Independent pop/worship singer/songwriter Izzi Ray (daughter of Crystal Lewis), released her sophomore album Make Much Of You a couple of weeks ago! Full of heartfelt and poignant worship ballads, explosive and upbeat rock numbers, as well as slower paced worshipful melodies, this album is one of our favourites of 2014! I had the privilege of interviewing Izzi via email recently, about the new album. We discussed the album, what she hopes listeners will experience when hearing the new songs, as well as her goals and dreams for the year ahead. Check out the interview below.
1. For those who may not know much about you, can you give us readers a glimpse into your life story, how you became a Christian and how you started in music?
Hello! I’m originally from Southern California but moved to Northwest Montana when I was ten years old, so I consider myself a Montanan. I was raised in a Christian home, and I grew up on the road watching my mother (Crystal Lewis) perform. God got a hold of my heart very early, and throughout my childhood and teenage years He continued to reveal himself to me more and more through His word.
2. Was there any pressure to follow in your mother’s footsteps when you decided you wanted to pursue music? Crystal signed to a label and released plenty of hits right form the word ‘go’, is this something that you hope happens in the near future?
No, in fact my parents always encouraged my brother and I to try lots of different things, from ballet to karate to piano lessons, but music made sense and became a necessity for me. I’m currently signed to my parent’s label ‘Metro One Music’ and they have helped me release two records so far! Can’t wait for many more!
3. I love your new album Make Much Of You, and I love the fact that it’s very worshipful and overtly about Jesus! Can you tell us about recording this album and how God guided you through the process? How was it like working with Blaine Stark?
Thank you! It was such an incredible experience to create this record. At the beginning of the process (and all throughout) I prayed that I would be transparent and that God would give me His words and melodies. Once I let go of the reigns, songs started pouring out and plans started falling into place. It was so awesome to work with Blaine Stark. He’s crazy talented and we co-wrote about half the songs together. He really brought these songs to life and was essential in making this record happen. I flew down to LA to work with some insane musicians we hired, and then Blaine flew up to Montana where I did all of the vocals in my house.
4. Can you tell us the highlight of recording this new album? What is the one thing that you hope listeners can gain when they hear Make Much Of You? If there is one song listeners should check out first, what would it be?
One of the highlights for me was getting to work with such talented musicians. Watching and listening to them play on my songs was such a treat and so inspiring. I hope that by listening to Make Much Of You, people will hear the truth in the lyrics and understand. Definitely listen to the title track ‘Make Much of You’. It perfectly sums up the theme of this record. It’s all about using our lives and our unique gifts to make much of Jesus, not ourselves.
5. The album contains some of my favourite songs from you, inclusive of the lead single “Heaven Is your Throne”, “Ezekiel 16”, “Something New” and “Still Hope”; what did each of the 10 songs mean to you as you were recording it?
God ministered to me through each of these songs during the recording process. It is such an interesting paradox to be comforted by lyrics that I prayed would comfort others.
6. Has there been a recent song that has been ministering to people on the road, and what are some of the encouraging stories you have heard from the impact of your songs (on any of your albums you’ve recorded, or on this upcoming album)?
‘Something New’ has actually been the song that was most well received. I always love when people tell me that God used a certain song to inspire them, and I love hearing stories that my music has inspired kids to start writing songs and playing guitar! So cute.
7. For those who may not have listened to your style of music before, who would you say you sound similar to at the moment, in the CCM industry, so that potential listeners can know what to expect? Personally, I reckon you have a worship/rock sound similar to Brooke Fraser, Kari Jobe and Lauren Daigle!
We worked very hard to create a unique style and sound for this record and I think we achieved that. I was listening to lots of different records during the recording process from artists like: Arctic Monkeys, Kimbra, Chris Lizotte, Jeff Buckley, Brooke Fraser, and Ryan Adams. So I think you can notice little things from each of them that inspired this record in different ways.
8. Both musically and lyrically, how does Make Most Of You capture the experiences of yourself throughout the last few years of your musical journey? As you move into what God is calling you into next in your Christian music career; is there anything you hold onto that God has spoken into your life?
This record is very autobiographical and very panoramic of this particular season of my life. I wrote about everything, and I wanted to be very honest and real. I dealt with pride, arrogance, anger, loss, love, humility, longing for more of Jesus, etc. A verse that I have clung to throughout this process (and will continue to cling to) is Hebrews 12: 1-2 “Let us strip off every unnecessary weight and sin that so cleverly entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, looking away from all that will distract from Jesus.”
9. Are there any artists/writers/producers you would like to collaborate and compose music with in the future? Is there any artist or band that you admire within the music industry currently, either as a spiritual mentor, or someone you ask advice from?
I would love to collaborate with Brooke Fraser, Kimbra, and Ryan Adams. As far as a spiritual mentor, my mom has been the person that I go to with every question/concern/problem/prayer request. She is legit. And my uncle Chris Lizotte. He is the most incredible songwriter and worship leader. Every time I hear him I just want to cry! I would definitely consider him a spiritual mentor.
10. If anyone reading this interview wants to move into the music industry, what would you say to them as advice- how would you succeed in the industry with your values intact?
First, if you want to be a songwriter, write as many songs as you can. The more you write/sing/play the better you will get. Second, if you want to perform/lead worship, take every opportunity you can get. Third, pray. Ask God to reveal His will. If this is the path He has for you, He will prepare you and open doors that He wants you to walk through.
11. Any artists you have toured with in the last few years that have impacted your life the most? Any new tours you are excited for in 2014 and beyond? Any artists you’d like to tour with but haven’t yet?
I have not had the chance to tour yet, but we do have some exciting things in the works for 2015!
12. Which of your new songs are you the most excited for in terms of playing it live at concerts?
Ah man, I’m so excited for every one of them. They are all so so fun to play live!
13. For anyone who is reading this interview and is feeling discouraged or down, either because of something in their life currently or something spoken over them, what can you say to them?
Whatever has happened in your life… God is ALWAYS in control, and there is ALWAYS hope. Trust Him.
14. Is there anything in your life that keeps you grounded and places things in perspective as you travel and create music? Is there any song, or Bible verse, or even famous quote that reminds you about why you do what you do and why you chose music as a career and ministry?
Consistently reading the Bible is the biggest thing for me. It brings comfort/correction/guidance/and inspiration.
15. Is there anything else that you would like to add that hasn’t been covered in this interview yet? Any parting words, and encouragements that will impact the readers of this interview, either from your own life or from others around you? How can fans stay connected with you via social media?
Specifically, I would like to say a few words to the aspiring artist. Don’t compare yourself or your work with anyone else. You are unique and God has given you a gift to use to make much of Him. So use it!! Have fun with it!
Be sure to check out Izzi Ray’s new album Make Much Of You in stores now! Read our review of the album here!