Catching Up With Izzy
In every test, there’s a testimony. A few years ago, I purchased Izzy’s first album, In Awe of You. Izzy’s personal tests contain a unique testimony, one that offers a glimpse into the faith of a man who has experienced trials that some would consider insurmountable. Izzy has overcome homelessness and depression to make what he refers to as “life music”. His hard work as a singer, songwriter, and producer paid off, as In Awe of You stayed on the Billboard Gospel chart for 27 straight weeks in 2006. Since then, Izzy has continued sharing his testimony through motivational speaking engagements and he is also working on his second album, which he expects to be released this fall. I got to catch up with Izzy and he shared a little about how his personal experiences have shaped his music and ministry.
Mimi Soul: What are some of the things that inspire and influence your music?
Izzy: Everything that I’ve been through – the struggles, tribulations, trials, upside and downside of life. Those things keep me grounded and they help me focus on what everybody else is going through in everyday life. I call my music “life music” and I like to touch on the things that are real. I’m very transparent through my lyrics. I don’t think there’s any song that I’ve done that I have not experienced myself. So, life is what inspires all the music. And, of course, the fact that the Lord keeps everything balanced. Without Him, we’re nothing.
Mimi Soul: You’ve said that your music reflects your ministry. What aspects of your personal experiences do you want listeners to hear in your music?
Izzy: I would say the willingness to press. While I was recording on the first project, I was sleeping on the floor in the studio sometimes and then getting up and recording. I was sleeping and recording in the sound booth because there was one point when I was homeless. And, some would say, “Dude, you’re crazy.” but I knew I had to do this. I have the understanding that the quicker I get through the storm, the closer I’ll be to the promise. Some may say that millions have already tried what you’re doing and failed. But, just because people have tried it and failed, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to. Those people aren’t you. You have to have a willingness to press.
Mimi Soul: I noticed that you’ve written a few Motivational Moment blog segments. Each of them contains the phrase: “Take every moment and work it, live it, be it to the fullest.” Could you explain how you came up with that phrase?
Izzy: Deitrick Haddon and my manager pulled me to the side and said, “You are the moment.” The word also ministered to me and told me that I’m the gate. If I don’t properly position myself, some may not get the message. When I say that phrase, the most important part is being the moment to the fullest. It’s about doing things by design, not by default. I’m designed to be a worship leader and that’s who I am. I don’t just make music. I am music.
Mimi Soul: I also noticed that each of the Motivational Moment blog posts ends with “Izzy – That motivational guy”. Do you consider yourself a motivational guy?
Izzy: Oh yeah. Here’s a transparent moment – during one of my struggles, I had to take 3 jobs at a time and one of those jobs was as a bouncer on the LA strip. But I tell you, even there, people were crying on my shoulder. I was encouraging people because when you are the moment, people will recognize who you are. And people who didn’t even know me would call me “preacher boy” or “choir boy”. There were moments when I had to work crazy parties and even then, people would still be like “ok, what do you do? You shouldn’t be here dude. What’s going on?”
So, yes I do consider myself that motivational guy. Right now, that’s something huge for me. I feel empowered and I’m always the motivator. I’m at the point where I do it naturally so that’s what launched the motivational speaking thing. I did my first speaking engagement this past week. It was just beautiful to speak to high schoolers about life and mix a music element with that. It was a great experience.
Mimi Soul: I have to ask you about Destiny, which is one of my favorite songs on your album. I especially like the verse that says “I may not understand everything I’m going through, but every step I take has been ordained by you.” What are some of the things that you have found to reflective of that verse as you move toward your destiny?
Izzy: Doing a 12-day tour in the UK and still having to come back and put on the same bouncer clothes. I didn’t understand it at the time but I knew I had to pay the bills. So, I took on 3 jobs. The paperwork from the label wasn’t done properly so I wasn’t getting any royalties. Everything was going really bad. But, I could still walk into a Best Buy and see my cd on the shelf. And, 2 or 3 years later when my cd was still on the shelf for $13, that told me somebody is buying it because the value of the cd wasn’t going down that much. So, I’m doing the math and I’m like “This doesn’t make sense.” But, I kept reminding myself that all things, every single thing, works together for the good. And, that was reflected in those lyrics.
Mimi Soul: Given all that you’ve had to go through to get your music out there, at what point did you realize your dream was actually coming to fruition?
Izzy: I had actually been signed twice before and I had been through that whole process of getting ready for an album two other times. So, it hit me after In Awe of You was released and I went on tour. It also hit me when the album debuted on the Billboard Gospel chart and every week it was still on there. That’s very rare for gospel because there are like 18,000 gospel groups out there and everybody sells cds. So, to be able to maintain the Billboard status for 27 weeks was a beautiful thing. When I saw that, and the tour dates came and people were calling, I thought “ok, I guess this is real. Let’s keep on going.” That’s my answer to everything. If it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be. If it’s not, we’re just gonna keep on rolling. I never try to get too excited about anything. I just maintain my faith.
Mimi Soul: I noticed that you wrote the majority of the songs on your album. Can you describe a little of your writing process?
Izzy: I really don’t have a process. Sometimes, I’ll listen to the track and I’ll start flowing. For instance, New Life was completely freestyle. I didn’t even write the words down. I have to do songs in the moment. It has to be something that’s fresh and real. There are times when I’ll write the song beforehand. And, there are times when I’ll just get behind the mic and freestyle. Whatever is real to me in that moment is what I want to capture.
Mimi Soul: Are you working on any new music? Can we expect a second album from you in the future?
Izzy: About a year and a half ago, I did a collaboration with Da’ T.R.U.T.H. on his Open Book project called I Need You. I’ve been trying to build relationships with some other artists but I won’t name them just yet. But, the new project is coming. Some of the tunes are on MySpace and will be on iTunes soon. The first single for the new project is called Heaven (not the same Heaven as the one on In Awe of You but another one). It’s going to be life music and I’m hoping to roll it out around the fall of this year. I pray that it’s relatable and everyone can identify with it.
Thanks for sharing with us Izzy! You can purchase In Awe of You on Amazon and iTunes and you can read more about him by visiting his MySpace page.