ISYLA – Songs for Change on Climate
by Amy Woodburn
Just before the world went mad (or madder) in January 2020, I took the photo below. It pictures the then 18-year-old girl who had agreed to meet me, a mum in her forties, to help me hammer an action plan for my hairbrained idea that I could effect change on climate with my songwriting.
I didn’t know singer Lizzie at all really when I took this picture in the coffee shop. I had only met her fleetingly at the end of a local Extinction Rebellion meeting. I knew she was passionate about climate action and music. And that she had good jumpers (sweaters), and that was pretty much it.
That day I told her that, though I love to write, my singing sadly wasn’t up lead vocals. She said, though she loved to sing new material, she was painfully slow at getting anything completed. Spotting the obvious match, I boldly suggested: “Let’s do an album together of songs to raise awareness of climate change!” Incredibly, she agreed and ISYLA [iz-eye-la] was born.
She would have been well within her rights to pass, as looking back, I must have presented as more than a little wired and utterly consumed with my new mission to contribute something positive to the planet’s predicaments. Having ignored the enormity of the issue for too long, in September 2019, I had finally worked up the courage to face the monster. I attend an XR ‘Heading for Extinction’ talk. Horrified and galvanised in equal measure, I took part in the XR climate action in London in October, flanked by my lovely cousin for moral support.
I spent a strange, child-free, train ride up and back thinking about my very rusty songwriting skills, how ubiquitous music was in culture, and the influence that both music itself and a high-profile artist behind it can enjoy. I had recently lost my lovely mum, an avid violinist, to cancer, and I began a plot to invest my inheritance into a project to write for change.
With Lizzie on board in January 2020, I began writing like a woman possessed. I had an album down in a couple of weeks. When I heard Lizzie put her vocals to the tracks for the first time, I cried. I just love her tone and her interpretation of the melody. And quite aside from her gorgeous voice, she is a kindred soul who I have grown to hold dear. I can’t believe I was lucky enough to find her.
Where She Walks was released at the end of May last year. The single Earthling (Radio Edit) followed in June. The music spans a mixture of styles from folkier material through to shades of electro but sits within a gentle and melodic singer-songwriter genre.
The tracks on Where She Walks don’t sound like angry protest songs. I took a scattergun approach to topics and ‘ways in.’ But my overall aim with the lyric content is often to look for ways to unite people. To embrace our imperfections and appeal to the things we all have in common. The love for our children, our connections with the planet we call home, and our deepest moral codes. Is it not time to ask ourselves what kind of humans do we want to be?
We have just finished recording our next album. This time, we tried to create more of an organic sound as we recognised that Where She Walks was strong, song-to-song, but it didn’t do enough to build a sound unique to us as artists. Cue me tearing my hair out on GarageBand attempting to arrange guide tracks and six extremely fun days in the studio with some seriously talented session musicians. I think on this album, my own voice as a writer is much noisier somehow. If you want to, listen you can judge for yourselves. 😉
Where She Walks and Earthling (Radio Edit) by ISYLA are available to stream on all major music platforms. The single Only the Humans and the new album Of Blood and Star will be out soon!
All our videos so far, and links to the music to stream can be found on our website www.isyla.org (Lyrics and chords are also up for play-alongs)