GENRE: Folk, singer-songwriter
ESSENTIAL TRACK: “Better Metric”
FOR FANS OF: Phoebe Bridgers, Noah Gundersen, Donovan Woods
The self-described “bright gloom” music that Isabeau Waia’u Walker is writing is unapologetic and thought-provoking. It holds a heavy weight, yet it reminds us of the flickers of light that we can cling to amidst the darkness.
Walker, a Hawaiian native, has been sharing songs for over 15 years, with many of those years spent creating an online presence and community via YouTube and Patreon. Her embrace of online platforms, performing experience, and dedication to her songwriting craft established a space for the singer-songwriter to think more about sharing her original music and covers with a live audience as well as building relationships with other local artists. So while Walker may be new to many people, she’s far from new to songwriting and gigging. Her powerful presence and composure, coupled with the authenticity of her live show, are a testament to that, and provide an explanation for the maturity of her debut EP, Better Metric.
After 11 years of being a high school social studies teacher, Walker left education last year to put her energy and focus into becoming a full-time musician. Taking the leap gave her the opportunity to play more solo gigs around the Pacific Northwest and to join one of Portland’s most beloved bands, Y La Bamba. This also allowed Walker to spend time on the road with her friend and mentor, Luz Elena Mendoza, Y La Bamba’s leader, and it gave her the proper amount of time to think about recording and self-releasing an album of her own for the very first time.
After a season of touring, Walker joined her Y La Bamba bandmate Ryan Oxford in his studio Color Therapy Recording to start laying down tracks for Better Metric. Oxford not only produced and engineered the album but also contributed guitar and percussion to several of its six tracks. He was able to capture the authenticity and energy of Walker’s solo shows, while incorporating full-band elements (provided by additional players Nick deWitt and Andrew Jones) that contribute to the narrative of Walker’s thoughtful storytelling.
There’s a grittiness captured on the recordings that is complementary to some of the record’s themes, maybe best represented on the EP’s title track—a song about carrying inaccurate burdens and experiencing self-realizations about being able to genuinely care for another human being, even if you do not agree with what they think or what they believe in.
“‘Better Metric’ as a song feels like a jump towards freedom. Not a freedom from my responsibilities or commitment to others, but rather a freedom to enjoy who I am fully,” Walker tells. “I believe in every human’s worth, but for years I believed that meant I had to diminish myself wholly to elevate another.”
It’s a powerful part of the creative process when a singer-songwriter starts to settle into their own skin, or when one has the wherewithal to shed their exterior to further reveal the voice inside of them, and to be unafraid to share that voice.
“This EP feels like a blooming, another rite of passage, a sigh of relief to be joyful in my own skin. I have not arrived—don’t think anyone has—but I am rooted and have invested in growing a sharp mind and a soft heart and that just feels good and right,” Walker says.
The vulnerability forged by the songs seems to be the result of Walker’s intent and patience. The lyrics offer humility, growth and connection to the core emotions people deal with on a daily basis. There is tension, there is peace and there are melodies that will keep you wanting to hang on.
UPCOMING RELEASE: Better Metric out April 26 on all streaming platforms