Americana-pop singer songwriter Rae Isla has spent the last few years creating a narrative for her career; one that speaks to a deeply personal bond with her music that exists in tandem with her experience in the LGBTQ+ community.
Born on an island near Seattle, Isla splits her time between Brooklyn, Seattle and Mexico City and has headlined shows at iconic venues like Rough Trade and Departmento. Her past releases have tackled everything from spirituality to heartbreak, with a genre bending folk-tinged sound drenched with pop sensibility.
“Lovely Lies” is the second single off Isla’s debut full length Another Life (May 7th) and is accompanied by her most ambitious video to date. Falling stylistically somewhere between indie, pop and folk with a danceable electronic beat and a few surprises. Her vocals ring crystal clear and radio-friendly, while embracing a nuanced style that might remind you of Phoebe Bridgers, adeptly delivering clever lyrics that underscore the story arc of the song (love and deception, of course!) while remaining undeniably catchy.
The video for “Lovely Lies” was filmed in Mexico City, conceived by Isla and collaborator Claire Dub and produced by a female-led team stretching from Seattle to Las Vegas. The video is an ethereal fever dream featuring uniquely conceived choreography juxtaposed against a swirling and cinematic backdrop straight from Isla’s creative mind.
We got the chance to shoot some questions Isla’s way to learn more about her, the single, and much more.
So who or what first got you into writing and performing music?
When I was three, my mom took my siblings and I to a music store and said “pick an instrument”. I picked the cello and ended up playing for ten years. I started really singing and writing songs around age thirteen and teaching myself other instruments after that.
Give us your best elevator pitch for someone wondering who Rae Isla is and what her music is all about.
I just updated the intro of my spotify bio and I think it sums it up well: “Hi I’m Rae Isla. If you’re here, it’s because you like magical realism books, driving on the open road, and Americana music that sounds like Enya made a song with Aldous Harding at a dive bar in Montana.”
For each of the three cities you spend the majority of your time in (Brooklyn, Seattle, and Mexico City) what is one of your favorite things unique to that city?
In Seattle, how close it is to nature. You can drive to dense wilderness within forty-five minutes from downtown. New York, you can walk into any café or bar (pre-Covid) and be enthralled by the conversation at the table next to you. Mexico City has a very real magic to it. It’s the kind of place where if you want something to happen, it will happen, but also if you put out bad energy you’re going to get that in return.
Your new single “Lovely Lies” grapples with truth and deception. Was there any specific inspiration for the song, or perhaps anyone in particular that it is about?
The song was inspired by my former relationship and a dream I had. I dreamt that I took a two-year trip on a rocket ship to the sun. When I returned, two hundred years had passed on earth and everyone I loved was gone. Except for her. She was still there holding out hope for us.
The music video for “Lovely Lies” was made with a female-led team. Was that something important to you or intentional in your creative process?
In the beginning of my career it was more intentional, but now it just sort of happens, like womxn are more drawn to the project than men and I think that’s great.
Are there any hidden symbols or messages in the video, and if so, what do they mean?
The video is a journey through time, space, and memory, so the porthole we built (also called the portal, ha) serves as a transport between all three. In the scene where I’m profiled sitting in front of the porthole, you see a memory of me dancing in my old apartment where I lived with the song’s muse. If you look at the frame on the wall, it has the original artwork prints from my first EP and the song “American Paradise”. Also, a fun thing, the small frog in the bed scenes with me is actually a species of deadly poison dart frog. It was provided by my friend Sal who has a company called Dardo MX that’s an amphibian conservation and preservation program. Thankfully his frogs are bred without their poison.
How long have you been doing your “patio performances” for, and what do those shows usually entail?
I started PPs last year in March at the beginning of lockdown. Back then, I would play a newly written song every week and give myself 24-hours to produce and release it on Bandcamp the next day. It challenged me to write so much new music and kept me feeling very connected to fans. I brought the show back just recently ahead of my album release on May 7th to share the process and inspiration behind releases. I’m thinking of making the shows an in-person thing once that’s possible.
What can fans expect from your upcoming debut LP Another Life, and any other plans you have this year?
Another Life tells a very complete story. I think fans are going to be surprised by the songs they haven’t heard yet, and how connected all the songs I’ve released are. I’m starting to work on a second LP here in Mexico with producer and friend Pablo Valero of the band Santa Sabina. We decided to put together a really cool duo show that combines songs from Another Life and the new stuff. Hopefully we’ll be playing live in my three cities, and beyond, very soon.