Student Interview: Isaiah Joyner

MBET sophomore Isaiah Joyner’s debut EP Wild Visions releases tomorrow at midnight.  The eight-track project was recorded in a weekend and was entirely produced by fellow MBET major Ethan Ziegler.  I sat down with Isaiah to talk about the EP, the process of creating it, and where he wants to go next.  Here is the edited transcript:

There’s some songs on Wild Visions that cross the boundaries between hip-hop, R&B, and even pop in certain moments. Would you describe yourself as a singer or a rapper?
I’m a vocalist. The technique you need while singing also applies to rapping–breath control, energy, presence, et cetera. I feel like ‘vocalist’ is the best term to describe my ability to accomplish both.

Why did you choose this particular name for your EP?
The name was in my head since high school. It fits my first project, since I’m experimenting a little outside of the mainstream box, but now looking back, I can tell there are more wild visions then I expected.  I have a lot of ideas.

How’d you decide on a single?
“Broke Days” and “Velvet Lemonade” were the two biggest songs, but I wanted to keep one in the tuck, so one would pull people in and one would keep them there. Originally we were gonna have “Velvet Lemonade” be the single, but I wanted to take a risk and hold onto it. The original beat for “Broke Days” didn’t have that really lush guitar and it had totally different drums, so after I heard the new version Ethan sent over during the mixing process, I really thought it worked and fully decided on which track would come out first.

What did you gain from this experience?
I realized how the recording process really works. It’s totally different from freestyling somewhere or singing an idea in my head. The time is really important but I’m really in control of every element as long as I use my time wisely.  I have to make sure my idea is captured and a lot of that goes along with the people I choose to work with.

What are you hoping to gain with the release of the EP?
I want people to see my growth and versatility as an artist. I get to show different sides of my artistry and I can zoom in on any one of them depending on what the people like and keep creating.

The outro, “OD Prologue”, is really heartfelt and personal.  What does that name mean to you?
I called it a prologue because it was the end of the EP but it felt like the beginning of something bigger. That sounds really cliche. But that song was only the beginning of an emotional journey through life I see ahead of me.  It felt as though I had to say something pertaining to my personal feelings, and I try to do that in every song in certain ways, but the sonics we got together for that record made me feel like I had to tell y’all something important.

Who do you want to dedicate this to?
I’d say my close friends in my hometown, Piscataway, NJ, cuz they’ll know what I’m talking about more than anybody.  They saw me freestyling in marching band.  It’s dedicated to the people who saw me coming up.

Anyone else you want to shout out?
Huge shoutout to Sam, the engineer. Big shoutout to Ethan too, his creativity as a producer brought a bunch of ideas to the table. BJ and Tyreke both had great features. Also my close circle who got the project first, and my family, of course, last but not least. They kept telling me not to doubt what I made.

What’s your favorite song on Wild Visions?
“Velvet Lemonade”.  It came together in the spur of the moment. The hook came first, but I had no verses written or planned. BJ was in the room with us and he had crazy energy so I said “why not?” and he hopped on. He contributed a lot of energy and effort and the whole first half turned out great. Then I wrote the second bit with the beat switch to keep it really mellow and let the beat work.  There was room for a second verse on it so I wrote that and delivered it in the span of an hour. Finally, Ryn Hearing, who was there with all of us, suggested we call a friend so I called Tyreke and he did that outro on the spot, no rehearsal, no script. We just told him to talk about life.

Stream Wild Visions on all platforms tomorrow, October 5th.

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