To celebrate her newly released debut solo album ‘izzi’, Isabella Manfredi reflects on its creation and what she learnt during the process, both about herself and music.
I’m still into albums.
I admired Charlie XCX when she blasted her label for not getting the whole waterfall single release strategy, and I love the freedom and intertextuality of the mixtape, or the nonchalance of an EP, it’s all great. But I’m still into making albums.
“You’re an album artist,” a few people have said to me over these last few years.
Though when I press them about what that means they can’t explain it. “You’re classic,” is perhaps as far as they get. Maybe they associate albums with prestige, or maybe it’s the album’s misplaced affiliation with the golden age of music (I still think the singles era was its pinnacle). But I don’t think these are the reasons I’m still into albums.
I’m into albums because they stop time.
When I reflect back on what I ‘learnt’ most while making this album (which is such a popular question) I’d have to admit every major lesson was about time: for example, my fear of ageing, or of being ‘aged out,’ frustration and impatience with things not going fast enough, believing I had had time taken from me, years of time wasted, no time to lose, perhaps I was born in the wrong time, if someone had only told me at the time, and ultimately, respect for, and faith in, the divine timing of things, of my own need for lots of time (space, solitude, head-off-in-the-clouds time), of how truly things return and return in circular patterns, and how I made peace with the red light fever to become comfortable in the recording studio, where all we do, session-after-session, is try and stop time.
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But when I say ‘stop time’ I don’t mean cage or control it. When I hear a great recording I would say it was like something essential was encased in a glass box, but that that essence was also connected to an eternal, expansive network of memory and consciousness: a squiggly, dancing light in the universe. It feels free.
In the moment it is being born, every lyric, melody and kernel of a song balances on a knife’s edge. It could just as easily be caught and remembered as fade away into nothingness. Knowing this used to terrify me.
In Blue Planet Eyes I played at being the rockstar and wondered if anybody would notice it didn’t fit me quite right. In Girlhood I let my emotional child run the show, realising too late she needed the discerning guidance of a wise adult. Both are good albums, but when I listen to them I hear time screeching its nails along the blackboard. It doesn’t bend or flow. It isn’t free. It isn’t fully pinging away up there in the network.
The whole act of creating is fragile and requires repeated losses of confidence, and an almost endless, backbreaking patience – I had never considered the similarity to songwriting mothering would have until I spent day after day picking things up that my daughter dropped on the ground. It struck me as funny that I do the same thing for my songs that I do for her. She is testing the world, and so are the songs – testing, testing, they say, are you receiving us? Ideas, scraps, loops, riffs – the truth is I am always scooping bits of water into a jar while hoping for a rainstorm.
The ego and the industry might have me believe you missed your shot. You blew it. The moment’s gone. And those things might be true in one way.
What I learnt making izzi was that it doesn’t ultimately matter if some things are left on the ground. Toys and dirty spoons, hit singles and almost-had careers, even lovers and entire friendships. It is OK to let some things go.
Time is there, it springs eternal for those patient enough to keep returning to the work and to the music. And it is free.