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Why Izzy Bizu Is The Sound Of 2016

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Izzy Bizu must have been the only person in the country who was surprised by her Brit Critics’ Choice Award last month. "I was pretty shocked to be honest. I just wasn’t expecting that at this stage," explained the 21-year-old. Having been discovered at 18 (a time she describes as "so long ago") at an open mic competition, Izzy went on to release her first EP, Coolbeanz and support Kardashian-Klan favourite, Sam Smith, on tour. Fresh from opening for Foxes on her UK tour and having just finished a series of Coffee Shop performances, I’m amazed to find her vertical and smiling.

“Supporting Foxes was so fun. Playing at Heaven was a highlight. I’d never been there before. I’d like to go to a rave there one day." I’ve read about her passion for partying and I’m trying to imagine the girl before me, currently tucking into some health foods, at a rave. "I’m really boring now. Back in the day I was always raving; deep house warehouse raves, any electronic stuff. I’m just more into jazz bars now," she blushes, "I’ve evolved into frequenting old man bars. I like to chill with a nice glass of wine and play table tennis or something." I ask if that’s how she unwinds. "Table tennis? Yeah man, I love it. I live right next to this bowling alley in North London, called Rowans, and they snooker, karaoke- everything." Obviously I have to enquire what her karaoke song of choice is. Lauryn Hill's "Doo-Wap" she shoots back. "Some strangers actually dragged me into the karaoke booth the other night. They have no idea who I am, so I’m enjoying it, and they’re shouting ‘come on it’s my birthday!’ so I start singing Katy Perry and I’m thinking, 'Lord this is so high, how does she manage this?' Like trying to reach the notes for 'in my skin tight jeans'. It was so much fun."

So is karaoke a regular past time? "It was my first time ever doing karaoke and if you’re a singer it’s stressful you know, you’ve got all this pressure on you to perform." So is being on stage in front of thousands of people just as stressful, because if her Later With Jools Holland performance from September is anything to go buy, she looks pretty damned chilled. "I’ve not always felt comfortable getting on stage, I think it’s something that’s grown with me. I still get really nervous, but I breathe, I meditate. I need to be on my own for a good 20 minutes with no one rushing around. I just chill and have a cup of tea with a drop of Rescue Remedy." She also skates to let off steam. "I learnt to skate on a penny board two years ago. I skate whenever when it’s not raining. I love how freeing it is. Although, I almost cracked my head open skating down a hill not long ago."
Bizu who grew up in Barnes, a rather sleepy nook of South West London, often goes home to visit her family, who are evidently bursting at the seams with pride. "My family ask me to sing down the phone, at like nine in the morning, all the time. I’m like ‘Oh my god’. Sometimes my neighbours play my music upstairs. They’re this really young couple who are so in love. It’s so sweet." I ask if she misses the quiet pace of suburban life when she’s on tour. "Barnes is like the countryside. It’s so green, outside my house is the biggest field. It’s like Narnia, I do kind of miss it, but I guess the grass is always greener, but I mean I’m about to go to New York for New Year’s Eve to surprise a friend so I’m pretty excited."

New York will be a short break before she begins promoting her new album A Moment Of Madness. What can we expect? "It’s about my experiences and growing up and moving out. It’s very personal. My favourite track is "Mad Behaviour", it represents who I am. It’s the most honest song I’ve ever written." The lyrics of which are quite obviously about a special someone, so when I ask who she’d take out for dinner if she could pick anyone, dead or alive, she laughingly responds "Marvin Gaye" who I know is an idol of hers. "He’d have to come back, like young though," she teases. Her oeuvre is undeniably romantic so when she tells me her influences (Amy Winehouse Nina Simone and Leon Bridges) I’m not surprised. It’s almost becoming cliche to describe Izzy’s sound as honeyed, soulful, eclectic and really quite hypnotic, but, it is. Will the next instalment sound much the same? "It’s a real mix, but yeah my sound is pretty consistent." Is she looking forward to getting back on the tour bus with her five-man band? "I’m so excited. It’s a headline tour, I’m doing set design for it. I like to get as involved as possible." A headline tour is a big deal; I wonder if she’s feeling a sudden pick up of pace around her. "No I feel like it’s been a long time running, which I like. I’m a slow burner."

If she wasn’t a singer she tells me she’d be "studying psychology or poetry", before quickly changing her mind. "Actually we did a session in Google once and it was such a dream. There’s a cycling machine and as you cycle you make yourself an orange juice smoothie. There are sleeping pods! So, yeah Google if you’re reading this - hire me." Somehow we can’t imagine Izzy will be in need of a job anytime soon. 2016 is very much hers for the taking.
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