At just 16 years old, Isabelle Brown is already a force to be reckoned with. With a voice rich in soul yet laced with youthful optimism, the Brighton-based singer is gearing up to take on the world. Give her latest EP ’03’ a listen and it will soon become apparent that this shouldn’t take her long at all. A fierce debut that any seasoned musician would be proud of, we caught up with Isabelle in a buzzy Brixton restaurant to chop it up with her. From her upbringing surrounded by strong, self-reliant women, to the musicians that inspired her, we went back to Isabelle’s roots before turning to the exciting future ahead of her.
The first thing that I notice as I sit down to chat with Isabelle is her refreshing self-assuredness. Despite her young age, she is not riddled with the uncertainties that most people her age are dealing with (and people far older still contest with). The girl knows what she wants, and she’s been “getting on” with her music ambition for quite some time. Indeed, Isabelle began singing when she was only five after her mum put her in for lessons, and her passion for it has never waned. I ask her where this assertiveness comes from, to which she affirms “My mum is the strongest and most independent person I know”, she pauses before continuing, “I was even born in my house in Brighton – in the living room. My mum is very independent and wants to do everything by herself. She was like ‘I don’t want to be told when to push. [laughs]”.
Isabelle gradually honed other aspects of her craft at this time, too. “I was writing songs when I was seven… I even won my poetry recital, so I’m just a natural with words” she cheekily jokes, as she explains how she started developing her own unique style. I ask her where she used to derive inspiration from in her early days, to which she replies “Bridgette Jones at age seven was my favourite thing’ she laughs, “I wrote a song about her called ‘Smile’ – or rather, ‘What Makes You Smile’. I also wrote another poem about being late to school… ah I cringe to think of it now.”
I don’t want to be remarked on my age, because I still want people to go wow when I’m 60.
Eventually Isabelle decided to take her singing to Youtube, wherein she uploaded a Nina Simone cover of ‘Feeling Good’. She chuckles as she reminisces the karaoke style essence of the video, and tells me that the experience made her abandon the platform all together. Nevertheless, off the back of that single video she managed to catch the industry’s ear and bag herself a manager, which is seriously impressive considering she was only nine at the time.
A couple years down the line and Isabelle has now got a mixtape and an EP under her belt whilst still remaining shockingly young. Nonetheless, both of these bodies of work pay no reflection of this. They are formidable pieces of work in their own right, and any musician no matter how old would be proud to put their name to them. Whilst I may be partial to my own criticism, I question whether the tendency for everyone to comment on her age frustrates her. “Age ain’t nothing but a number, babe” she quips back in a fit of infectious laughter, “but in all seriousness, I don’t want to remarked on my age, because I still want people to go wow when I’m 60.”
This statement rings out an important truth: Isabelle Brown’s music is not just good because she is 15, it is good full stop. Echoing similarities to the likes of Billie Eilish – who also has an impressive discography behind her at an extremely young age, it seems Isabelle’s got the capacity for serious longevity and success in this industry.
As we chat and giggle some more, discussing everything from Gemma Collins to Baroque music, the ability for Isabelle to switch from being a joyful, playful 15 year old to articulating herself in a manner far beyond her years is impressive. This quality is inherent in her music, as she sings with great richness to her voice and croons over thoughtful topics, yet still remains true to her youthful self. For example, in her track ‘Places’, she sings about taking a person to a place they can truly be their self (something she stresses is super important to her), yet still ends the song with a trailing fit of youthful laughter.
Taking inspiration from the greats – Wilson Picket, Nina Simone, Tina Turner and of course “James Brown… the boss”, Isabelle’s grip on her raspy, deep voice parallels that of the late Amy Winehouse, whilst the hip hop/ R&B production gives her sound a spritely edge – and we’re totally digging it.
In terms of what’s next, the immediate answer is her GCSEs. However, as soon as she’s got those wrapped up, Isabelle is set on spending the summer dedicated to her music. Considering what she’s managed to accomplish so far, our eyes are set firmly on what Isabelle will do this coming year.
Check out the new EP ’03’ for woozy jazz inflections and smooth soul undertones, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for any shows being announced later this year.