TUNE IN TO
THE SCREAMiNG JETS
|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS iSA
COLUMBiAN ROCKER iSA TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HER E.P. 'ALL MY LIFE IS WONDER'
LiViNG iN AMERiCA
AND COMMUNiCATiNG THROUGH MUSiC
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
It's hard to tell what the future has in store for a rock vocalist like ISA, but if her recent performances at such famous L.A. haunts such as THE ROXY and the VIPER ROOM are any indication, rock music may have found it's next dynamic front woman. In an age where artists - especially rock artists - are expected to fit into a particular niche, ISA (born ISABEL VALENCIA in Medellin, Columbia a little over twenty years ago) proudly marches left with a bold sound punctuated by irresistible pop melodies, crazy ass time signatures and rhythms that defy you basic four-to-the-floor rock n roll. Her E.P. 'ALL MY LIFE IS WONDER' is the first step for an artist that is prepared to take on the music world on her own terms. According to her manager RICHARD W. GILKERSON, more is waiting in the wings. "She's going to be recording a couple of tracks in the next month. Most of her songs up until now have been recorded in English but we really want to move her to doing more songs in Spanish." says GILKERSON "She's got some amazing songs in Spanish. The way i can tell if a song is agood and catchyis if I'm walking down the street after seeing a gig and when a song pops into my mind, then I know that there is some sort of hook in that song that's got me. I saw ISA putting together a Spanish song and going through it in the studio and in the next couple of days, I could not get it out of my head and I don't know the first word of what it means."
In summing up his client, who is now
getting offers from various up and coming producers for her upcoming
project, GILKERSON added "I like the humility. I like the humble
aspect of a person who never forgets where they come from"
How long have you been in the States?
For about four and a half years now
What is the status of your citizenship?
I'm going to be able to apply for my citizenship next year. When you get five years is when you earn the right to apply and it takes about eight months to get it done.
Lately there have been a whole string of shows throughout L.A. How have they been going?
They've been going very good. People seem to be really into the music and every time we play out, we have new fans which is very exciting. We have more people getting involved in the music and if thats happening, then maybe we're doing something right.
What is the availability of your E.P. 'ALL MY LIFE IS WONDER'?
It's not been officially released to the press or anything like that or radio. The CD is available on i-TUNES and MYSPACE and also on CDBABY.COM
How do you feel about the finished product?
I feel okay. I feel every time that we have to improve and write new songs and do something better, but I feel that what we did was right because when we did it we had very limited resources. It was very difficult to get finished with, to be honest with you. Money was the biggest issue especially in these economic times. No one wants to do things for free. The CD was basically a self-financed venture and it wasn't easy coming up with the money by working a part time job.
Talk about the band that you have at the moment and what you think each of them brings to the table that makes it worth doing.
I just love the people that I'm working with. I think they are smart, talented professionals that are passionate about the music. It's awesome. I feel blessed and think that part of band is also RICHARD GILKERSON who is my manager. He's extremely supportive and without him, I don't think that a lot of things would've been possible. JOHN BRAVER is the lead guitarist and he is very, very good. There is also PHILLIP HAZE on the bass and ANDRES ZULUAGA. Like I said, these guys are very good and they are very talented in their instruments
What drew you to music in the beginning.
It started when I was very little. I grew up in Columbia and lived with my two sisters and my mom and we would play around, pretend that we were in a band and play these invisible instruments. We would mime the songs that we would hear on the radio like ABBA and the rock n roll of the time in Columbia. We would listen to a lot of Spanish rock n roll as well and mime along to that as well. I was the drummer in the band .
A drummer in a fake band
Talk about the kind of music that was popular in Columbia as you were growing up?
Salsa music was very popular. Stuff like WILLIE COLON and HECTOR LAVOE. A lot of Spanish Rock was popular like SODA STEREO, LOS BRUJOS and HOMBRES G - A lot of bands from Spain and Argentina. These were the people that me and my sisters would try to mime and then one day I thought, 'I would really like to do this and be serious about it!' One day in High School, this guy came to our classroom and was like 'Hey, I'm going to be giving some guitar lessons!' I asked my mom and she suggested that I go for it. She was very very supportive which is awesome. Then, I started looking for a guitar. Usually in a lot of houses in South America there is an acoustic guitar somewhere even if the people of that house don't play it. I thought that maybe there would be one in my house and I couldn't find one until one day I found an acoustic guitar under my bed. I asked my mother if she knew whose guitar it was and she didn't know. I asked my sisters and they didn't know either so I started playing with that guitar. That was kind of cool!
When did you begin writing your own songs?
I was maybe thirteen years old. When I first started taking guitar lessons I was not very happy because I had to practice all of these Columbian folk songs. At the time I didn't like it. Almost instantly I wanted to learn how to play rock and the teacher wasn't teaching me that and I said 'You know what? I'm gonna do this myself and see what happens!' With the first three chords that I learned, I wrote a rock song. That was how it happened I was like 'Wow! I can write my own music!'.
What was the name of the song?
It was called 'NOCHE' which means night.
What do you think made you want to be a songwriter?
To be very honest, I think my need to want to be a song writer was something that just happened. I was a teenager and very eager to express myself somehow and in some way. It happened and I just threw myself into it and even to this day, whenever I complete a song I go 'My God! How did I do it?'. I don't write songs and go 'This is going to be a verse, and here is a chorus and the verse has to be this short' I don't like that. I like for music to be free and spontaneous and be the way it has to be but that is difficult for the market. People want to hear some kind of order in music but this is the way that I write.
Was there ever a band or an artist that ever inspired you?
Oh yes. My sisters came up to the States when I was little. I was still in Columbia with my mom and one of my older sisters would send me music from the States. I would always ask her to send me some English music. She turned me on to SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES which I loved very, very much. She also turned me on to THE CURE, and DEPECHE MODE. She sent me a lot of British stuff.
When did you form your first band.
When I was fifteen years old, I was going around and telling all of my friends that I wanted to start a band and one of my friends told me about this other guy that wanted to start a band as well. I got together with this guy and we ended up forming a band called APOLLO 18.
When did you follow your sisters up to the United States
When I was twenty, I was at the University of Columbia studying music and my sisters and my father told me to come to the United States for a vacation for six months. I had a whole life in Columbia. I had a boyfriend and some friends and I decided to come tot he States for six months to see how much I liked it. I was pretty definite about only staying up here for six months and that would be it. After being up here for three months my dad had received his citizenship and he offered to help me out with my citizenship. This was my one time opportunity and I did in seven months what most people in the States want in seven years. I got my residency. I love the States. I feel at home here.
More so than Columbia?
Columbia is beautiful. I love it too, but I think that anywhere you are in the world you have to make it home. That is something that I've learned this year in seeing all of the people that come to Los Angeles who are from all over the place. Through that, I got to realize that the world is our home, anywhere you go. Yes, there are different cultures and customs, but we're still all human. I feel at home here because I've made it home.
Were the songs from 'ALL MY LIFE IS WONDER' written specifically for that E.P. or did they come from somewhere else?
They were written for the E.P. I wrote some songs and showed them to my manager and showed them to the band and took in their advice and their opinions. They told me that these were the songs that they liked the most and it had become the E.P. Out of ten or twenty songs, these were the best.
From this E.P., which songs stick out for you at the moment and why?
All of the songs have some sort of resonance for me in differing aspects of my life. The song 'ALL MY LIFE IS WONDER' doesn't resonate as clearly to me anymore because I've changed my way of looking at life in the past few years. I say that because I look at life in a more positive way then I did when I wrote that song. Things were difficult for me when I wrote it. I would go to bed crying every night.
Why was that?
It was difficult making the adjustment from Columbia to here. It was a tremendous culture shock. When I came here, I didn't know how to speak English and it felt horrible not being able to communicate. I felt stupid not being able to say anything. So, getting back to your original question, one of the songs that sticks out for me is 'YOUR NOT THE ONLY ONE'. In that song, I said to myself that I'm not the only one who feels like they are in trouble and I'm not the only one that feels happy. In the end, the songs is about not victimizing yourself and realizing that we are a part of a society whether we like it or not and we have to work together. The song ESCAPA is about getting out of the box and saying to yourself that you can do this.
Describe how songs get written for you. How does it work?
I start by picking up my guitar and playing some chords and if a melody comes out of my head easily, then a song comes out. So once I have the harmony and the melody in my head then it is time to write about this or that. That's it! That's how it happens.
So it's not a difficult process for you then, is it?
Sometimes it is difficult. It depends on the moment and how inspired I am and how open I am. There are songs I can write in one or two hours and there are others that take months. I try to make songwriting as natural as possible. It is important for the music to feel free.
What are your plans for the future. An L.P. perhaps?
Of course. That's the goal. That is the thing that I would love to do. Making an album is something that I will definitely be working and we will also be working on some Spanish songs as well as English.
What would you like person to come away with after they've heard your music?
I want them to feel inspired, empowered and excited, for sure!