By RYCH McCAIN
“There weren’t a lot of Black people, honestly,” said singer, Laura Izibor, from her hotel room in North Carolina, when asked what it was like growing up as a young Black woman in Ireland. “Now I think, in a way, it was a blessing …because I really (learned) to see people and not colour. And the more I travel, the more I realize that.”
Izibor, who has been dubbed the “Soul of Ireland”, will be in Toronto this Friday, opening for India.Arie at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at the CNE.
The 22 year-old singer of mixed parentage – White mother and Black father – is one of five children her mother raised alone. With more pressing issues at hand, her childhood home in Dublin was hardly a musical one. Still, after being introduced to American soul music, Izibor became hooked on the likes of Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and others.
By age 13, she was playing the piano and writing her own songs. Shortly after winning the highly regarded “2FM Song Contest” in Dublin, she obtained personal management and signed with Jive Records at age 16. Then, in a move that would make most parents cringe, she left high school, packed up her life and moved to New York City – only to have the record deal fall through. But her risky decisions proved to be the right ones, as Izibor finally ended up with Atlantic Records and embarked on the four-year trek to create her debut album. The result: Let the Truth Be Told, will be available on this side of the pond next month.
Izibor didn’t hesitate when asked about the type of audiences with which she prefers to work.
“I think the audience is already there,” she said, referring to the India.Arie audience.
“By doing these performances, when you see the reaction and the bond, I think India and I definitely tap into a similar type. Honestly, when you have that real stripped down soul that India also has, it’s just one person to the next.
“You know it’s going from her straight to that person. And there will be a certain type of person that will be drawn to that and want to come to your show because they want more than just to bump their heads. They want to connect. They want to cry and they want to feel.
“I don’t like specifics and what age group, what ethnicity or whatever but definitely the type of people that want to experience music in its fullest and they want to really, really let go and just get wrapped up in the music for that night.”
Izibor says she tries to keep a balance between doing an acoustic show with just her, a piano and a guitar as an opener and doing shows with her full band as a headliner.
Having already sold out shows in Ireland, it’s only a matter of time before everyone else catches up. In the meantime, “The Soul of Ireland” will continue to draw in new audiences one city at a time.
Photo by Kayt Jones