I had the opportunity to interview (via email) an insanely talented musician this past week. Her name is Andie Isalie, and her YouTube channel, “iwantaltitude,” has garnered over three million views in just over a year. The interview served as the basis for an article I published in my college newspaper, and I felt that the interview should be published in its entirety for those who are interested in learning more about Andie.
When did you start playing music?
The first instrument I learned to play was piano at the age of 6. I got lessons for 5 years and did grade examinations and all that jazz. I stopped after I passed my grade 4 exam. Then I picked up guitar. I’ve been singing since I can remember. 🙂
What instruments do you play?
I play piano, guitar (both electric and acoustic), ukulele (baritone and soprano uke). I dabble in bass and on drums but I don’t know if I would say I actually “play” them. And of course, I sing too.
Your first video was a song you wrote during a power outage. What made you decide to continue uploading?
I guess once my first video was up and it actually started getting over 100 views, I realised that maybe there were more people who would want to hear me sing and play. So from there I uploaded another couple of covers and originals, and from then on it really became a hobby. Something to pass the time 🙂
Your unique voice sets you apart from other YouTubers. How would you describe it?
Haha um, I’m not sure, I suppose I would define my voice by saying it’s a mixture of genres. Something between funk, jazz, folk, pop, ska and blues.
You have a knack for interpreting songs and not doing straight covers (like Dizzee Rascal’s “Bonkers”). How do you go about reinterpreting?
Well with that cover in particular, I firstly came up with the chord progression just mucking around, and at the time, I had “Bonkers” by Dizzee Rascal stuck in my head. So I tried to put them together and it worked out surprisingly well. With most of my covers, I firstly learn the chords and lyrics to the song by ear or sometimes by googling them. Then I try ways to make it sound different. Sometimes I transpose it to another key, or change the tempo, and something I like to do a lot is give the song a swing tempo, like in the cover of “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons that I did with my friend Jack. If I don’t do any of those things, I just alter the chords a bit. Invert them, or add a sus 2 or sus 4 or 7 to the chord, if that makes sense. 🙂
Which cover was the most fun to make?
Haha difficult question. I enjoy playing all of the covers I’ve done, and all the covers I’ve made with my friends have been a lot of fun to do. But I also love playing covers that are extremely different to the original such as my cover of “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce. The most fun I have is when I hate the original version of the song, and then I cover it and make it really different. This way I can enjoy the song in a different way. 🙂
How much do you practice before uploading? How many takes do you record on average before uploading?
I usually don’t practice very much at all, and this is because I usually know the sound of the song fairly well before I decide to cover it. On average, it takes about 1 or 2 takes to get a quality video, but sometimes it can take me up to 20 takes to get it right!!
You have over 20,000 subscribers. What’s it like to have such a large following?
Seriously weird. I never had the aim of building a large audience for myself. And I’ve been recognised at random venues as well, which is still so strange to me. Because some people make a big deal about my music, and to me, I’m just a 15 year old girl sitting in her room talking to a camera. Although, having a large following makes me feel obliged to deliver. Deliver new videos, covers, originals, tweets, and such. Because I feel that if people are going to follow and subscribe to me, I might as well give them something to enjoy. 🙂
How did the name iwantaltitude originate?
Hehe this is a question that I get asked a lot. I can’t actually take credit for it. The name “altitude” is a name that my friends came up for a band we tried to start. We thought it was so incredibly cool, and so I created a YouTube channel as like a sort of “fanbase” for our supposed band. “I want altitude”. It’s incredibly dorky and embarrassing, I know, so just shush. 😛
What do you do when you’re not making YouTube videos?
Lots of things!! I obviously love to play guitar, uke, piano, and sing, write music, perform. I go busking locally a lot. I love being a part of drama performances, play, musicals, skits. I also love to create arty things. Sometimes I draw or paint, sew items of clothing or create massive collages on my bedroom wall. I love clothes, and I go thrift shopping quite a lot. I’m also a very social person, so I go out a lot, get coffee, that kinda thing. 🙂
Some people use music as an outlet, others as motivation, and still others as a way to speak the unspeakable. What is music for you?
I play music simply for the enjoyment. I absolutely love to sing and play, and I really want to develop my songwriting skills more so that I can produce more original music. Music’s not really an outlet for me, because I am always doing it. My mother often says to people that I live, breathe and sleep music, which is pretty close to the truth.
Is music something you’re looking to do as a career?
I’m not sure. I think that I would absolutely love to make a living out of my music, but at the same time, I’m trying to be realistic about my future. It’s hard to break into the music scene, get noticed or signed, and even then, I don’t want a big company controlling what I produce. So at the moment, I’m not sure about music.
What else are you looking into doing?
I definitely want to study when I get out of school though. I want to study psychology and philosophy and also study vocal jazz.
Who are your musical role models?
Oh lordy, so many. Jamie Cullum is probably my favourite modern jazz artist, and Katie Noonan is a close second. Kimbra is another favourite. I also adore Ed Sheeran and Orla Gartland is simply incredible. I think Adele is incredible. City and Colour is another one of my favourites, as well as Boy and Bear, Daughter, Frank Turner, Beirut, Eliza Doolittle. And there’s no way that I could answer this question without giving a big mention to Mumford & Sons.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?
Gosh!! Any of the artists above would be incredible, because they are all such spectacular musicians.
Set your iPod to shuffle. What are the first three songs that come up?
- Blood by The Middle East
- Elephant Gun – Beirut
- Old Devil Moon – Jamie Cullum
Which album have you been most impressed with recently?
“+” by Ed Sheeran is a fave, “triple j Hottest 100- Volume 19,” and “Vows” by Kimbra.
You’ve made a couple of comments on your videos about pop music, and it seems you’re not a huge fan. Why?
That’s true, and I’ll try to sum it up quickly because I could ramble for ages. I feel that pop music these days has barely any variation, and it lacks originality and creativity. I listen to more complicated stuff like jazz and funk which is just so much more interesting to listen to, and then I listen to some songs in the Top 40, and it’s all about drinking, drugs, sex, and partying. It’s trashy, and most of this music, you can create on GarageBand in about 10 minutes. I’ve tried it! I just feel that it doesn’t take a lot of talent, skill or musical knowledge to make a billion dollars these days, and that really irritates me when I see incredible artists that aren’t getting the credit they deserve. That’s why there are so many comments from me on YouTube, when people say that Nicki Minaj is better than Led Zeppelin. I get frustrated, and wanna smack ‘em in tha schnoz!
I have to ask: Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, or Cody Simpson?
Ed Sheeran 100%. Because firstly, he writes and performs his own music, and I feel that his music has a lot more depth to it then that of Justin Bieber or Cody Simpson. Plus, Ed Sheeran has integrity. He refused to dye his hair blond even when his label asked him to, and his red hair turned out to be a massive marketing tool for him.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about uploading music, either covers or original material, to YouTube?
What advice would I give to fellow YouTubers? Just do it! You never know what will happen, and you might find great joy in doing it! I think that YouTube is a great creative outlet and a way for musicians to share their work. If music is something that you’re passionate about, then you should never let anything stop you from it.
What can your subscribers expect in the near future?
More covers! Hopefully in higher quality. I’m trying to save up for a better microphone, camera, and laptop so that my videos look more professional and are better quality. 🙂And hopefully they can expect more original songs as well. 🙂