Collage 2022 05 24 12 32 10

INTRODUCING: Greta Isaac “I love the idea of sneaking in these big ideas into a pop song”

“I think I like using hooky poppy melodies. My friend Suzie actually said ‘you ‘Trojan horse these lyrics in’ and I love that!’ I love the idea of sneaking in these big ideas into a pop song.”

Greta Isaac is offering insight into her songwriting. She recently released her second EP ‘I Think You’d Hate It Here’ recently. It shows the different faces of a fast-emerging artist whose songs are brimming with massive pop hooks, a kaleidoscope of folk-tinged and inventive punctuating sounds, raw lyrics that pop out and deeper levels that you peel away on each listen. She’s a songwriter of depth, breadth and personality able to delve deep into her own issues and make them universal.

“I feel like it’s kind of sound-wise and sonically, something I’m leaning more towards and, to one extent, on something a bit more boundary-less. It’s got different sounds definitely. ” She explains “I’ve wondered in the past whether or not it’s good that I keep genre dipping. I think the things that come out are so different from the last thing that I think about. It mirrors the project quite well and mirrors who I am as a person quite accurately. It keeps it fresh for me and my audience I think, and that’s the kind of stuff I like to listen to as well. I think naturally you put out what you take in creatively.”

Her biggest brashest and boldest single yet the recently released ‘PAYRI$E‘ which has even gained Radio 1 airplay, stomps through crunchy beats, in your face synth parts, fierce Charli XCX– style refrains, demanding more of everything, the huge chorus is injected with massive shout-along crescendos. It shows another side to Greta’s fascinating songwriting.

Greta explains: “I wrote ‘PAYRI$E’ with Martin Luke Brown and Nova Blue in London last year. It’s definitely about demanding more, I think what’s really important in relationships is asking for more, I think a lot of relationships that end up in break up come from not being able to communicate. I think what’s important in your relationships is to ask for more.” She continues “I think a lot of relationships that end in breakups are from wanting something to change, but not necessarily knowing how to do that or what that change might be, so you break up and are like ‘see you later’.”

I think even though the song was quite funny and playful, the sentiment is actually quite important to me, it’s maybe not necessarily about money in particular. But more ‘I’m not going to leave you because I love you. So let’s like sort this out.'” She confides “And let’s like come to an agreement about what we need more of in our relationship. I think that through the lens of someone who doesn’t know how to ask for that is trying really hard. So then that’s the only thing they can think of besides money. It’s really fun, I feel like I write from some of these twisted characters’ perspectives. But with sentiments that are very important to me. I think funny lyrics have always been really important to me, making it accessible and making it dark humour in a way and making it blunt.”

She explains collaborating in a trusting environment with her partner Martin Luke Brown of five years, lends her a kind of perspective: they talk through their own issues and the lyrics and she benefits from his ability to condense her ideas into a concise phrase: “my partner Martin he’s an amazing lyricist so he’s great to work with because say I go off on a spiel for like 10 minutes about what I want this one line to be. So ‘maybe she can be really really stressed about this relationship and she wants to move away. She doesn’t really know how to ask for it and she’s stressed about it and if she had a bit of money that she could leave or whatever.’ And he’s like, “Cool. Yeah. What if she got a pay rise? I was, ‘yeah, let’s build off that’. He’s really good at condensing lyrics. My brain is waffly, so he can get it in one line. So I’m blessed to work with him as well!”

Releasing a run of songs since 2021 has built a growing reputation for Welsh artist Greta in the last six months, building on the promise of 2021’s debut ‘Pessimist’, which was a triumph, prompting comparisons with Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish. Each release has expanded on her knack for infusing different sounds from the folk-tinged to punchy pop with big insidious melodies.

The first EP really bookmarked things in my life that were life-changing,” Greta says. “But these new songs are more curious. I feel free from needing them to be the best songs in the world and because of that, the process of writing them was so enjoyable. It doesn’t matter what happens now; I’m just keeping my intentions in check. I think that will always make it a better experience.”

The nagging rhythms of last year’s ‘Like Me’ are an insatiable meditation on self imposter syndrome, mental turmoil, and that desperate need to be liked. The brittle introspective verses are thrown off in a bombastic release and the guitars of the chorus.  “I was imagining someone really sad at a festival who has just broken up with someone. But yeah, I love that one, it’s definitely one of my favourites.”

She explains the juxtaposition and use of sounds. “I like different types of music that helps the production, I see the sounds as a way of trying to emote something else, every sound that we use is super intentional. It’s meant to encourage another way of thinking about the lyrics or hearing the song in a certain way.”

Greta’s friendships and collaborations with fellow musicians Dodie and Orla Gartland have also had an impact on the EP’s creation. The sublime stripped-down ‘How are you not freaking out?’ echoes the feelings of many of us during lockdown, as she attempts to hold on to some semblance of grounding in the midst of the chaos of modern living, it was written with Garland. “I knew that I wanted to write something with Orla for the EP because she’s amazing.” She enthuses.

“We just sat down at a piano in the studio for a couple of hours one day. I think it came from an angle of really trusting your intuition, that something is wrong but that not being validated externally and you feel like you’re going a bit mad, and you’re like ‘I literally don’t know what to do’.” She reveals.

That can be applied to the climate crisis or all the horrible things that are going on in the world. But I feel the parallels of some horrible things happening in the world and then the fastness of Western civilization or the Western way of thinking. So I think that song was just me trying to find my place and all of it a feeling a bit like ‘I literally don’t know what to do’.”

 “When you’re a kid especially you have like, really strong intuition and you’re, like, something is wrong but you don’t know what it is. I guess it’s about being lost really, I think is the main thing” She confides “I think sonically as well it was the perfect blend for me feeling like it was a structured song, but then getting messier towards the end. When the head gets messier the song gets messier. I wanted it to feel like a rainy suburban town and I think Matt nailed it.”

The delicately devastating ‘Polyfilla‘ gradually envelopes, showcasing Isaac’s killer tone, subtle arrangements with judicious use of vocal effects, and devastatingly charts trauma and pain and how it filters through generations. “I wrote that in a cottage in Hereford. I was thinking about sort of hereditary like, pain and trauma and how it’s passed on, it was something happening to a lot of friends as well. He had started having these epiphanies about the way they were raised as a baby or how you have this structure and predictability about who you are, and your life.” She tells me “Then growing up and being like, ‘oh I don’t really align with what my family are or what my dad thought I was’, you know, situations that kept coming up in conversations I was having and with myself as well.” She explains “I just wanted to put it in a song really and I think, especially when you don’t deal with something you pass it on to your kids, maybe unintentionally. Our parents had the tools they only knew they had, and I think there’s some forgiveness there.” She offers insightfully.

I just wanted to write a song about being a child. It isn’t the answer to the problem, you know, like I’m not ‘Polyfilla’, I’m not superhuman’ and I’m not all these things I’m literally just a kid. Yeah, feeling like I’m shaking your shoulders like ‘this is all I am, I can’t offer you anything else’. So that was the inspiration but there’s lots of inspiration at the same time and I managed to get them all in.”

5’1’ is brilliantly punchy with spiky guitars, she traces the breakdown of a relationship in an emotional sucker punch. “I started writing on Matt’s guitar, I don’t know why, I knew that I wanted it to be dreamy and driving and to have swirly Beach Boys melodies. I think it’s about broken relationships and like, not being able to be straightforward and someone who’s scared to be honest.” She recalls “It’s about someone who is saying to themselves ‘Okay, I’m just gonna carry on and in hope that we aren’t friends eventually. It’s kind of like an easy out. It’s like ‘what I’m just you’re a cute friend’. Like, ‘how’d we get here”, then ignoring the telltale signs of a deteriorating relationship really? “

I wonder what Greta has been listening to lately? “Do you know Dora Jar? That’s her real name. She’s incredible. She’s from LA. She’s just on tour with Billie Eilish right now.  Her song ‘Polly’ is really sad probably. Yeah, she’s incredible, she’s such a good performer. I saw her recently in London. Like, her movement on stage is amazing. Her voice and like, she’s such a weird lady in a cool way.” Greta responds.

“I’ve also been listening to Billy Joel’s 52nd Street album that’s got songs like ‘Big Shot’ and ‘Zanzibar’ and fun songs on it. Honestly. I was really listening to that the other day. I have it on vinyl. I used to play it all the time when I was like, 17 in my room. It’s funny how when you listen to songs on vinyl you retain the songs forever. When you listen to albums on vinyl, you literally like retain it.

I think what’s really interesting is the change in the fan base, with albums, you like go out and buy a CD, you buy vinyl, and then you listen to it. And that’s it. Whereas streaming doesn’t, for me, really translate to an active audience, like if you put on a playlist and played it in a cafe or something. You know, just like on loop somewhere. But then it’s good that anyone can release music from anywhere and people can hear it!”

Creating unique imagery based on a character for each release, Greta’s visual identity is as strong as her musical one. “Suzie Walsh is my stylist and creative director. We formed this story for the EP and the project. It helped with my styling and my makeup and my hair and stuff. It helps me make a character that I can do what I want with. That helps with the songwriting as well, it’s like, ‘what does this artist say?’. It helps me have detachment from my artist project and my artist self. “

Greta isn’t an artist to stand still, she’s already planning her next move. “We’re not precious about the sound being consistent, so we literally go into a session and we’re just like, ‘let’s see’. I just wrote a couple of EDM pop songs actually. I have all these ideas about where I want to go next and what I want to do after this EP comes out. But I think just carving out a little bit more of a new sound or just going back in the studio and really playing around with sounds and concepts and titles and then creatively the same way where visually we want to take it next. I think that’s what’s really nice when you have a team of people who are invested creatively in your project. I definitely feel like it’s their product as well as mine. You know, it’s not just me, like all of these people have a say, and I love them.”

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.