INTERVIEW: ISABEL MARIA | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It seems many young artists from Sunderland have an epiphany moment where music is imparted upon or gifted to them by an influential elder, and 17-year-old songwriter Isabel Maria is the latest in that line. With a love of storytelling since being a small child it was only when her grandfather gave her a keyboard that Isabel began to understand how she could interpret these stories as music. Encouraged by We Make Culture’s Young Musicians Project. Isabel learned how to use her love of language to write songs and the result is her debut EP, The Melodramatic Milers Club, a raw collection of emotive works inspired by walks the singer started taking during the pandemic.

I used to hate walking when I was younger but during lockdown I started to take to it and at the end of last year I realised how much of a catalyst the walks were becoming for my writing, and that’s when I started to do it with a real purpose for the EP. Most of the places were just off my doorstep – walking in circles around my nearby streets – but I also had the chance to walk in Austria where the snow and the wooden architecture gave me loads of cool ideas, it was just such an interesting place to be creative in.”

Writing is so cathartic for me and I honestly think it would be harder to write a song that didn’t mean anything to me at all

And what a lovely EP it is too. Produced by South Shields’ Harbourmaster (Martin Trollope), it is pertinently scenic but also thematic, blending folk, pop and rock with countless sub-genres into six tracks of gentle sonics and surprisingly open and mature songwriting for someone as young as Isabel. “Working with Martin is always a huge pleasure. His kindness and musicianship create such a safe space to grow a song. Martin actually plays every instrument on these recordings. It’s been such a privilege to both work alongside him and watch him do his thing.”

However, that is not to downplay Isabel’s own input and, in fact, she already has a 2023 Northern Writers Award on her shelf at home. “I come up with the progressions on the piano and try and string together whatever other cohesive ideas I have into a concept. All of the songs on this EP were born on the piano.” And, lyrically, is it hard to be that open? “That’s the way it comes naturally. Writing is so cathartic for me and I honestly think it would be harder to write a song that didn’t mean anything to me at all.”

What is also impressive, although not so surprising having spoken to Isabel, is the way the themes and genres in the music intertwine across the six tracks on the EP. “I made a conscious effort to jump genres a little across the project. There’s pop, folk, rock and bits of other things buried in there, alongside some issues and feelings I’ve never addressed musically before. It felt important to keep the piano as the primary line in all of the songs, and I think that’s at least one thing that ties them all together while letting them all shine in their own way too. I think it’s cool that they manage to work so well together, but also that they could still be just as potent on their own.” 

Isabel Maria launches The Melodramatic Milers Club at The Ship Isis, Sunderland on Friday 20th October.


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