IZZY Bizu’s feet have barely touched the floor since she signed to Epic Records last year.
The talented young Londoner has toured with Sam Smith and Rudimental, was shortlisted for a prestigious Brits Critics Choice Award, and performed showcase gigs from Mexico to Germany. Now she’s en route to Ireland for her first concert here and you’ll forgive her if she is slightly wide-eyed and breathless. Right now, her life is one endless rollercoaster.
“I’ve always loved singing,” says Bizu, 21. “In school I didn’t know whether it was a hobby or something I could make a living out of. All I knew was that I was always going to be involved in music, in some shape or form. Initially I saw myself more as a songwriter. I thought that might be my future.”
She enjoyed performing for friends and family. In front of a crowd, though, Bizu was beset by self-doubt. She came to realise that she needed to prove herself before an audience — which is how she came to participate in the Iluvlive open mic contest in London three years ago, before a crowd that included Emeli Sandé and producer Naughty Boy. She placed first in the event, previously graced by Ed Sheeran and Maverick Sabre. It was an enormous boost to her self-belief.
“It helped hugely with confidence,” she nods. “I never saw myself as a singer until then. That was the start of this amazing journey. I still get nerves before going on sometimes. Nerves are good — it helps your performance. I would never want to be totally without them.”
She has featured prominently in the annual round-up of artists regarded as likely to strike it big in the year ahead. In addition to being shortlisted for the Brits Critics Choice Award (in the end won by one-man Mumford and Sons Jack Garratt) Bizu was long-listed for the BBC Sound Of Award. Industry watchers, in other words, perceive her as a sure thing. “It is important,” says Bizu of recent acclaim. “I’m just happy to be considered. But it’s cool and incredible to see your name up there.”
As for any possible pressure — with her debut album more or less finished, she isn’t feeling it. The hard work is done. Now the smartest strategy is to enjoy the huge opportunities opening before her. Whatever happens happens. All she can do is keep her gaze fixed on the horizon, her shoulder to the wheel.
“The record is called A Moment Of Madness and is due to come out in June. I worked with loads of people in terms of musicians and producers — including Johnny Rockstar [Alicia Keyes, Sugababes]. By the end we were one big family.”
Bizu grew up in south London, the son of an Ethiopian mother and English father. She cites Ella Fitzgerald as an early inspiration and, as a teenager, was hooked on Amy Winehouse and Adele . Her own music blends soul and upbeat pop — as demonstrated by her lilting single ‘White Tiger’ (680,000 YouTube hits and counting).
She certainly received a warm reception touring the US with Sam Smith last summer. Bizu relished performing in front of big rooms — and was also impressed by what she saw of Smith. For all his accomplishments he understood it was important to keep grounded. In that regard, he was the perfect role-model.
“I really admired him and looked up to him for all that he has achieved,” she says. “Every time he played I got goosebumps all over. It was incredibly inspiring — especially when he turned out to be really nice in person. He was definitely a good example to all of us.”
Izzy Bizu plays Sugar Club Dublin on Saturday. The Coolbeanz EP was released last year.
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