INTERVIEW BY : Emily May
Singer Iris Belson, who simply goes by Iris, has recently embarked on a solo career. Previously a part of the popular indie rock band Linus Young, she decided to record material as a solo artist when the band called it quits. Born in New Jersey of Icelandic heritage, she lived for a while in New York and has since moved to Los Angeles with her husband, Grammy Award-winning producer Malay. She strives to enlighten and strengthen her listeners through her positive messages, which has gained her a large following on Spotify, and counts Parkinson’s Disease, positivity and equality some of the causes she is most passionate about. Inspired by bands such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Van Halen, Iris was surrounded by music growing up. Her father always had music playing in the house and would often take drives and listen to music with her tagging along for the ride. Her involvement with school choirs and talent shows at a young age solidified her decision to pursue the path of music as an adult. Her debut single “Crazy” was recently released and was produced by Malay (John Legend/Frank Ocean) and Taylor Johnson and was co-written by Josh Hendrick. The song is set to be featured on an upcoming episode of the hit Netflix show Santa Clarita Diet. Her acoustic live video for “Crazy”, which you can check out below”, was released today. She plans to release an official video for the track later this month. You can follow Iris and stay up-to-dates on all upcoming music and events via the following links.
You were previously a part of the band Linus Young. What led you to decide to embark on a solo career when the band called it quits? What do you enjoy about being a solo musician?
I got to experience life on the road which I had never done before. Learning how to get myself ready in any place (sometimes there were no dressing rooms so it would be the bathroom of the venue). I got the chance to connect with people from all over and really reach them in new ways I never knew being on the road and playing shows could do. I learned to be consistent in my performances, that every venue sounds different, and you have to be prepared for any situation because you never know what you're going to get! :)
You recently released your debut single “Crazy”. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the song?
"Crazy" is a song about how love doesn’t make sense. The thoughts that consume you and the things that you do seem out of character, but that’s what love can make you do.
You worked on the song with the Grammy Award-winning producer Malay, whom you are married to. What is it like to work together?
Malay is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. He really understands how to help artists find their own unique sound. He is very easy going, and he really pushes you to be the best that you can be.
“Crazy” was featured on Santa Clarita Diet. How did that opportunity come about?
My good friend Manny Marroquin had approached me about submitting the song to one of his friends that works at Netflix. They were looking for up and coming acts and I am so grateful that they picked my song to be a part of it! I love that show so much, especially Drew Barrymore! I've always been a huge fan of hers, so to be a part of something that she does is such an honor. It was a great feeling to know too that what I was doing was connecting with people.
You cite Parkinson’s Disease, equality and positivity as some of your most impassioned causes. What makes these particular causes so special to you? What can you tell me about your mission to enlighten and strengthen each of your listeners through positive messages and heart-wrenching lyrics?
I want there to be equality for all! I think it's super important to educate people on why this is so important and how our world would work so much more harmoniously if we all took a chance to learn from each other in spite of our differences. I also am a big advocate for finding a cure for Parkinson's disease. My grandmother was one of the most special people in my life and seeing her suffer was so saddening and a huge reminder that this disease affects millions every day and there's no cure. I also want to fight to keep music programs in the public school system. If it wasn't for music being in school, I don't know if I ever would have made it through. Those classes, teachers and fellow students kept me inspired and motivated. I think people don't realize that music has such a rich history and is behind a lot of political and cultural movements. I think it goes hand in hand with other things that we learn in school.
What is your songwriting process? Do you prefer to write alone, co-write with others or a little bit of both?
It's different every time. Sometimes I'll have an idea ready, and other times it comes from a vibe from the music.
Your sound is described as alt-pop with a rock edge. How did you develop your sound? Who would you count as musical influences?
I developed it through the time I spent being in Linus Young. Stevie Nicks, Mariah Carey, John Mayer, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse, and Led Zeppelin are some of my musical influences, to name a few.
You were raised in New Jersey with Icelandic roots. What role, if any, did your heritage play in shaping you as a musician? Did you grow up in a musical/creative household?
My great grandfather was a musician. He played piano and the accordion. I have some cousins in Iceland that play music and sing as well. My dad was always big into taking drives and listening to music, so he exposed me to a lot of cool rock bands at a super early age.
Having lived in both LA and New York/New Jersey, how do you feel that the East and West Coast atmospheres and music scenes compare? What do you love about both environments?
I think the scenes just depend on where you're at. NJ in the Asbury Park area has more of a rock scene, but also they're super big on supporting local musicians and local acts, which I think is so amazing! I lived in Williamsburg for a few years, and there are some amazing venues there - tons of opportunities to see local music as well as the bigger acts that come into town. LA is always interesting to me because you never know what you're going to get and I think people underestimate LA people sometimes. There's definitely the "Hollywood" crowd, but there are also amazing, supportive people that stick with artists. I think, all in all, they're different in many ways, but there is a common hunger for good and new music.
You’ve said that if you weren’t a musician, you’d be a fashion stylist! How did your love for fashion develop? Do you have a favorite designer? What can you tell me about your own personal style?
I just love fashion! I guess growing up I always wanted to be different in the way I dressed. We didn't have a lot of money when I was young and my mom used to make my clothes a lot. She always inspired me to be creative. My grandmother was also super into shopping/fashion and would constantly bring me new clothes every birthday or holiday. I think clothes are a way to express your individual self and I guess I don't really have one style per se. I love things that glitter and animal print (Jersey girl things ;) ) but I love classic styles too. It depends on my mood and what I'm doing, in terms of what I want to wear, but my usual go-to is a band tee of some sort, and some kind of jean or cool printed pant with some boots. Favorite designers I'd say are Gucci, Isabel Marant, Zimmerman, Ganni, Reformation (I love how they use recycled material and have the cutest designs) and House of Harlow. I'm obsessed with Madeworn band tees (they handmake them to make them look vintage which is amazing), L'agence and MOTHER jeans are my favorites. Of course, there's the classic Levi's as well. I'm more into shoes than clothes though! I have tons of shoes, and that's usually my worst addiction - especially boots!
What’s next for you?
I'll be releasing an acoustic live version of "Crazy" on 4/18 on YouTube. I'm also in the process of editing the official music video for the song as well, which I plan to release at the end of the month. I'm writing/recording and plan on doing shows in the very near future so follow me on IG @iris for all updates and announcements :)