Isaiah Firebrace chats to Young Dapper about his hot new single & how the events of 2020 helped him get to know himself better…
It’s been hard to miss Isaiah Firebrace since he first caught Australia’s attention as the 15 year old winner of The X Factor Australia in 2016. His Winner’s Single “It’s Gotta Be You” went Platinum and has been streamed over 257 million times!
Since then, a whirlwind rise to fame has included International exposure as Australia’s entrant in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final in Kyiv with his track “Don’t Come Easy” finishing in a commendable 9th place. He also spent much of 2019 on a 55 show Australian tour, travelling to remote communities and mixing his time between performing on stage and conducting Aboriginal Youth Mentoring Programs.
He also recently featured on The Masked Singer Australia as “The Wizard” to fan’s delight.
It would be easy to forgive such a rapid rise to fame at such a young age for creating a sense of entitlement but as we found out during a wonderful 30 minute chat, Isaiah Firebrace is anything but entitled. The most streamed First Nations Artist on the planet, is a man with the world at his feet and a determination to lead through positivity, caring and a passion for young people.
Perth Musician Young Dapper sat down for a “Dapper Chat” with Isaiah on behalf of Around the Sound, to discuss the launch of his new single “Know Me Better”, a catchy Pop Ballad, with deep and introspective lyrics that is brought to life by Isaiah’s soulful vocals.
As a man that has spent his adolescence in the public spotlight and the pressure cooker of the music industry, it turns out the forced lockdowns due to Covid-19 in 2020 have given Isaiah a rare chance to pause, reflect and learn to find himself and that is certainly something that is apparent in his latest track.
YD: Congratulations on “Know Me Better”
IF: Thank you very much, Yeah I’m really excited to have this track out.
YD: Your production levels in the track are really incredible, really crisp and clean, did you mix that yourself or were you working with a team?
IF: I worked with DNA from Sony, so like they are an amazing production team. It’s so true, when I went into the first session with this song, they had that production kind of set, like as soon as I heard the production with no lyric or any melody I was like Yes! because it’s mixed so well, you’re right. I fell in love with it.
YD: Your vocals are so strong in all your music but I can sense that you are really starting to find yourself and taking off now in the music scene, it’s awesome.
IF: Thank you, I appreciate that. I am finding my voice in terms of the style and sound of music that I want to do. It’s interesting that you say that it’s still a powerful vocal because I felt like I was holding back so much on this song. Usually I’d be going for it and singing so much more higher notes and doing runs and riffs all over the place but I think that was the beauty of this, it felt really balanced, the vocals, the lyrics and the production. It was very wholesome I think.
YD: Exactly, when I say powerful, the emotion in the song is so deep, it’s like you should know me better than this. You don’t have to sing that high, to hit a powerful note. The fact that there is so much emotion and body within your lyrics and what you are trying to say to people and say within the song, that’s where the power really came from. Your melodies just sat really beautifully throughout the entire song.
IF: Thank you, I love working with DNA, we always have good chemistry in the studio and we did this over ZOOM so we were using this virtual software so I was here in my home studio recording here but it was coming up on their computers as a live stream in Sydney. Super high quality vocals were being done in different parts of Australia virtually, so I was just praying, like if my WIFI crashes I’m not going to get this take (laughs).
YD: It’s so good to hear that you do that because that inspires me to know that there are opportunities out there where you can actually record in isolation and places that are far away. I know that you’ve got a very big heart for the people in Australia that are Indigenous communities that are isolated. Was this something that inspired you with the lockdown that you can now still collaborate and communicate with people in remote communities and still inspire them like that?
IF: Yeah, I didn’t even know it was possible to, that there was software out there that allowed you to do that. To actually record an actual professional demo type song, so it was new to me but it really gives me some ideas to yeah, in the future be working remotely with people and even with my own career, I don’t have to pay for a plane ticket to America and spend all this money, I can just do it in my own home (laughs).
YD: Especially with where the world is at nowadays, you can create high quality, world class content and you still be at home.
IF: Yeah so true, I can stay in my pyjamas and don’t have to worry about it (laughs).
YD: So with your music, obviously with the X Factor and Eurovision, just before lockdown you did a 50 show tour, that’s incredible! Can you tell me how that impacted you because you’re obviously going around impacting a lot of people, a lot of Indigenous people too…
IF: Yeah, so a huge part of my identity is my culture and who I am and my Aboriginality, it’s my DNA, it’s who I am.
So the tour last year, yeah it was a long tour, it was about 3 months, it was about 55 shows, to be honest with you, it was a big number of shows and a big number of events where I was going into communities and working really hands-on with the community and especially it was very youth-based and I would hold these workshops, prior to my concerts later that night where I would talk a bit about myself, a bit about my journey and where I’m from and some of the lessons that I have learned to get to where I am today as a young person and a young Indigenous person.
It was very much around the topic of, no matter where you’re from or who you are or how difficult your circumstances are, you are really in charge of your own choices and you can really make your dreams happen for yourself, kind of like I did so yeah, that tour was so special to me because I got to connect on that ground level basis and just connect with my people and see places in Australia that I had never seen before and it was just really good for my identity as well and my cultural experience as well and I really needed that. Good for the Soul!
YD: Did you go to Roebourne, near Karratha?
IF: No, we didn’t go to Roebourne, we went to Karratha though, but I don’t think we went to Roebourne.
YD: Roebourne is the little Indigenous community just outside Karratha so they would have all probably come in to see you and hung out.
IF: It was like a 50 day tour I can’t remember all the names (laughs) I know we definitely did Karratha because for one of my single shoots we actually photographed in front of the big red, they have these huge red mountains and “Spirit” which was song for the “Spirit & Beyond Tour” and writing that song “Spirit” in early 2019 really was the catalyst for the tour and that song was really about identity and about connection.
That’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to connect with people so that was like the theme song for it. But anyway, yeah we saw amazing towns and amazing communities like Karratha and yeah it was good to see that part of Australia.
YD: That’s awesome, it’s so good that you are doing that because you are a natural born leader and you’ve worked hard to get to where you are but the universe has really allowed you to do that. You are a natural leader, did you accept that responsibility coming into this or have you always had a desire to lead and impact?
IF: I think I kind of grew into that because starting off in this industry and just even a few years back when I was younger, like as a teenager, my self-esteem and my confidence wasn’t that good so I was still working myself out but I definitely grew into realising that like the kind of responsibility that I have with this platform that I have and also just like working with youth.
Back at High School I used to study being a teacher’s assistant so I’ve always had a love for kids and youth engagement and education as well. So it kind of all worked out for me but it was something that I definitely grew into for sure because a few years back I couldn’t even get up on a stage and sing when I was younger because I was so shy.
YD: It’s so incredible to see how far you have come and they say diamonds are made by a lot of pressure and I reckon you’re a diamond so you’re gonna impact a lot more people too, this is just the beginning.
IF: Thank you, thanks bro I appreciate that
YD: I appreciate the effort and work that you do, I lived in Karratha for a couple of years and my dad was a Pastor of a Church up there and we worked with the Roebourne community and honestly it impacted me a lot seeing how much you can actually change lives just by being there and talking to people.
So when I hear that you are going up there and it’s the same as when Stan Walker did his tour, when he first hit the scene it was incredible so good on you! I’ve got a question about “Know Me Better”, what inspired you, was there a certain specific thing or somebody that took you to that point or is this metaphorical?
IF: Yeah this song, it’s not like a personal anecdote from a relationship that I was in no, but probably, I guess, we have all been in these relationships where there’s mistrust so there was that kind of personal aspect but as a songwriter and as a creative, when we are in the studio, we don’t know what we are gonna come up with (laughs).
On that day it could be about politics, it could be about love or happiness or partying or having fun so when I’m in the studio there is not really a plan, it’s just kind of whatever flows naturally but the way I truly connect with this song is the words “Know Me Better”.
I feel like I really do know myself better now and I feel like I’m coming of age and this time in isolation has been really good for me to really get a new perspective on myself and myself as an artist and really take in what’s happened in the last few years.
It was quite overwhelming actually, like early this year when we were first in lockdown, I had a this free time, like all this spare time to myself and I was like (head in hands) Oh my god, what do I do, do I just go and be normal for a few months, which is what I did actually, I just stepped away from music and asked myself a lot of questions.
I used the time to just set some new goals and really get a new perspective and I feel that a lot of growth happened which made me really excited and this song really, really shows that.
YD: I love the fact that you said that you learned to know yourself because it’s so true that you learn to know when to say and not to say things, you learn about yourself in experiences and even though you’re singing about an experience, it’s like you are looking at the mirror and it’s about you and it’s so good that you can sit down and write a song and you are experiencing it from both sides.
IF: Yeah, that’s the beauty of music, there are so many ways to interpret things and songs mean different things to different people and yeah it just adds that deeper meaning why I love the song so much because it is personal in that type of way of knowing myself better and being proud of who I am.
YD: When do you think you really learned to love yourself?
IF: I’m still so young, I’m 20 years old and there is so much life journey that I still have to go on. I’ve always had a strong sense of self and I think after going, just quickly, through my first relationship, now I’m at a point where it’s so important to recognize that first you need to love yourself because you have to love who you are before you can spread that to everyone else.
I think definitely this year has been a big year for me personally to really realize who I am. It’s been a bit emotional to be honest and yeah I’ve always been proud of who I am and I’ve always known who I am but certain things I’ve had to face also personally this year with my upbringing and how that had an effect on me. So I’ve realised a lot about myself and yeah I feel really confident and I am happy.
YD: That’s so good, I know you’re the sort of person that’s gonna make a change, whether it’s one person’s life that you come in contact with or when your on stage and it’s that energy that you put out to people, it can change people’s lives because you have been through stuff in your own life and people are going to relate to that. Even if you don’t say that to them, they are going to feel your energy and they are going to relate, so you are going to make a massive change bro, I really feel inspired by you.
IF: Thank you, it means a lot. I know that in time, I do have a story to tell and I’ll get there in time but I feel like people are connecting with me at the moment and with my music because it’s coming from a true and honest place and I sing with heart and I sing with meaning and you’re right, when I’m at a show, I give so much energy out and I can really see people connecting and it makes me feel really good so yeah, it’s great that I’ve had success already because it just makes me excited. I know I have so much more to say and so much more to give out to people.
YD: How long did it take from when you started music to get to a point where you could say this is really what I wanna do?
IF: I feel like this year, is the first year for me, for that because the first few years I was on the show (X Factor) and I won the show and I was thrust into Eurovision and I was focused on that and then you know, I was really caught up with the whole whirlwind of it all.
Obviously, just being young, I was just in it, I think anyone would get caught up in all that. That’s why this year was so important because I had to have that time to really just sit and reflect on all that and what it meant and what I learned from it and what it actually means to me as an artist. So yeah, those first few years were difficult for me to understand really what this industry is and what does it take to be successful.
I learned a lot about the industry and it takes more than just a good voice and good looks to make it.
You’ve gotta have a story, You’ve gotta have a heart and be humble and be who you are and be unapologetically you and I felt like I couldn’t be that in the past because I didn’t really know myself but I feel like this year I’m definitely beginning to come into my own and it’s so exciting and this song release is definitely where it is going.
There is a lot of pressure in this industry and there are times where I feel like I have to be someone who I’m not because other people feel like that’s where I should go and other people have other agendas with your career because they have gotta make money out of it, I dunno, there is heaps of stuff but I’m at a point where I’m getting confident just to be unapologetically me and if you don’t like it, well there is nothing I can really do about it you know, I just gotta be myself and make the music that I love.
It makes me really excited and I feel proud to be at that point because I know it takes a lot in this industry to really be yourself and you have so many other people telling you “you should be this” or “you should be that” or “we don’t like your music, it doesn’t sound right” so I’m finding my feet and at 20 years old I think that’s a big thing.
YD: Especially with your mentality and the way you speak, at 20 years old man. There are a lot of people just doing the same thing and not standing out. The way that you are breaking out and the way that you are leading, you seem like a man of many more years that’s for sure.
IF: Thanks so much, yeah I give props to my dad. My dad is an amazing guy and he has really made me the person that I am today and my team now, my music team, the people I have surrounded myself with they’re good people too, so I have surrounded myself with great people so I guess that’s the way I am because of good people. It’s so important to have great people around you, who you can learn from.
YD: It’s so cool that you mentioned your Dad, because as young men, it is so important to have a role model, father figure that can lead by example and help you and grow you. I was very lucky to have a dad that loved me and really, really be a good example to me so having a father there by your side will help with how strong a leader you’re going to be because you have someone there to help you turn you into the man that you are.
IF: Yeah my dad is a huge fan, he is my biggest fan (laughs) he’s so cute (laughs).
YD: So obviously being based in Melbourne, you are in lockdown, what’s planned for next steps?
IF: Well, we are in talks to release more music later this year. Actually, this morning I had a meeting for brainstorming. I’ve got so many songs on my phone, so many demos, so many songs that are unreleased that I have gathered up over the last 3 years.
Probably, I’ve got 30 or 40 songs I think that I could release so we were just brainstorming this morning with my management team, what songs would be cool to go out and just trying to work really with my record label to get a strategic plan in place to release because there have been really dry spells in my career where I haven’t been able to release music and I think it’s all about consistency and I just want to keep feeding my fans, so yeah new music is on the way which I am super excited about.
Moving into next year, I’ll definitely be writing some brand new fresh material, kind of in the “Know Me Better” realm of things, urban, moody R&B. I feel like people are going to live it to be honest when I start putting out the music that I really love and connect with and that I would listen to.
YD: I’m excited for what you are gonna bring! Who is someone that has really influenced your music?
IF: So, I grew up with my dad and my brother and my dad was a huge fan of rock and roll music and country music, my dad was born in the 1950’s, he’s like pretty old (laughs) so I was brought up on really old school rock and roll music like The Eagles, Creedence, The Bee Gees, Elvis, The Dire Straights, so I didn’t really grow up listening to Pop Music or RnB Music and definitely not Hip Hop Music, my dad did not like Hip Hop Music and Rappers and stuff like that.
So in the past few years, I’ve had to go on my own musical journey of discovering the music that I love. In the past few years, I’ve only just got into listening to some of the greats that probably the rest of the world have known about for ages.
People like Chris Brown, Usher, Bruno Mars, Mariah Carey, Baby Face, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Quincey Jones. There are so many, but I’ve had to go on my own self-discovery of the music I love in the past few years and I feel like this year is where I have really made up my mind about the music that I have fallen in love with.
YD: It’s funny, I feel like I’ve had a very similar upbringing to yours from a musical sense. I was raised in church so I didn’t really listen to any kind of popular music.
IF: YES! That’s the part that I left out, I grew up singing in church! So when I was 3 years old I started in church and I would be singing every single Sunday with my Auntie who was the lead singer and her 2 children and myself would be the backup.
So we would be doing the harmonies and I loved it, it was awesome, I loved singing in church. My faith has brought me so far in my life just with all the struggles and things I’ve been through, but also just having that emotion when you’re singing.
I don’t know, it kind of just gives me an edge to really connect with my songs because I guess when I’m singing in church, you know you’re like singing to God so you just put your heart and soul into it. That’s something that I have just brought through with my music, singing with heart and soul and just singing with intention.
So yeah, I had a church upbringing and that’s why I wasn’t allowed to listen to Pop Music & the Hip Hop Music because it was the devil’s music (laughs) although now I listen to the lyrics of some Hip Hop and I’m like, that’s why dad didn’t let me listen to it (laughs).
YD: I agree, we need more people like you coming on the scene, who can write beautiful music and it doesn’t need to be derogatory and it doesn’t need to bring people down and break people down and talk to women that way, you can actually build people up and inspire. You are going to inspire a generation, I believe that for myself too, I want to change people’s hearts because that is missing you know?
IF: Yeah 100%, I wanna be that difference and have that difference in my music where there is actually real stories behind them and actually a real meaning behind it. Yeah I might release a song about being in a club and having fun and dancing because everyone loves to do that but then another track that I will release is about having hope and making it through your struggles.
YD: You have such a great presence about you and I’m inspired by you and I’m looking forward to seeing you shine.
IF: Oh that means a lot, thank you so much I appreciate it. Great chat and thanks so much for having me. Oh and I love your hair too! (laughs).
YD: (laughs) thanks man you too, I was like I gotta have it out, he is gonna have his out (laughs).
IF: Next time we chat, I’m hoping mine will be longer! Thanks again for the chat man and talk soon!