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10 Questions with | The Isle Of CC

Hailing from Milton Keynes, alt-soul artist The Isle of CC is a gender-fluid being of many talents. In addition to her/his own music, she/him is a radio host, director for the MK Fringe Festival. Director at Wordplay Magazine and writes music for television. Indie Boulevard spoke with The Isle Of CC about brand new EP "Void", jazz music and her/his personal emotional state.

EP "Void"

IB: CC, I just finished listening to your new EP and I still get impressed. First of all, I congratulate you on the release of your creation, and secondly, I would like to ask how it happened that it took almost four years to release it?

СС: Thank you so much. I appreciate it! Hahaha ooo what a question do you have 5hrs? There were alot of different reasons I would say the main one was definitely focusing on other music areas and gigging too. Which didn’t involve writing or recording music much at the time. I bought a keyboard during lockdown to try and learn some more and gain inspiration. In terms of day to day I used to have a 0 hour role and had a second job. I quite them both and I took on a full time job for the first time in years, just before the covid. So trying to navigate and juggle a few things, time was just passing me by. There were definitely moments I became frustrated, don't get me wrong I feel like lockdown was difficult for us all. I do think that it was the right timing for me so much has changed for me in four years and I am so glad that I waited.

IB: Listening to the "Void" — and I mean this as a high compliment — I had so many times goosebumps. Your passion in “Little Black Dress’”, your emotions in “Friends”; the way you dramatically change the voice, How long did it take you to achieve such a result in terms of vocals?

CC: Oh wow such kind words you’re making me blush and everything haha. Little Black Dress vocally I had some help from Josh Payne he’s an amazing keys player. I remember him mentioning to me that in choruses to stay at the same volume as the verses until the end of the track. However, have the BVs lift off in the chorus. I instantly realised the vision that he had and hoped that it would translate to the audience as well. “At its core, the song is about the fantasy of a relationship, but not truly being in one. I’ve written the lead and backing vocals in such a way that the song ebbs and flows between fantasy and reality. The experiences that led to ‘Little Black Dress’ taught me growth not only as an artist, but as a human being. I felt that ‘Little Black Dress’ should be the single to lead the ‘Void’ EP as it represents the middle of my journey, not quite being happy alone, but also not sure I wanted to be with anyone else. It seems to be the stage that people don’t often sing about, it’s either ‘I’m so lonely’ or ‘fuck everyone I’m fine’... I hope that it will resonate with listeners in that middle ground, I think it will!”

“Friends” isn’t truly about me. While it does deal with the difficulties I’ve faced as a mediator in other people’s arguments, the core hook is sung from those parties' perspective. It plays on the schoolyard ‘I don’t want to be your friend anymore’ insult,and uses tempo changes to try and explain the chaos of people fighting within a friendship group. From my perspective, this is the song where I felt I came out of my slump, and thought ‘if everyone wants to behave like this, I’m just gonna focus on me’, and that was liberating. ‘Solitary’ was an extremely difficult track for me to write at the time. It’s a raw account of the personal heartbreak I faced when some of the people I knew had acted poorly and started behaving differently. The over compensation in their behaviour to try and ‘protect me’ from something they thought I didn’t know ended up making me feel I’d just be better off alone. It was a dark journey, and I think the repetitive, slightly jarring nature of the rhythm section really reflects the low points there, while the crescendoing ‘you over compensate...’ shows off the anger that had been boiling beneath the surface.”

IB: You grew up in Milton Keynes. How did you get into jazz? Was it just in the family?

СС: I was surrounded by different music growing up. My Mother and Father were part of the church choir and my Father also plays bass and guitar as well. They introduced me to gospel, ska, reggae and a bunch of other genres. I used to watch loads of different music videos on MTV like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, MJB, Missy Elliot, Destiny’s Child, Usher etc. The usual early 2000s stuff I would watch quite a bit and try to copy dance moves and sing along. My cousins and school friends introduced me to Grime and Funky House. I remember there was one Uncle who used to give me free CDs which I used to rinse to death, it was always compilation albums. For me it wasn’t until I went to college and Uni until I started listening to Soul, Jazz and Neo-Soul on a more regular basis: Jordan Rakei, Eperanza Spalding, Tom Misch, Moonchild, Hiatus Kaiyote. More specifically I was watching a live video of Erykah Badu performing Otherside of the Game that really sparked things for me. That’s definitely when I knew I wanted to pursue music.

IB: You are also director for the MK Fringe Festival, director at Wordplay Magazine and writes music for television. How did you get so far?

CC: My dear friend Manny suggested my name to his friend Simon who was involved in MK Fringe. We had a phone call about it and spoke about the vision and just like that I was a director. Through Fringe I’ve been able to put on events in my hometown which I am really proud of. As I feel as though Milton Keynes doesn’t have much soul, jazz and R&B music in the central part so I want to help try and change that. TMR is another events programme that is definitely doing something special in the heart of MK too.

CC: In terms of Wordplay Magazine they had been watching my journey for a while and I hadn’t realised. They reached out to me through Wild Paths which I couldn’t do due to family stuff, then named me Ones to watch a year or so after. I got involved in their annual competition Novembars and the editor-in-chief Nev reached out to me. We used to talk every now and again about music but this time felt different. He was explaining that he was looking to expand the Magazine and cover more R&B, Soul and Jazz as the Magazine was predominantly Hip-Hop. I emailed him about 50 different independent acts for him to check out. He asked me if I wanted to be part of the team as a writer and in less than a year of being on the team he asked if I wanted to be a director. I love Wordplay so so much they are a lovely lot and I am truly proud, grateful and honoured to be part of the team. In terms of writing for television one of my creative partners gets briefs occasionally for sync. It’s something different that I like to do from time to time and I get to think about music in a different way. 

IB: How do you think your long career in, let's say in this music business, has informed your writing and the new EP as a whole? Or do the songs focus solely on your emotional state?

CC: In terms of the music business side I do think its important for me to have my fingers dipped in different pies. One thing I learnt from doing music is that it helps to be multi-skilled. I don’t tend to always be focused on writing and recording, I love getting involved in different things and really enjoy experimenting even if I'm wetting myself doing it. Rather than helping on the writing side of the EP it’s helped me with the admin side really. Networking with other artists and also supporting other artists too. Just being able to make different connections has played a part. 

I mainly like writing about people and their experiences or my personal emotional state. Especially I would say for this EP in particular as I went through some pretty life-altering experiences whilst song writing. Now I am at a completely different stage in my life ‘Saturn Returns’ as they like to call it. That crisis of I’m nearly 30 and what the heck am I even doing phase or as some call it the major life change phase. Depending on how you look at it. I do feel as though my Saturn Return will be making its way into my new music whatever that looks like.

IB: The music video for the "Little Black Dress" is absolutely stunning. Tell us about it and also how long did it take to shoot?

СС: Thank you, I’m super proud of it! Little Black Dress took a day to film, I had to wake up at 5am, to travel to Somerset. It was done by the the production company Unthnkble they are so lovely and they really helped the vision come to life. I wanted to help capture the essence of the song. I needed it to feel moody, soleem and a bit lonely at times. There were moments I wanted it to feel like a memory especially when Teddy (model and musician) is on the screen.

IB: After a long time, you're back with a new EP and a completely new look. What has changed for you over the years?

СС: Goodness so much haha! I mean the most recent I would say is telling people about being gender-fluid. I would say that has definitely had an effect on the way I present myself and will continue to present myself. I have learnt so much about myself and I wanted that to reflect in my music as well. Over the years I developed my sound and want to be more eclectic. Definitely want to delve more into some more sub-genres and collaborate with different singers and producers who I admire too.

IB: Let's get back to your EP. Why did you structure the EP as three songs? I have a feeling that there was enough material for a full album. Are you planning an LP album in the future?

СС: I definitely would love to do an album in the future and was toying with the idea of one. Quite simply I don’t think I am ready yet and don’t want to release one too prematurely. I think for me this EP is a nice new introduction to who I am now and what is to come. I want to leave people wanting more. But I promise people won’t have to wait another 5yrs until the next project haha.

IB: Jazz and all of its sub-genres are incredibly complex. What was your greatest challenge in writing and producing the songs?

СС: I am still learning about production so I normally work with a producer to create my vision. I think overtime this has been a learning curve for me especially in terms of genre.

This might sound crazy and you might not believe me but my main challenge is… My shyness! Honestly I turn into this weirdly giggling thing who laughs at things that aren’t even funny. You could tell the driest joke and I would still laugh because I’m feeling shy or nervous. So trying to make some decisions was not easy. I guess it’s because I have an anxiety disorder and can get real quiet in some social settings and start overthinking. I write well by myself in my room or on a train and definitely feel more confident when I go to a session with a song already pre-written. I actually find writing sessions with people difficult, but I still push myself. I don’t allow those feelings to stop me from trying though I have gotten some real magic from doing those.

IB: And last question. What is the future of jazz? Will it ever become as popular as reggaeton or rap music?

СС: That is a great question and a difficult one. I mean I guess what it can boil down to really is the Gen-Z generation. There are plenty of millennials and above who enjoy the complexities of jazz music and sub-genres. Who actively go to jazz related events, buy merch and vinyls. One of my favourite festivals to attend is Love Supreme. It's a jazz, soul and funk festival in Gyldne Place near Brighton. I’m in my late 20s and when I tell you I am completely outnumbered by the 40-50+ generation there I love it. Part of me hopes I see more 18+ but rarely do unless they’ve come with the family, rather than with their friends. I guess it also comes down to what music some people have grown up with too. I know my younger sister barely listens to if not any Jazz whatsoever. She’s more into Dancehall, R&B, afrobeats bit of rap etc. I really want to say yes but really and truly is does boil down to them because they are the future. Rap really speaks to people where they are at and will always be huge. Drill is becoming more and more popular with the Gen-Z generation and Reggaeton is so popular in clubs. Plus when huge pop artists collaborate with a reggaeton artist it blows up. You see these types of genres climbing into the UK Top 40. Since we are in a digital age Instagram, Tiktok all play a big part too.

EP "Void" by The Isle Of CC available on all digital platforms. Click on this link and read our "Void" review.

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