…Develop your own identity. Be your own musician…I can spend hours learning Stevie Ray solos but that would just be mimicking an artist who reached such a high level of proficiency, it’s going to be unmatched and unparalleled in history. But what you can do is, use the history we have as inspiration and a reference point to help develop your own identity.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Izzie from ‘Izzie’s Caravan’
After an extended hiatus from music, Izzie recently formed ‘Izzie’s Caravan’, a blues-based project that endeavours to revisit and preserve the traditional forms of blues and rock through their music. In December 2019, he released his first EP titled ‘Leo’s Guitar’ which was a back-to-basics blues record, followed by the more experimental and melancholic EP titled ‘Zephyrs’ which was released in February 2020. Currently, Izzie is in the final production stages of his upcoming EP ’On The Pull’ which will be available on all digital platforms in June of 2020.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
So glad to be here. Well, growing up life was definitely interesting to say the least. I guess I can safely say I’ve experienced all the dysfunctional quirks that come with growing up in a standard middle-class family…yet through it all, whether it was fluctuating between South East Asia and North America, my mum at least made sure I attended the best schools, got a great education, and that way I’ve been quite fortunate. Being the middle-child of three siblings, I’ve always been the independent, quiet one of the lot…and that in itself has been instrumental in my identity because its allowed me to follow my passions independent of any family pressures as well.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Yeah, this one will stick with me forever. You know, from a cultural standpoint, I guess when I was growing up, culture was a lot less fragmented and hybridised than it is now… so the cool thing was that there was a crossover of music artists that my parents generation were listening to which bleeded into our generation….whether it was the Beatles or the Stones. Anyway, so I still remember the first movie that I ever saw which was Star Wars, and similarly the first rock song I ever heard was ‘Money for Nothing’ by Dire Straits and it was such a profound moment in my life that I knew from thereon that the guitar would have a role to play in my life.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Wow! You know things have taken off so fast and I’m honestly still digesting a lot of whats happening in terms of people digging some of these tunes and all this publicity thats taking this place. But I guess, in terms of the coolest thing thats happened is when I released this stuff, a lot of people were a little taken aback that I still had it in me to follow through with releasing all this music. And someone I know actually came to me after listening to the Zephyrs record and mentioned how therapeutic the record was for her and that she was a fan for life…and the sincerity with which those words were spoken was really a humbling experience for me. So that was really cool.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I could honestly write a definitive guide to making mistakes in life…but one that stands out is trying to orchestrate my Instagram account….’coz apparently you need one as an apparatus for being a musician. Look, I’m a severe introvert and I’ve barely ever taken a ‘selfie’ in my life…I don’t even understand what it means. I know what I look like so I never understood the fascination of taking pictures of my own face. But anyway, I was ‘guided’ to having an instagram account and man oh man, those initial pictures were such a disaster… so now I just post pictures of my Fenders…and Tracii my cat.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently, I’m just wrapping up my third EP titled ‘On The Pull’ which will be out in June. This, in all honesty, is my ‘identity record’… it’s the record that I will always identify as being the most accurate reflection of who I am as an artist and the kind of music that defines me. So look our for this record in June. I’m super-excited about it and the journey behind this EP has been a very memorable one for me.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
This is such a great question and an equally complex one to navigate particularly with the current political dynamics and the distortion of identity politics. Being of South East Asian descent, it’s always on the back of your mind that you’ll never be taken seriously as an artist…it’s a perpetual albatross around your neck and psychologically it can lead to a premature sense of defeatism. But, look at the music I play and that I’m inspired by…it originated from human pain and suffering and what’s beautiful about the blues is it represents a will of a people to survive and battle the odds, which they did. So that’s always a driving force for me. And it can really help break down certain pre-existing stereotypes so doing what I do, which is being influenced by a culture far off and yet maintaining its integrity and history can be a bridge between different cultures.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
First one would to be to come to grips with technology. Ideally I’d like to see myself as a purist in spirit, but technology does dictate a lot of our actions and I now see that it’s important to find a fine balance between purity and technology and be at peace with it.
Secondly, have a very, very, very thick skin. This is a world of arbitrary opinions and the venues for the expressions of such opinions are barely regulated so its very important to be strong willed.
I’m sort of deviating here and more-so giving my personal advice to artists starting out, but I would suggest not treating music as a competitive sport but as an expressive form of art…particularly for guitar players; it’s not about how fast you play or how much of a technical virtuoso you’re obliged to become…use the guitar as a conversational piece…it’s not about how fast you speak but what you say is what really matters.
Next, I’d say build an organic, true fan-base. Be true to yourself and if your music matters to you, then let it relate to an audience who it sincerely affects at a deep psycho-social level. Don’t worry about the ‘likes’ and ‘subscriptions’…they’ll come in time.
Finally, develop your own identity. Be your own musician…I can spend hours learning Stevie Ray solos but that would just be mimicking an artist who reached such a high level of proficiency, it’s going to be unmatched and unparalleled in history. But what you can do is, use the history we have as inspiration and a reference point to help develop your own identity.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
As generic as this may sound, there’s no avoiding the sacrifice of investing time into your craft and being very, very patient. Some days are diamond, some days are rock…Tom Petty sang that…and it keep me going everyday. Be patient in building a network of audience that digs your music…and put the effort in learning your instrument and craft well. I’m very old school in this regard.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
At a personal level, I’m an animal lover. In my last record Zephyrs, I wrote ‘Tracii’s Ballad’ for my cat and then dedicated a video for that to the tragic loss of animal life in the Australian fires. I believe its absolutely vital to start breaking down the anthropocentric value systems that we have and extend our empathic abilities to other species. As a Philosophy major and having studied Environmental ethics in great detail, I recognize my standpoint very strongly. From my end, I have a daily routine where twice or thrice a day, I have a whole family of stray dogs and cats that I feed and take care of and try my best to ensure they have a life with dignity. So, from my end I would love to partner with any organization with similar beliefs that from an academic and pragmatic standpoint help providing a better life for these wonderful eco-companion of ours.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m honestly so grateful to a whole bunch of people. Jamie Lailey from ‘City of Thieves’ who did all the vocals for the upcoming record; Rob McLean my keys player; Hector who played Harmonica on my record…all amazing guys! My girlfriend who literally suffers this journey with me everyday, and my cat Tracii, who is a permanent fixture in my life. But honestly, most of all I have to thank Michael Stover from MTS Management… this guy took me in, believed in my music, always supported it from the first conversation we had and has backed me every single step of the way. I would not be here without him and no amount of gratitude I send his way is short of what he’s done for me. There are good, sincere people in the world…and he’s been an absolute blessing in my corner.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Sometimes it seems like a mystery, I just close my eyes and it comes to me, There’s somethin’ I don’t even understand. I just open my heart and it flows right through my hand….I go by feel” Courtesy of my guru Mr.Buddy Guy. This has been a mantra in my life…to play and play authentically. It’s not about proving anything to anyone else what I play…but at the end of the day whatever I write and play has to matter to me and be meaningful enough for me in my life.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Speaking of Buddy Guy, there’s nothing I would not do to have a beer over lunch with him and just hear the Master tell me his war stories and a life well-lived to inspire people like to me pick up the guitar and do what I do. To me, Buddy is a living global icon…an American treasure… and the beauty of playing the blues is a lesson in humility. These guys did it so well and we owe it to them for laying such an unshakeable foundation for the rest of us to follow. Thanks Buddy!
How can our readers follow you online?
I invite all of you to follow my blues journey at at www.izziescaravan.com, on YouTube, or Instagram at ‘Izziescaravan’. I welcome all of you to join the caravan!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!