Independent musician and lyricist Isaac Watters just released his EP, “Extended Play 001,” which launches a series leading up to his album’s release later this spring. Blending unique sounds with deep and sometimes haunting lyrics, Watters conjures up a new perspective for listeners and burgeoning artists.
Musician and songwriter Isaac Watters teamed up with L.A.-based hi-res records to produce his first EP, “Extended Play 001,” a reflection of Watters’ experiences over 20 years of living in the Southland and becoming a “naturalized” Angeleno. We spoke with Watters about his project, his process to making music and the true meaning of success.
Los Angeleno: So tell us about the project. This is the first EP in a series that you’re working on before releasing the full album, correct?
Isaac Watters: Yeah, the album comes out later this year, but we’re releasing it as two EPs and then the full album, just to give people time to hear all of the songs and absorb them. So we’re releasing a few singles, then the EP, then some more singles and an EP until we launch the full album. So two sets of four songs for the EPs, and then the full set of 12 songs will be on the album.
LA: Of the four tracks on the first EP, which ones are closest to your heart?
Watters: I would say “Sadness” and “Sliding” are probably the ones, but it changes on the day and depending on which ones I’ve performed recently. But “Sadness” I feel like has a simplicity in the lyrics unlike “Child in the Rain,” which I’m kind of proud of that — doing more with less words. That song, I feel, is more of a success of what I’m trying to do. It’s kind of the same with “Sliding,” it’s this really simple metaphor that I carry through the whole song. Whereas “Child in the Rain” and “Listen to the Wind” are both a little bit more complicated lyrically. There’s like a bunch of series of images. But it kind of changes day-to-day.
LA: How does your process work when composing music?
Watters: “It’s kind of different with each song. Like “Listen to the Wind,” I had written a bunch of lyrics and Matt — my friend who produced the record — had an idea, so we kind of started with his idea a little bit, then we worked it around and put in some of my lyrics. So that one we made as we were working on the album in the studio.
The other songs I had written before I came to the studio, and those were kind of constantly going back and forth between lyrics. Usually, when I’m just starting to write, I sit and start playing the guitar and singing. And whatever comes out, I just record and then go back and edit. That way the melody and the lyrics come out at the same time. As a starting point, I don’t typically sit down and just write a bunch of words and then try to put a melody to it, or come up with a tune and try to write words for it. I usually start off with a rough version of both at the same time I guess.
LA: So for you, it’s more about bringing the words and sound together than concern over the lyrics?
Watters: Yeah, that’s why I don’t feel like I sit down to write a song like, “This is something that happened to me that I want to write about.” It’s more like stuff that’s happened to me, in the world and news or whatever, but I’m not trying to translate that directly into a song. I’m just trying to see what comes out and turn that into something. I think that makes it more fun for me or more interesting because every time I perform these songs, I hear something different and can keep performing them because the song doesn’t get old. If it was a specific story I was trying to tell or a specific message, I would get tired of it — it would get old.
LA: What hopes do you have for the album?
Watters: I would love to get to the point where I could just be performing regularly and people would be excited to come to a show. And I can just play shows every night or three times a week and go on tours. I’ve always been a local artist and have done a bunch of local shows around town, but it’s never gone beyond just a few little tours on the East Coast and up and down the West Coast. But the other goal of putting out a record is just to reach a wider audience and then for that to lead to being able to perform live more. The best part about it for me is performing live … for me, it’s the performance itself.
“I think what’s felt good or felt like success is other artists, friends, people I respect saying they enjoy what I’m doing, and they respect what I’m doing.”
— Isaac Watters
LA: Do you have any advice for younger artists?
Watters: I’ve always had other work. I’ve never been just a musician making money … and I think some people hold that as a sign of being successful as an artist — like that’s what’s paying the bills. But that’s just really difficult these days, especially if you’re just trying to do music you want to do. For me, always having other work has allowed me to take my time and be free with what I’m doing. It’s really stressful to put all of that pressure on sustaining yourself day-to-day and putting that on your art.
LA: So your definition of success is different from the industry’s definition?
Watters: Yeah, for me, I think what’s felt good or felt like success is other artists, friends, people I respect saying they enjoy what I’m doing, and they respect what I’m doing. That gives me the encouragement to keep going [and] keep making records and music. But it’s never been like I made a record and just lived off that record for a few years — that’s getting harder and harder to do. So my advice to young artists is don’t define yourself by that metric of success, like you’re only a success if your music makes money.
Check out “Extended Play 001” on Spotify and Apple Music, and keep your ears open for future releases!