By: Seamus Fay
In the era of the internet, due to the vast availability of resources that we can all gain access to with a few clicks of the mouse, it never fails to blow my mind just how able we all are, regardless of seniority. Artists in 2018 are blowing up at remarkably younger ages as compared to artists, say, in the early 2000s, and in all truth, it only makes the level of talent more impressive — but that’s not to say that the bar is lower. In fact, it’s probably the opposite, as many younger artists need to fight even harder to be taken seriously at times.
Easily one of the most talented individuals in MA, Graduation Music favorite Isaac Dunbar is the perfect example of this. The Barnstable native is just starting high school, but with a level of artistry far beyond his years, it goes without saying that Dunbar is ready to take on the spotlight, one song at a time. His addictive, heart-led cadences mix with incredibly mature songwriting abilities in ways that few artists are capable of doing, subsequently allowing for the creation of a catalog that holds its own against any artist out there right now, regardless of age.
We had to make sure we spoke to Isaac Dunbar about his background, inspirations, age, and much, much more, because the truth is, talents like this only come around once in a long while. Read our full conversation below.
Hey Isaac! To start, when and how did you first get into music?
Hello Seamus! I got into creating music when I was nine years old! When I was younger, I was a Lady Gaga superfan. She just announced her album ARTPOP and some of the producers she was working with. One of the producers she announced was this French artist named Madeon, and I decided to listen to his stuff. I remember hearing his song “Technicolor”, and I fell in love with dance music. I remember going to my local Barnes & Nobles and illegally torrenting Fl Studio 10 — at the time that was what Madeon used. I taught myself how to produce through various YouTube tutorials and trying to recreate my favorite songs. I eventually branched off of electro music when I was 11 and started to write lyrics and develop my own sound.
What are three albums or artists that you would cite as the inspirations for you deciding to make your own music?
- Worlds – Porter Robinson
- ARTPOP – Lady Gaga
- Clarity – Zedd
If you directed your own movie, what would it be about and why? What actors/actresses might be in it?
If I were to direct my own movie, I’d want it to be about something kinda scary, but not too scary to the point where it becomes concerning. I know I’d want it to be like a claymation movie, like Coraline. Coraline has been my favorite movie since I was like, 6 or 7. But I’ve always wanted to make a Coraline sequel, so maybe the movie I would direct would be about her life after the events in the previous movie. I’d love to have someone really random to be a voice actor, like Nicki Minaj or something. I think it would be kinda funny.
You tend to hold back on dropping a lot of music. Even now, you only have a few songs out and yet you’ve already come so far in terms of finding an audience and a fanbase. What does “quality over quantity” mean to you and how do you operate as an artist when it comes to deciding when to drop music?
Something that can be a good or bad quality about me is that I am an extreme perfectionist. Ever since I was a young kid, for example in art class, I had to make sure my project was exactly how I envisioned it in my head, and that takes time! If I were to drop a song that I was not 110% proud of, it would be very hard for me to expect the possible millions of people listening to it to also be proud of my work, and that is very important to me and how I want to present myself.
How does it feel to think that even at such a young age, you’ve been able to grow into an artist with tens of thousands of people paying attention to you? Does that ever affect the music you release or the way you move on social media?
It feels terrifying, but in the best way. I definitely have to be more careful about what I say and how I want to people to perceive me. It’s not like I can just have my socials be like public spam accounts where I rant and post memes and indirects like most other 15-year-olds can do. I have to choose what I say wisely so nothing can haunt me in the future. The person you see me as on social media is 100% myself though. There are many artists who sometimes have to hold themselves back on social media to preserve their image, and I agree with doing that to a certain extent, but it’s also very important to show the world a little bit of who you are.
Based on your Instagram, you definitely seem very interested in fashion. Who are some of your favorite designers and in your mind, how does music go hand in hand with fashion?
Some of my favorite designers are Joyrich, Chanel, Opening Ceremony, and Balenciaga. Fashion can play an extreme roll in music. For example, Billie Eilish wears the most baggiest clothing in the world and looks like a 90’s rapper (in the coolest way possible), yet she has the most mature, feminine, and refined voice. Having that contrast is honestly the coolest thing in the world to me. It kinda psychs people out, seeing the 90’s rapper clothing with such a beautiful voice. When that contrast is there, it makes the listener more drawn into the artist.
Especially in the age of the internet, it seems like the artists that are popping off are only getting younger and younger. Do you think about your age at all in the way that people perceive your music or even you as an artist? Or does it not really affect what you make or how it’s received?
Something that I’ve noticed about people, especially workers in the music industry like A&R’s and stuff, they are more impressed with someone young (15-16 years old) making something really cool, than like a 20-year-old making something really cool. I think that’s so weird. Being my age, this generation has been exposed to a lot more than the generation back in the 80’s, for example.
Look, I literally illegally downloaded a music production program when I was nine years old, and now I’m kind of an artist at fifteen! Now if that doesn’t say something about the world changing, not only in music, then I don’t know what will. This whole age dilemma kind of affects what I make, because I want to be taken seriously. I don’t want to end up like some teenage heartbreaker with an audience that only consists of 12-year-old fangirls, you know?
What inspires you when making music? How do concepts for new songs pop into your head? Is there one main source, or multiple sources that spark creativity for you?
Sometimes I can be watching a show and a word might be said that can inspire me. I remember watching American Horror Story a few years ago, and writing a song based on the episode I watched. Some of the best songs that I’ve written are written after I pray for inspiration, believe it or not! Sometimes it’s the chords that I might be playing that will conjure up a mood. Oh! I remember around January 2018, I was wearing this sick outfit, and I remember that outfit literally inspiring me to write a song. Inspiration can source from anything, if you open up your mind enough.
Lastly, what can fans expect from you in the near future?
I just filmed my first music video for my first *official* single that will be coming out very soon. It’s gonna be on every music platform, so be ready for that!
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