It’s no small feat for a young musician to rise above the ever-widening sea of talent vying for your attention. Though not everyone knows her name in America, 26-year-old London-based singer-songwriter Izzy Bizu continue her conquest of U.S. audiences, having already won the hearts of her home country with her dulcet fusion of soulful pop and jazz. Her 2016 debut, A Moment of Madness, produced the singles “Someone that Loves You” and “White Tiger,” which topped 150 million streams on Spotify alone. With a new album coming soon, Bizu recently dropped two new singles, the ’70s-inspired “Faded” and the attitude-filled “Tough Pill.” Here’s what the fast-rising artist had to say.
Where has been one of the most surprisingly enjoyable places you’ve explored while on tour?
Probably Omaha. It wasn’t one of those places where everyone was like, “Oh, my God! This place is so cool.” In fact, they said there wasn’t much there. But when we went there, we had a long time between soundcheck and the show, so I went out with my friend, and we found this beautiful lake and went swimming. And it was such a hot day, we stayed there for ages.
Then we did the gig, and it was really just quite a nice place. And we met some people and invited them to the show, and it was just awesome.
Early on, you went on tour opening for Coldplay. Quite the baptism by fire.
My first memory of touring with them, I was holding my baby cousin and running up to the stage to do my warm ups because that was the only time we were going to have to hang out. Next thing I know, I’m straight up on stage. The good thing about that was I didn’t have enough time to work myself up to be nervous about it.
As soon as we started playing, though, I was a bit like, “Oh my God!” But then I thought, “This is it, now,” and it became quite calming because it was such a massive place and we were so little. The people [in the audience] were actually quite far away, so it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. But it was amazing to hear your own concert reverb off an enormous place like that.
It must’ve been jarring to deal with the echo and delay your first time in a venue like that.
Yeah, you absolutely can’t take your headphones out because the sound will bounce back like 100 times and make you feel crazy. I tried it once because I was curious and was like, “Ugh, oh my God.”
And there was so much delay. I heard the recordings of it and watched Coldplay after [my set] to get an idea of what it sounded like. Kind of like church, to be honest. Like playing in a massive church.
How did you spend your downtime on the tour? Any hobbies to keep you busy?
We spent most of our time playing table tennis. We had a backstage table tennis room.
I actually went to a Bruno Mars concert one night. That was really cool. There were so many cool people playing at that moment. Pink Floyd was playing, which I’m so upset I missed. My friend on the tour forgot to tell me, and I was like, “Guys, are you for real?!” I was so annoyed.
There was one place in Canada where we lived on top on an ice bar. It was so cool. Everywhere we went, we rented Airbnb. One, because it was cheaper, and two, because you get more space and can cook your own food and can be a bit healthier. And the guys who owned this Airbnb owned a bar downstairs. So they invited us down every night, so that was pretty fun.
I heard you skate as well. Did you bring your board with you on tour?
I did. I almost lost it. We had to search the whole stadium looking for it, but then I remembered where I’d left it. And my bandmate was really upset with me because it’s not even my skateboard, it’s his friend’s board.
Do you have any serious skate injuries? Banged up knees and ankles?
Not recently. I was once wearing some stupid shoes and fell back and hit my head. It didn’t break or anything. I’m fine. But it was really bloody and stuff. Just cut open. And when I got to the hospital, the girl poured really warm water on it, and it was burning.
I take it easy now. I’m not trying to go down any hills or anything.
What’s been the most surprising difference between the U.K. and America that you noticed as you’ve started doing more shows in the U.S.?
People are more outspoken there. When I was walking into the airport to leave America, this girl shouted from so far away, “Safe travels!” I didn’t know if it was at me or someone else, and I looked back to check, and she was like, “Yeah, you.” It’s kinda funny. But everyone’s very friendly and nice. A bit louder, though.
It’s nice, confidence-wise, as it’s helped me speak up a bit more. We’re a bit more reserved here. It’s just the culture.
Depends on where you go, really. New York is kinda not that different from London. But when I go to Carolina, it’s like, “Wow.” It’s cool, vibrant, though. It makes me laugh.
What sort of mangling of your name have you encountered over the years?
It’s not that bad. They just say Izzy Bizzy, which kinda makes me regret not just going with that.
Finally, I gotta ask, did you know White Tiger is also the name of a cannabis strain? Were you subtly signaling something to your pot smoking fans there?
(Laughs.) No, I didn’t name it that as a reference to drug use. But that’s funny.
Photos courtesy of The Orchard.