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Give It A Try, go see Izzy Heltai

After the release of his new piano and trumpet laced pop EP "Day Plan," Boston based artist Izzy Heltai is headed for Iowa.

Izzy Heltai is focused. On touring. On lyricism. On his reading list. It fuels the specific kind of wordplay he uses in his songwriting. His lyrics, he says, are "100 percent very blunt," and he does that on purpose.

“Songwriting for me is like if I’m processing a thing. I don’t generally write unless things are happening to me. This is a tool I use to process the ways I’m feeling,” he says.

Blunt, but also playful and beautiful, is a great way to describe his new EP called “Day Plan (5 Songs For The End Of The World).” The clever realism in his writing is just so relatable.

“I don’t trust myself/so what/what good would a God do now?” *insert feels here* “I told my neighbor I was lonesome/Pete, I said, half-hearted/I’ve tried to set up my furniture like a grown ass man lives here.”

Keep listening to the EP, and you’ll get to the track “Beauty Queen.”

“I got this girl/this beauty queen/she knows that I can’t breathe/her hold/my neck/my shoulders arms and neck/she plays me like a tambourine/I don’t think she means to be that mean.”

I felt these lines in my SOUL.

Heltai is coming to the Raccoon Motel in Davenport on March 18 with Liza Anne. He talked with IPR’s Lindsey Moon in preview of the show about making the switch to pop music from his folk roots, his hair, and what inspires the wordplay that’s trademark to his sound.

On your Spotify, it says that your mom is waiting for you to stop bleaching your hair. Tell me more. Art hair is all the rage. Do you have tips and tricks?

HA! No. You can go to Spotify for Artists and put in whatever you want, and I realized I was the only person holding me back from just putting whatever I wanted. I do bleach my hair. I’m also like losing my hair at the top, so I’m losing my hair. You know what a baby falcon looks like when it first wakes up? That’s what my hair looks like day to day, so I generally wear a hat.

What inspires your lyric writing?

I think I’m really fascinated by wordplay generally, and really vivid imagery. I really like things to be concrete in my songwriting. I want when my words are laid out to not sound that clever when you’re reading them. I want the cleverness to come in when they are threaded together melodically and sonically. I read a lot, and I read a lot of stories, a lot of young adult fiction, and a lot of children’s fiction as well as fantasy and sci-fi. As I gain a vocabulary and verse myself in stories, it probably comes from that.

Do you have a book you recommend right now?

Zadie Smith is my favorite novelist of all time. I think the way she crafts narratives is beautiful. Looking back at what I’ve recently read, I’ve been reading some New York Times contemporary best sellers. I just picked up “No One is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood. Also my fun read right now is "The Hobbit;" I realized I’ve never read "The Hobbit" but had read "The Lord of the Rings."

Have you been to Iowa before?
Funny enough, I have had many years of “touring” in many funny ways. Since I was like 18, I’ve been playing around. When I was 19, I randomly did a Daytrotter session, and we did a wacky 12-hour drive to be there for two hours and then we left. I did end up in Davenport for that. It was along ago, and it was a much different sound. This was in 2017, and is, in fact, still up.

How would you describe how your sound has changed for people who have seen that set?

Over the pandemic, I really started digging into pop music and of the different types of music that I’d ever listened to, it really gave me a love for indie rock. And now that I’m with my band, it’s the only thing I want to be doing. It’s also fun to be doing fun music. I don’t know that my music is really fun, but it’s a lot more fun than it was.

Who was the first person who introduced you to a piece of music you couldn’t stop listening to?

Definitely my dad. My mom loved Joni Mitchell, The Allman Brothers Band, Jimi Hendrix. And my dad from an early age realized that a way we could connect was through live music, so he got me really versed in the idea that people just go see random local bands all the time.

Wherever we went, we would just look at the newspaper listings and see what was playing in town, the local calendar, and we would just go to that. I think it instilled in me a love for music and for performers. It wasn’t like the glamour lifestyle that you see when you see local shows. It got me used to the idea that there are so many different ways you can build this as a career.

What can we expect from your show at the Raccoon Motel on the 18th?
Liza Anne - the headlining act - is awesome. From us you can expect fun. We’re pretty loose up there and we’re there for a fun time.

Lindsey Moon served as IPR's Senior Digital Producer - Music and the Executive Producer of IPR Studio One's All Access program. Moon started as a talk show producer with Iowa Public Radio in May of 2014. She came to IPR by way of Illinois Public Media, an NPR/PBS dual licensee in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and Wisconsin Public Radio, where she worked as a producer and a general assignment reporter.