Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Izo Fitz Roy Credit Kenny Mc Kracken
Nine Songs
Izo Fitzroy

Ahead of the release of her new single “Black Insides” Izo Fitzroy talks Kelsey Barnes through the songs that were passed down by her siblings and the tracks that are true “gospel joy.”

29 September 2023, 17:00 | Words by Kelsey Barnes

To kill your darlings is to rid the things — storylines, characters, or sentences — that don’t fit the overall theme or narrative you’re exploring.

Soul singer/songwriter Izo Fitzroy knows this phrase all too well. Her last album A Good Woman served as a masterclass of bringing all the genres she dabbles in — soul, gospel, folk, and rock — together.

Despite A Good Woman only being released earlier this year, Fitzroy is already looking ahead and giving her devoted fanbase more music that didn’t make the album. Her most recent single “Body of Mine” takes Fitzroy in a different direction than her last body of work. Equal parts gritty and soulful, “Body of Mine” was initially recorded during the sessions for A Good Woman, but Fitzroy felt the song was in a different mood and universe to the rest of the album.

“Kill your darlings, so to speak,” she says, laughing when asked about how the song and album, both released a few months apart from one another, differed. “It’s interesting to see the reaction to this song because despite being recorded at the same time, I got to see the reaction of the album itself before. I loved “Body of Mine” but it didn’t fit the theme. The album is more sombre in theme, so by giving “Body of Mine” its own moment it can have a life of its own.”

Much like Fitzroy’s Nine Songs choices that have inspired her, “Body of Mine” was influenced by American composer and songwriter Burt Bacharach, who passed away earlier this year. For Fitzroy, the song took on a bigger meaning after his passing. “It’s one of the more playful songs I wrote for the album, so now the grand album release has come and gone, it feels right to release this song,” she tells me. “This song is really light-hearted and kind of comedic, which is a bit more like my personality. It feels like I can reveal that side to me, now I've done the more pressurised promotional stuff.”

Now, after a tour across Europe that included a show at London’s The Jazz Cafe and festival dates, Fitzroy is prepping for three shows at Hoxton Hall as a guest to Tracey Jane Campbell. Before all of that, though, she is releasing another sky soaring gospel-infused track called “Black Insides.”

The track is Fitzroy at her best — bringing together a myriad of genres and reflective, poignant lyrics to tell the stories and experiences she’s either gone through or seen firsthand.

“Slip Slidin’ Away” (Demo) by Paul Simon

I've always loved the song, but hearing the demo on Still Crazy After All These Years shows there is such a purity to the song when it's just guitar and his voice. He tells these various stories that feel rooted in old America, and he seems to get to the core of how shitty it can be sometimes to be human.

For some reason, that song is the one I remember listening to in my car and welling up as I properly listened to those individual stories. Paul Simon is a genius anyway with lyrics and storytelling, but there was something about stripping it back to its original demo version. You could see how much he understands the human condition.

A lot of the producers I work with want to add strings and things, and it makes the song bigger and bigger. But there have been a couple of times where you’ve gone to the biggest capacity you can with arrangements, and it has lost that original thing. The older I get the more I love those bits, like the cracks in my voice or slight lyrical changes that go wrong. That’s the sort of humaneness of music — we're all flawed, we all make mistakes.

“Hymn To Freedom” by The Oscar Peterson Trio

I've been playing the piano since I was seven, because my grandfather was a jazz pianist. My grandfather was always hunched over a double grand piano with a pipe, and I have this shape of him in my mind and it's actually quite similar to the shape of Oscar Peterson. There's something in there that I think is nostalgic about how I would sit and listen to my grandfather playing jazz for hours.

Oscar Peterson is very emotional in his playing, and there aren't many piano players who I immediately get a sense of the depths they go to in their playing. It's very light, it's very soulful, and it's very deep. It's crazy technical, his hand span was huge, so he was able to do these grand intricate pieces. He doesn't need to show off.

I think that's what I like about this song. It's very spacious, and I think that equates to how he feels about the civil rights movement [what the song is about]. He's got the capacity to go completely crazy and play all of these incredible things, but he just doesn't need it.

“Healed” by Donald Lawrence

I sing in a gospel choir in London. “Healed” is a song where it’s a full choir and it keeps going and going and going. It's got a real groove and sass to it. It feels a bit cheeky compared to a lot of gospel - which is very serious or a bit cheesy at times. I love cheesy gospel, but this is sassy in a way that brings you in as a listener, in a playful and conversational way almost.

I’ve been singing in my choir for 20 years and I love it. It’s challenging at times because you’re learning a lot of material, so you’re jumping around and learning different harmonies. I think it's made me a bit more adept at technical singing, but that's why I bring a lot of gospel music into my own music.

I just find it the most beautiful uplifting thing ever. It’s more than singing with 40 voices — when the harmonies are right, there's nothing better. It hits you in a different spot than any instrument or arrangement of instruments.

“Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin

I was going through thinking of these main songs for this feature, and it's just so hard because of trying to narrow it down. I was thinking there was a lot of gospel, but I remembered how my brother - who is eight years older than me - would always be passing cassette tapes and CDs to me when I was at school.

He’d tell me what the new, cool thing to listen to was and he introduced me to Led Zeppelin. I just loved it so much because it's so theatrical and his voice is so brilliant in a completely different way than I've ever heard. “Over The Hills & Far Away” is quite folky and has a whimsical beginning that draws you in.

I'm really into my folk music at the moment, I think it's something about the intimacy of telling you a really small tale and then it just goes completely batshit, into almost a full rock opera.

“Lover, You Should've Come Over” by Jeff Buckley

I’m the youngest of five and this was a sister recommendation. I was obsessed with Jeff Buckley as a teenager, because he's just so handsome and romantic and everything. It's just a man with a guitar and that voice. It's the rawness of Jeff Buckley — there was so much in that voice that tells a whole story.

I feel like there are always so many different emotions going on, and that's what draws you in. Sometimes it feels quite raging and sad and desperate at times. You could listen to it 80,000 times and not get sick of it, because there’s poetry in the lyrics and it’s just so romantic. There’s this intimacy, of feeling like he is talking to you.

The imagery of the song too — “Looking out the door I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners/Parading in a wake of sad relations as their shoes fill up with water.” It’s just genius and pure escapism.

“Wholy Holy” by Aretha Franklin

I love this song because the album Amazing Grace is pure gospel joy. It's really haunting and beautiful, and she sounds the best. This is her most vulnerable performance, because I think she's singing to God and singing in front of her dad who she's quite scared of. There’s something about the nervousness and vulnerability that got me from the record, but when you watch the film, you can see how crazy it is.

It's in this Baptist Church in California with Mick Jagger, who must be in his early 20s, with Charlie Watts at the back. The gospel choir are wearing sequin waistcoats with amazing 70’s specs, singing quite out of tune but very, very passionately. Aretha comes up and she looks beautiful, and she’s so exposed in this song, as she is pleading to God.

BEST FIT: You seem to really lean into songs that are vulnerable and intimate performances

I'm pleased you pointed that out because I've never really thought about that. It definitely is with certain artists, there’s always an emotional depth that I love. When I perform live, I try not to think of the crowd being a blob that I’m performing to. I try to make it as intimate as I can in my head.

“Down On the Corner” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

I love Creedence so much that if nothing happens with my music career, I would be quite happy just starting a Creedence cover band. This song is such a vibe and a headbanger. You can tell they're all having so much fun recording it and playing it.

What I love most about it is that it's so laid back and they channel bands from the deep South despite not actually being from there. The song takes you into that swampy territory. They had such a good imagination and such a good way of taking you into a completely different environment that they weren't even a part of.

“Giving Up” by Donny Hathaway

This song was originally a soul song that crossed over into pop, which is interesting to think about. There are so many different genres nowadays. I feel like a granny, like I have no idea what new wave is!

Especially back in the ‘70s, there was lots of gospel crossing over the more that it became commercial. Soul was kind of a new alteration of gospel in a lot of ways, just like rhythm and blues.

When people ask me the type of music I make, I always tell them funk and blues, because all of them are. They all stem from the same place really. Rhythm and blues is a great umbrella for that style. With something like “Giving Up,” there’s a lot of classic influences he’s used and it never boxes itself into one thing.

“17 Days” by Prince

I'm sure this isn't going to be a surprise as to why I picked it. If you're talking about intimate performances, this is the one. The fact he tells the sound engineer at the beginning to turn up his mic is so good.

I love Prince, he is the King. As he's singing this incredibly intimate song, you can imagine him in a very dark, blacked-out studio. It’s just him and the sound engineer. I felt like that was just a one take to show what can happen with just one man with an insane voice and piano skills. That, to me, is the golden stuff. That is what I aim to get when I record a song.

It probably was just a throwaway for Prince, because he’s filled with genius ideas and he’s just riffing and embracing the groove. It's not a proper song form and he’s showing us that it doesn’t have to be a pop structure. He just thinks that he’s going to do exactly what he wants.

“Black Insides” is out now. Izo Fitzroy plays London’s Hoxton Hall on 6 October

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