A fresh, 20-year-old face in the music industry, Isabel Dumaa is here and ready to make her mark. The Bay Area native met with me to discuss all things music (both hers and others), writing, inspiration and to celebrate the release of her newest single, “Always Leaving You.”
Patti: To start off, I want to get to know you and your music a little bit better. Where did your passion for music come from? And was there a defining moment that sort of made you be like, ‘Yes, I want to pursue this.’ How did you come to that conclusion?
Isabel: I mean, I joke that I literally came out singing, but I feel like I kinda did… before I could even talk, I would just be trilling like all the time. And the second I could talk, I was like, ‘Mom, I want to do chorus. I want to do X, Y, and Z’, like it was just always there, so I don’t know. I grew up in a very music-loving household. Neither of my parents are musicians themselves, but I don’t know if it was just because there was always music around, I don’t know what it was. But I just was always like, this is exactly like it, this is so much fun… this is what I want to be doing all the time.
And then I discovered Taylor Swift when I was 5. I realized, ‘Taylor Swift writes songs, Taylor Swift is a popstar. Oh, this is actually something like I can do’. And so it just kept growing and growing and growing.
The first time I ever performed on a stage was at this talent show at a summer camp. And looking back, I think I sounded horrible. But everyone was like, ‘oh my God, you’re so good’. No. I literally, like, I held a microphone, and I looked down at the floor the whole time. But I got off stage, and I was like, ‘I just want to do this for the rest of my life, this is the best thing that’s ever happened!’
Isabel: So I mean, I’ve just been singing my whole, whole, whole life. I started writing when I was really young. I’d say, yeah, as far as a defining moment, I think that the first little performance was definitely a start.
Patti: That’s so cute. Kind of piggybacking off of that, you mentioned Taylor Swift, but also I wanted to ask where you draw your inspiration from lyrically and sonically… so any other musicians that inspire you a lot, or even just things that inspire your writing daily. But obviously you’ve been doing it for a while, so it seems like a practiced skill.
Isabel: Honestly, I grew up with my house always filled with music. I have two moms, and one of my moms is very much into folk music so The Tailors, Bonnie Raitt, all of that. So I grew up with a lot of that, and then my other mom loved like, Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday. So I think… there is definitely a little bit of that influence in my music, more sonically than it is lyrically.
But those are definitely my roots. As far as now, I mean definitely I love Taylor. I love Gracie Abrams and Lizzy McAlpine. And then I’ve been really trying to get into poetry. I think the more time I look over other people’s words and appreciate it, the better that I get. I’m just trying to consume as much as I possibly can, because the more that I have, the easier it is produce.
Patti: I love that, yeah. And I also think, too, especially with poetry… and reading and stuff like that, I feel like the the more you consume yourself the easier it is to be inspired by other things too.
Isabel: One hundred percent. And just to be like, ‘Oh, my God, that was phrased in such an incredible way,’ then it’ll spark something else and connect.
Patti: Yeah… an artist I really like one time posted on Instagram Stories being like, ‘Oh, I hate that poem about killing the spider, that makes me feel bad every time I see a spider’, and it’s that kind of thing where, you’ll hear or see something in writing that impacts you for so long… So it is super fun, too, when you know you have that opportunity to sort of grow on that, and do that for other people.
Awesome. So, I also wanted to touch a little bit on your newest release that’s coming up… tell us a little bit about what inspired this new song, and any upcoming goals you have for your music that hopefully this will contribute to.
Isabel: So this song, I actually wrote it in 2020. Which, in the moment, it feels like forever ago and not that long ago at the same time… I just got out of a relationship in 2020, like pre-pandemic, and so [that] prompted a lot of songs. This one in particular, I wrote it about honestly the flip-side of the relationship. I know for me personally, I feel like so many [songs] are written about ‘you broke my heart,’ ‘you weren’t enough for me,’ X, Y and Z… which I’ve experienced, I know most people have. But then I also found myself in this relationship where I was like, ‘I’m not ready for this relationship. I know I’m not giving, I know that I’m the problem in this relationship.’
So that was the inspiration behind “Always Leaving You”, which is the name of the song; where they’re giving all that they can… and I just can’t give it back. I know that I’m the problem, I’m well aware, but I can’t seem to figure it out, and I’m really sorry. So that was that was the inspiration behind that song.
We kind of sat on the song for a little while. The pandemic made things complicated. We went and we worked it a little bit over the years and I’m really excited. It just landed in like a wonderful place, and I’m so excited with how it’s sounding. I feel like it matches the sound that I have now, and the sound that I’m trying to follow.
As far as goals, I just really hope to be able to continue to grow my career (I mean, of course). I want to play as many shows as I can. I’d love to get a spot on some kind of tour, and I am working on an EP right now.
Patti: That’s awesome. Well, it sounds like you have a lot of good stuff coming up and my fingers are crossed for you! That’s awesome. And on an offshoot – are you seeing Taylor while she’s in LA?
Patti: That is exciting! That’s going to be an insane show. I mean, I don’t live in California, but when you go to a show in LA, I feel like you see so many different people while still feeling such a communal spirit there. So that’ll be so fun.
Isabel: It is. I’m excited. Are you a Taylor fan?
Patti: Oh, yeah, of course, of course. I haven’t seen her on this tour though; It’s just been so hard to get tickets, and I’m like, I don’t know if I’d have it in me.
Isabel: Yeah, I was on Ticketmaster… I was having a panic attack. Nightmare… I understand that.
Patti: Exactly… But okay, cool. So kind of on the theme of inspiration and artists you like; Just a fun little question: what is your go-to song or album to listen to in the car when you need a little pick me up? And what would you listen to if you needed to feel sad and maybe wallow a bit?
Isabel: There are so many and this may a curveball, but it’s just an album that for me, just like oozes happiness. Kacey Musgraves’ earlier country album.
Patti: Oh, I love that. I can see that, too, because I feel like your music kind of has some of that folksy sound, but also sort of follows the line between pop and country.
Isabel: I secretly (not so secretly) do love it… It’s not like my most listened to album, but if I’m in need of a good mood… I’ll just throw some country on and I love love love Kasey’s writing- it’s incredible. So if I’m just driving, I’ll throw that on.
Patti: Yeah, for sure. Perfect vibe.
Isabel: Now, if I feel the need to wallow…
Patti: Yeah, like, if you’re just not feeling it. I feel like there’s so many good break-up sad songs. I also have a hard time sometimes feeling the vibe that was originally written for the song because sometimes my favorite sad songs are songs that aren’t supposed to be sad, but are just associated with like a sad time in my life, or like something like that, too.
Isabel: I’m trying to decide…
Patti: if you have multiple, I’m not gonna I’m not gonna cut you off.
Isabel: There is so many. I’m going to my sad playlist…
Oh! I mean, okay, like, Noah Kahan’s current stuff. I will sob my way through that whole album. Also, “Funeral” by Phoebe Bridgers just gets me every time.
Patti: She’s a Pheobe girl!
Isabel: “She used to be mine” from Waitress. That’s another one that I think like that one just hits so close to home, and I love that song, and if I need a good cry in the car I’m turning it on.
Patti: Love it. Well, just to wrap it up a little bit – What are some important things that new listeners or fans should know about you? You have these new singles, and this new phase of your career is starting, so what should we all know when we’re listening to ‘Isabel Dumaa?’
Isabel: I think first, [to just know] about my music… My music is a hundred percent coming from me. If I’m writing, I’m writing about me, or I’m writing about someone I know. I’m just writing in the most truthful way that I can, and most honest to myself. I think, as far as expecting things, be prepared! We’ve got a little bit of versatility. I don’t know if that’s the right word but… we’ve got some like head bobbing stuff, and then some just honest, slow songs which I feel like is the duality of me. It’s just the highs and the lows. So yeah, I think just be ready for a little bit of all over the place. But it’s all from me, so it’s all in the same vein.
Patti: Yeah, no, that’s so awesome. And I think it’s always interesting to get to see when an artist can hit that versatility. You know, there are some times where artists are known for a certain thing, and then they get stuck in that loop, so it’s cool to be able to bring that in early, too. So you get to build your sound, too.
Isabel: Yeah, I’m hoping to establish it in the best way that I can.
Patti: Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, thanks so much for chatting with me!
“Always Leaving You” by Isabel Dumaa is out now on all platforms.
Interview by Patti Doud