INTERVIEW: Isaac Dunbar

Isaac Dunbar is on a self-discovery journey that is so much deeper than just a coming of age exploration. The seventeen year old singer, songwriter and producer is writing his truth as it’s happening, and crafting his artistry through bold pop and important songs for a whole new generation. 

His recently released sophomore EP ‘isaac’s insects’ is a personal collection of honest, vulnerable and immaculately produced pop songs that dive deeper into his artistic layering. Wanting to hone his sound and get more clever and tactful with his lyrics, he’s ready to jump into uncharted waters and be quite experimental and DIY while setting his foundations. 

His recent single ‘comme des garçons (like the boys) is a hit in it’s own right and behind the upbeat and anthemic production is a important message of self-love. Exploring the gender stereotypes he’s been accustomed to try live up to, he realises that he didn’t want to do that just because “he has to”. He wants to be authentically himself. 

And this messaging is further elaborated on the beautifully penned ‘makeup drawer’ where he confronts the self discovery process of his sexuality. 

I recently chatted to Isaac Dunbar about the creative process behind the tracks ‘comme des garçons (like the boys), ‘makeup drawer’ and ‘boy’, reflected on his search for individuality and chatted about one of his recent tweets where he shared his interest in doing YouTube videos.  Check out the chat BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your second EP ‘isaac’s insects’ is out now and it’s such an honest and retrospective collection of tracks. And for the listener it gives such a unique insight to your life and inner-monologue. But how would you describe what this collection of tracks means to you? 

ISAAC DUNBAR: I would say it’s definitely my most personal body of work so far. I really tried to show off who I was in as many ways as possible through the lyricism with sarcasm, humour and vulnerability. I wanted to try to incorporate as much of myself as I could and translate that into to song to represent my image and establish who I am as an artist, especially after just signing to RCA. I just wanted be the best me I could be, and I think I did that really well. 

TB: I think you did too because this EP was really diverse in it’s own unique sonical way. 

ID: I definitely have that more pop feel with these songs but I also wanted to also have that experimental layer of stuff that I listen to in my own spare time. 

TB: Your recent single ‘comme des garcons (like the boys)’ was a song that absolutely flawed me upon the first listen. It’s such an anthemic and empowering song, and I was immediately obsessed. So do you mind explaining how it came together?

ID: Thank you so much! I wrote this song in January 2018 and it started off as just a little idea and sat on my computer for nearly two years. I got the file back at this start of this year from my old computer and I finished writing it with my friend Rory Adams who is actually from Adelaide, Australia. We made it perfect and I said exactly what I wanted to say in the coolest way possible, I think. 

The lyrics aren’t cheesy. It’s anthemic but there is still substance to it. It’s like an introspective anthem *laughs*. 

TB: There was a bit of an 80’s pop flair to the production, was this something you were intentionally channeling?

ID: Definitely! I was inspired by some Whitney Houston around that time. I had actually heard a commercial just before the session and it included a Whitney song, so I was vibing that pretty hard. 

TB: There is so many incredible 80’s pop acts! Like early Madonna, Whitney Houston, Grace Jones, Tiffany etc..

ID: Kate Bush is probably one of my favourite artists! She’s so cool! 

TB: Was the sentiment of finding individuality something you embraced at an early age or is it something you’ve honed recently?

ID: I would say that a lot of my life was spent finding who I was and bypassing what people thought I should be. 

When I was younger I would have a lot of identity crisis’s and I think that was deeply rooted in the fact that I’m mixed. In my experience when you grow up mixed you can have a racial identity crisis where you feel like you can’t fit in with the white side or the black side of your family. So a lot of that played an important part in my life while on my journey to self love and fighting for and finding out who I am. Like every single day even up until this moment right now, I really want to find out more about who I am and my psyche. I’m definitely really focused on individuality a lot. 

TB: That’s really interesting because ’makeup drawer’ is a song that immediately resonated with your listeners as it reflected on the early stages of acknowledging your sexuality. This is a track that has and will continue to help people find solace with their feelings and thoughts. So what was a media or medium that helped you during this time in your life?

ID: I would have to say that the internet was so helpful in finding comfort during that time in my life and was really the perfect escape. At times it did get a little unhealthy as I would always be on my phone, but it was really inspiring to see so many different types of people online and being apart of a community.

Like obviously be careful, but I made so many amazing online friends who were my age and weren’t 45 years old *laughs*. They were just cool gay teenagers, and I actually finally met them when I went on tour last year as I invited them to my shows and got to hang out. 

I would say that the gay teen best friend is the internet and twitter *laughs*. 

TB: It really is! It’s a such a great place to explore your feelings and thoughts. Were there any particular influencers or artists online that you gravitated towards?

ID: Yeah, for sure! Connor Franta was one of my biggest inspirations growing up. From fifth grade to eighth grade, I was obsessed with him. Like you know how he’s a photographer, I used to take photos like him and I used to have an artsy Instagram feed before I became a musician *laughs*. 

TB: ’boy’ is one of my favourite songs on the EP and that’s a track that you worked on with Dan Farber who works a lot with Tkay Maidza, and M-Phazes who has worked with Demi Lovato, Madonna and Ruel. So how did you find that collaborative experience for the track, as you do usually do a lot of your own production and writing?

ID: So that session where I wrote ‘boy’ was the first session I had with M-Phazes, and to be honest with you I was getting really antsy because sometimes if I can tell a session is going in a particular direction with a particular kind of energy then I just switch off and don’t really want to write. So it was getting towards the end of the session when I started to get all of those feelings, and then he played me this instrumental he had and I thought it was so beautiful. 

We edited it, structured it out and I wrote some random lyrics to go with it, and it ended up being the lyrics that you hear now on the song. For so long I wanted to change the lyrics and had planned to but then my team convinced me not to as they thought it was really good the way it was. 

It was really fun to work with him and I’m glad he likes my ideas because a lot of the time when I work with other producers they don’t like my ideas *laughs*. But he likes my stuff so that’s really cool. 

TB: Out of the seven songs on the EP, what one took the longest to hone and finalise sonically?

ID: I would have to say it was ‘makeup drawer’. It took SO long. I started it in May 2018 which is technically later than ‘comme des garçons’ but the difference between the two tracks is that I was opening the ‘makeup drawer’ files so frequently and trying to thinks of things to change. For so long I was stuck on that song, but a few months ago I just banged it out and got it to a place where I was really happy. 

TB: You released your debut EP ‘balloons don’t float here’ last year. So reflecting back on that release and the growth that paved the way for this new EP, what would you say was the biggest thing you learnt about yourself? 

ID: I would say that I learned who I actually am as an artist with what sound and direction I like as well as what I don’t like. I also just learnt so much more about myself overall and the aesthetic I want to sonically live in. 

I learnt how I wanted my lyrics to sound with what tone, and what sort of mood I want. And I’ve definitely become more nit picky since the release of ‘balloon don’t float here’ which has been a blessing and a curse because I feel like one of those crazy artists you hear about as I’m always changing my mind *laughs*. It gets so overwhelming to be honest. 

TB: Your Twitter feed is a bunch of very honest and candid stream of thoughts which is so amazing because I’m someone who overthinks everything I post. But one recent tweet I found interesting was that you were tempted to make a YouTube channel. So what would you want to share with people?

ID: *Laughs* thank you! My twitter feed is honestly just what the inside of my brain looks *laughs*. But that’s such a good question! I think if I wasn’t making music then I would do commentary with my opinions on things. But obviously as an artist I have to be a little careful and walk on eggshells a bit.

But if I was creating videos now as an artist then I would make videos showing behind the scenes things like production as a lot of people are really interested in that. I’ve tried to do that a little on Instagram and Tik Tok but it would be a lot cooler if I go in depth and can screen record my laptop etc and make it all official. 

‘isaac’s insects’ is out now!! Check it out HERE!