On hiatus:

///Be Back Soon///

///In the meantime, read my posts, comment, contact me///

Monday, 29 September 2008


Laura Izibor enters the studio, dressed head to toe in black: jacket, jeans and boots. Her curly hair is full of life and makeup flawless; her smoky eye shadow completing the look. Gone is the fresh-faced, girl-next-door I had come to know from her MySpace pictures. In her place? A soul chick that rocks. As we talk her Irish lilt is occasionally inflected with a soft American twang (a consequence of spending ample time in the US with her record label Atlantic) and the laidback Irish charm is apparent. Featured in our Rising Star Spotlight late last year Laura Izibor needs no further introductions.

Despite the delay of her debut album, Let The Truth Be Told, Laura has been busy. Though you may not be completely familiar with the name yet, the music will certainly sound familiar. Her track From My Heart To Your's appeared in an episode of the medical drama Grey's Anatomy and Carousel was specifically written as the theme song for the film Nanny Diaries (2007). Whilst her gospel-influenced Mmm featured in not one, but two films: Why Did I Get Married? (2007) and Step Up 2: The Streets (2008), respectively.

Right about now the Irish soulstress is feeling 'Really damn good!' and with good reason. Not only has the film world been paying attention, but with the recent votes from Rolling Stone and Vibe Magazine as Artist to Watch 2008 it seems the rest of the world is too, 'It's taken a really long time to get this record finished; so to get this kind of love, it's crazy,' she tells me.

Considering the buzz around her music, the 21-year old's feet remain firmly on the ground and she reveals the perfect remedy for coping with the expectation prior to her debut release, 'I don't have any expectations for myself; that's the way I try and live my life. I'm just really enjoying singing and playing, just doing what I do.'

Unlike other young female acts who have come and gone before, Ms. Izibor will never be branded a 'studio chick' but a seasoned performer instead. What you get on the record is what you get in person; so when the lady performs live, she performs. Having opened for Angie Stone, the late James Brown, Al Green, The Roots and Jamie Cullum is there need for any more proof? 'Performing live is what you work for - it's the adrenaline, it's the buzz', though this does not mean her love of studio time is any less deep, 'at the same time the creative process is a lot more personal - it's an inward achievement. I couldn't live without the both of them.'

In tune with Izibor's laidback personality is her method of writing; imagining her with a pen and a pad, would be inaccurate, 'I don't write my lyrics down, I just usually record myself on a Dictaphone or whatever I have and just play, mumble, sing and vibe. When I listen back I'm like, 'Oh I see what I was trying to do there' and put a little bit of structure in, a little bit of edge and the song usually just writes itself. Sounds cliche, but it is just a natural process and that's the way I try to keep it.' When asked if there is a special someone to inspire her, she laughs and says, 'Not at the moment. I'm so busy I don't even get time to see my family.'

Now a little older, wiser and more experienced Laura is pleased that she took the time to work on her talent before putting herself out there, 'It took me a very long time and there was a lot of frustration, but it taught me an awful lot. I would still say to someone wanting to get into the industry to work on your skill, get a good demo and send it to record labels and song writing competitions. It's important to take every opportunity that you see; you really have to have no insecurities and just believe in yourself.’

With a 2009 release of Let The Truth Be Told, her debut album of home-cooked soul with an edge, Ms. Izibor is more than prepared. 'I'm most excited about walking into a store and seeing the record on the shelf and just being able to buy it myself. Let The Truth Be Told is an album that I'm proud of and that I believe in. I've been very lucky to write my album 100% so there's nobody else's words there or visions. The album is completely my truths and my experiences.'

© Rachelle Hull, 2008

Published at www.originsmag.com

Interview: SHAGGY

Mentioning the name Shaggy is like playing word association, as Boombastic and Mr Lover Lover immediately spring to mind. Best known for his massive hit singles It Wasn't Me (the biggest selling single in 2001 in the UK) and Angel, the chart topping reggae superstar has been filling our ears with his trademark sub-baritone vocals and patois infused lyrics for well over ten years.

But where did it all begin? In Jamaica. 'I remember the first time I saw Yellowman live and that was it for me – I caught the dancehall bug.' It was when he moved to America that things really took off, 'When I came to the states there was a huge dancehall scene in New York. I started chatting on sound systems, free styling and after a while I just started making records.' Yet it wasn't until the release of Oh Carolina, a dancehall remake of the 1960s classic, which made the music industry take note. The track was passed on to Greensleeves Records where it garnered major attention in the UK in 1993, causing Virgin to come a-knocking at Shaggy's door.

Despite his growing popularity Shaggy was not without his critics, 'At the time Oh Carolina came out, I was being dubbed a one hit wonder. Almost all the headlines were saying I only had a hit because it was a cover. That aggravated me and I just had to prove them wrong; I had to get a bigger hit and it had to be one that I wrote – so I wrote Boombastic.' The single was an instant hit in 1995, reaching the No. 1 spot in over four countries; including both the UK and the US. His distinctive voice, humorous metaphors ('Well you a the bun and me a the cheese/ And if me a the rice well baby love you a the peas') and good looks cemented his (largely female) fan base.

Capitalising on this, Levi's jeans company used the track for its tongue- in-cheek advertising campaign that same year. Although Shaggy would go on to release bigger hits, it was Boombastic that established his signature sound. Fast forward thirteen years (and twenty million albums sold worldwide) later; the road from then till now has not existed without its potholes. 'I've not had the easiest of careers; I've probably been on about five record labels. When I did Oh Carolina Greensleeves wanted me to re-do that type of sound, I refused and then Apache Indian came out with a song called Boom Shack-a-Lack; which had the same feeling. I keep getting dropped because they want you to repeat what you've already done.' For Shaggy re-invention is key; and though it may not be done with dramatic wardrobe changes and excessive press coverage in the style of Madonna, it can be heard throughout his music.

Over the years Shaggy has collaborated with a barrage of successful artists, from Maxi Priest, to Janet Jackson, to Akon and with lesser known artists, like Rik Rok and Ravyon. His collaboration with renowned reggae artist Sizzla and newcomer Collie Buddz, on his 2007 album Intoxication, may come as a surprise to some. Entitled Mad, Mad World and waxing lyrical on the 'Politics, polytricks, equal econometricks' the record is a far cry from the usual party anthems like Hey Sexy Lady and What's Love. According to Shaggy this is not something new, 'I've always done these songs. If you listen to all the albums, I've got Why Me Lord, Keeping it Real, Hope, Gone with Angels.' His defence on why these particular tracks have never been released? 'Major labels would never put one of those songs out. Boombastic worked so that's why you have so many girl tunes; that's the formula they know and so they gear you towards that.' But aware of how the market works he explains, 'In defence of the record companies the kids at the clubs don't want to hear about social issues and radio won't play those songs. It's just like Kanye saying I won't get played because I talk about Jesus. It's sad, but it is what it is.' Though his albums were selling fast, like hot patties, Shaggy was losing his core fans– the lovers of dancehall. Something had to be done. Founding his own label Big Yard Music (a joint venture with long time manager Robert Livingston and producer Sting International), Shaggy had complete creative control. 'I needed to get the dancehall fans back, because they weren't feeling Shaggy. Dancehall fans that I had during Big Up and Boombastic have all grown up; these young kids only know Shaggy as the pop guy that's in Angel. I had to get the street back and Wild Tonight and Church Heathen were the songs to do it.' With its heavy baseline, dubbed the Heathen Riddim, and Patois lyrics in true Shaggy fashion ('Sister Gwen claim she a Christian/But a last night them catch her in a Stone Love session/She a do di dutty dance to the Matterhorn song') Church Heathen was sure to win back his lost fans. To ensure the track reflected what he was trying to do, Shaggy came up with the concept of the video (of which there are two versions) featuring Ninja Man and paid for them out of his own pocket. It worked. Church Heathen was a hit on the dancehall scene and across the globe.

Now in 2008, Shaggy is releasing his first official greatest hits collection; The Best of Shaggy: The Boombastic Collection. 'This is probably one of the few things I've done on a major label where I'm in full control; I picked the songs and the artwork for the covers.' Whether you've been a Shaggy fan from back in the day or you are a new recruit to the millions of fans around the world, with a track listing of eighteen songs there is definitely something for everyone.

Drawing on his own experiences in the industry, his advice for others? 'Your drive is more than anything else. You can't be successful in anything unless you're passionate about it; if you're going in there for money or fame it makes no sense. I would still be a reggae act if I started out now; I think it's almost like being a part of royalty. It is certainly not the easiest road; but I'm about being an artist, not really a celebrity. That's the secret to success – if there's a secret.'
© Rachelle Hull
Published at www.originsmag.com


Related Posts with Thumbnails