It seems like the place where the best music is ever made is one’s own bedroom. The floor becomes a writing desk and the most private thoughts can become the lyrics to an artist’s next breakthrough release. At least that’s where it started for Isla Noon on her latest single, “Body”.
Since 2020, the rising star has been lauded as an artist with a dextrous way with words – someone who was able to experience a personal emotional release in songs made for and relatable to the masses. “Summer in August” was to be the debut that launched these secret, indie pop musings into public view and three years later, with a more refined sound and direction, “Body” would act the same. Once again delving into her personal experiences and thoughts, the powerful ballad speaks to the irks of the bodies we grow into as we get older.
“As I grew into a young woman, I became uncomfortable with the sense that my physical form was preceding those things, that the way I was perceived and treated seemed to hinge on how I looked, dressed, and carried my body,” she says. “At times, this body felt like a risky vehicle to be in.”
Embracing an eclectic taste in music in her earlier years, Noon’s musical repertoire now revolves around pop phenomenons such as Caroline Polacheck, Muna, and Troye Sivan. Inbetween, her musical education, beginning with guitar lessons at the age of 10, has stretched all the way up to university with her post-graduate years unlocking a new era for the burgeoning artist. She’s now found freedom outside of formality that has seen her become the Isla Noon she truly is: an artist constantly looking to be fulfilled by their own art.
To celebrate the release, Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with the young artist to find out more about her.
Isla Noon’s “Body” is out now.
How did music influence you in your early life?
Music felt like magic to me as a kid. Artists and songwriters were like ultimate human beings, magicians who could create sounds and performances with so much life energy in them. I wanted to do that. At age 4-5 I’d put on performances for my mum in the lounge, singing songs from the CDs we had in the house. When I was eight I saved up for my first ever CD player and also wrote my first song (I typed it up in a Word doc complete with Clip Art pictures all over it). At 10 I started guitar lessons, and that opened up a whole new world for me. Being able to write and play my songs allowed me to express myself through music like the artists I was inspired by.
What artists influenced you growing up?
It started with the CDs in my parents’ collection – lots of 70’s/ 80’s pop and disco like Elton John, Boney M. and ABBA, as well as folky songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Simon & Garfunkel. I was particularly drawn to artists who wrote their own music, which seems to be much more prevalent in pop now but felt rare in the 2000’s. As I began to develop my own sound in my teens, I was very inspired by Robyn, Queen, Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes”, and later some key 2010’s albums like Haim’s Days Are Gone and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion.
What are some other career highlights so far?
The release of my most recent single “Body” is a massive highlight, including the music video that accompanies it. I had the opportunity to shoot the video at Kingseat Asylum, an old decommissioned psychiatric hospital often referred to as the most haunted place in Auckland. It was a pretty surreal experience.
What kind of personality traits and values do you believe it takes to succeed in the music industry?
Most music, even if you’re a solo artist, takes more than one person to get it from conception to being out on streaming platforms or available for sale. Same with live shows. I think a huge part of success is being a nice person who’s good to work with and values their professional relationships. I recently chatted with someone far further along in their career than I am who echoed the sentiment that so much of it is also just about sticking it out. Building resilience and keeping your focus on your own journey, not drawing unfair comparisons to those in the industry around you. Every artist is on their own timeline.
How would you describe your music to a potential fan?
Vibrant alt-pop, lots of moody synths, shimmery guitars, and big emphasis on an emotive vocal and lyrics.
What are your goals for 2023 and beyond?
I’m working on a big project at the moment that I can’t wait to share, so mainly finishing that! I’m also based in Auckland but have never done a New Zealand tour, so that’s high up on the list.
Tell us about “Body”. What’s the song about?
‘Body’ is lush and moody with these massive choruses that kind of hit you in the face. I had this chorus synth chord progression that I’d been playing over and over but couldn’t quite feel where I wanted to take it lyrically. A while later I did a free-writing exercise in my notes app where the first phrase was “Body, what do I do to make you my home?”.
A few days later I found myself singing phrases from the “Body” note over the chord idea without really thinking about it. Almost like the chord progression had been waiting for those words or waiting for me to be ready to say them. The song is about social intrusion on our sense of self and our relationship with our bodies. Writing it felt like a way of bringing a lot of that to light for myself and reclaiming something powerful.