. “And then I thought, maybe a lot of people actually go through this. Because you think you’re crazy, you know? You think, oh I’m just some crazy girl, do you know what I mean? So it’s nice to know that actually people share these feelings, and that it’s normal to feel like that sometimes.”
On the other end of the emotional spectrum is “White Tiger,” which Bizu shares is a song about bursting with love: “White Tiger, is like, I’m so in love I can’t even hold it in, I just have to scream it from the rooftops. But you can’t, when you really love someone,” she says. “You can’t just be like, oh my god oh my god, you know what I mean? It’s just too much. So I wrote that for that reason, because sometimes I get too excited about stuff. It can really annoy people you know?” she says with a laugh.
And then, there’s the frustration that drove “What Makes You Happy?” into being. This time, the relationship troubles involved Bizu’s attempts to please: “I was just fighting with myself, that person didn’t really give a shit if I wore makeup or if I didn’t wear it, do you know what I mean?”
“It got to the point where I didn’t feel like I was adequate or enough for them? And then I would try so many things and nothing would work so I was just hitting a brick wall so yeah I was kinda pissed. I was like what makes you happy? Just tell me I’ll do it. That was just that, a question really,” she says.
As we wrapped up, we discussed her new material (spoiler: her new album won’t be as jazzy as she originally thought it would be) and working with Honne (they’re “super chilled”). You can hear Izzy Bizu perform live this Friday, August 4th at Gillette Stadium.